Phillips recognized as CCPS principal of the year


John Phillips

Principal John Phillips poses with CCPS Superintendent, Dr. Merv Daugherty, after receiving his award.

Following the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year, Chesterfield County Public Schools named John Phillips the high school principal of the year.

The award commends Phillips, who took over as principal in 2019, for his leadership of the school and dedication to the education of its students. 

Phillps credits the students and staff as the reasons he won principal of the year and is proud of the school environment at Clover Hill. 

“Honestly the only reason I think anybody takes home any kind of award like that is because you have a strong faculty and staff, and you have an exceptional student body,” Phillips said.

He believes his primary job is to coordinate the school while encouraging connections and growth.

“If you can, as the leader, coordinate both of those primary stakeholder groups [and you] can invest in your teachers and take care of people so they continue to enjoy coming in to work, then the sky is the limit for what they do with students; I am a firm believer that that’s where the magic of high school happens,” Phillips said. “It happens in the classrooms, it happens in extracurriculars, [and] it happens on the athletic fields. As teachers and coaches connecting with students, I think our primary job as school leaders is to make sure we create an atmosphere that is conducive for teaching, learning, connections, and critical thinking.”

His journey in education over the years as a student, coach, teacher and principal has taught him resilience and the importance of learning from failure. He believes that these lessons, among plenty of others, have served him well in his current role. 

“There’s always room for growth and for improvement,” Phillips said. “Certainly I wasn’t sure what that would look like in a leadership role but it’s taught me to be humble, it’s taught me to own my mistakes, and it’s taught me to be resilient in how I work with people and how we strive to achieve our vision and mission.”

While he has been focused on his responsibilities as the principal, he has made sure to enjoy the impact of his work. According to Phillips, homecoming week earlier this year is one of his favorite times so far. 

“I was so proud of our students for how many of them engaged, participated, had fun and took the opportunity to reconnect with each other,” Phillips said. “It really helped me to realize what we’ve been missing this last year and a half and part of what makes this place special. We really do strive to make this a home for everybody. I know that that sounds like a lot of hot air and it’s hard to do and easy to say, but I think genuinely the faculty cares that each student is connected to this building, so to see students connected and having fun with each other are the best moments.”

Graduation week is another meaningful part of the school year for Phillips because it is an example of the importance of his work as the principal. 

“If I go back to last year, looking at graduation, we were really proud of our graduation numbers and how many of our students stayed with us through virtual and at home learning,” Phillips said. “Graduation day [was] so unique, being able to have it here on the home field for those seniors that had lost so much. That’s always a special day for any school principal [and] one of the most enjoyable.”

He is currently working on reconnecting the Clover Hill community and developing relationships as everyone returns to the building. 

“As a staff, we recognize that after the last year and a half we have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust and structures and protocols with students,” Phillips said. “We’re worried about instruction, we’re concerned with teaching and learning, but I feel strongly that that’s not going to occur until we have our students settled [and] taken care of socially [and] emotionally. So really that is our biggest focus this year.”

In the future, Phillip’s goal is to ensure that every student is prepared for life when they leave Clover Hill. This focus, among many others, has earned him the title of principal of the year.

“I think our job as educators is to make sure we’re preparing students for high wage, high demand careers when they graduate.”