Severna Park High School Principal Patrick Bathras is viewed as someone others rally around, a true leader with a laser-like focus to carry out the vision of the school he leads. It’s those traits that earned him a spot as one of 12 finalists for the Washington Post’s 2021 Principal of the Year.
Each year, the Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) Office of School Performance considers Principal of the Year candidates. A group of eight to 10 directors and regional superintendents discusses their choices and makes suggestions to Superintendent George Arlotto, who makes the final decision.
AACPS had a Principal of the Year two years ago, Nelson Horine II, who oversees six campuses of Anne Arundel Evening High School. Although Bathras was not selected as the 2021 winner — that honor went to Denise Lancaster of Howard County — he had the support of teachers and staff members who praised him in a nomination packet sent to the Washington Post.
“Mr. Bathras is an open-minded yet decisive leader who consistently uses his expertise, experience, and vision to solve problems and tend to his students, staff, and families' needs,” wrote Janine Robinson, regional assistant superintendent for Glen Burnie and Severna Park. “He is considered a leader and confidant amongst his principal colleagues and has successfully mentored many new principals, aspiring principals and teacher leaders.”
According to the packet endorsing Bathras for the award, he values the opinions and ideas of others but also knows when he will have to be the one to make the final decision, keeping in mind what is best for the overall good. He often says, “Being right isn’t always popular. Being popular isn’t always right.”
“As a career changer, I have had the opportunity to work under many different management styles and can honestly say that Mr. Bathras is an excellent leader,” said Paige Chang, school performance coach at Severna Park High School. “He is always available to talk through any concern that I may have. He listens and develops any idea I may have that would help the school. He is always enthusiastic in his pursuit to help not only our students but our staff throughout the year.”
That support has been invaluable this year, said Tamara Bauer, Severna Park High School’s department chairperson for world and classical languages.
“Since COVID-19 hit and we became virtual, Mr. Bathras used our circumstances as an opportunity to increase efforts to connect with faculty and staff,” Bauer said. “In a time when we needed him more than ever, he has been there for us in countless ways. From frequent emails with updates, helpful advice and reassuring messages, Mr. Bathras has made his staff feel cared for, heard, understood.”
When it comes to tangible accomplishments, Bathras oversaw the construction of the new Severna Park High School, while still managing the day-to-day operations of the former school in which students, faculty and staff were housed while new construction took place.
“It was especially impressive to watch him navigate our extensive new school construction process from 2012 to 2017,” Bauer said. “He worked closely with us department chairs to skillfully design our state-of-the-art institution, spending countless hours perfecting the plan and strategically troubleshooting obstacles.”
Bathras is an active participant on the school’s Business Advisory Board (BAB), comprised of local business, education, and community leaders who find ways of empowering students to develop their vision for a satisfying and productive career.
“Mr. Bathras is always approachable and engaging when working with our volunteers,” said Thomas McGinn, BAB president. “He is an excellent communicator who thoughtfully listens to the enthusiastic ideas generated by our group and provides positive, constructive feedback on what can be accomplished within the structure of the public school system.”
Bathras created an S2SP Ambassador program whereby current students work with military or new students to SPHS to help them feel welcome and stay connected with the school and community. He also created the teacher-sponsored “LGTBQ Safe Spaces,” giving students access to classroom areas of refuge when needed.
Robinson explained how Bathras has also addressed adolescent mental health and social justice in schools by initiating a Teen Mental Health Advisory and developing the STAR (Students Taking Actions Responsibly) program.
“This school-wide program is designed to promote a positive and healthy learning environment for the entire school community by improving decision-making strategies, enhancing self-esteem, increasing social support resources, and preventing destructive behaviors,” Robinson said. “This robust program, which has grown exponentially since 2007, has engaged students in multiple service-learning opportunities and important topics such as cyberbullying, resiliency, emotional stability, grit, problem-solving, mindfulness, stress management, social justice, anti-racism and tolerance.”
Just as the pillars of the National Honor Society require of their members, Bathras emphasizes student scholarship, leadership, service and character. The latter is exemplified by the massive fundraising and service student leaders conduct each year in support of Harvest for the Hungry, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, cancer research and other worthy causes. As Bathras says at each NHS induction, “I challenge you to carry out your NHS responsibilities, not for the sake of completing merits or building your resume, but because it’s the right thing to do for our school, community and yourself. It is your challenge to serve as ambassadors of the school and role models for all students.”
Overall, Bathras is a leader who wants the best for students and puts their success and personal well-being above all else.
“He engages in fun ways with our students throughout the year whether it is by hosting and playing in a school-wide game of rock, paper, scissors each spring; breakdancing in a school spirit video; or playing in the student versus faculty basketball game,” said Lindsay Brown, Severna Park High School’s counseling department chair. “That engagement with students is just one example of how he fosters relationships and builds a strong sense of community at our school.”