New lab school Director Rebecca Towery leads the way for UMW and Stafford County Public Schools

by | Apr 15, 2023 | Schools & Education, University of Mary Washington

From UMW:

The University of Mary Washington and Stafford County Public Schools’ proposed lab school has named a director to lead the next steps of the planning process and begin the implementation proposal to launch. Local educator and administrator Rebecca Towery has been appointed to the leadership role, continuing as an employee of Stafford County Public Schools, in partnership with UMW, her alma mater.

An experienced educator with expertise in strategy, research and evaluation, Dr. Towery brings a unique blend of in-classroom knowledge with the know-how to launch a lab school, from securing grant funding to building out the necessary capacity and curriculum for a successful program. She holds an Ed.D. in education leadership and policy from Vanderbilt University, an M.Ed. in secondary education from the University of Mary Washington, and a B.A. in history, with a political science minor, from Virginia Tech, as well as an education administration license from Lipscomb University.

“Dr. Towery has been an incredible asset to Stafford Schools, and was key in securing the grant to create this incredible opportunity for regional students. She is an energetic and forward-looking leader who applies critical thinking and long-range strategic planning to develop exceptional programs. She will certainly be an asset to both the school division and the University of Mary Washington. We know she will bring great success to this partnership,” said Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas W. Taylor.

Dr. Towery most recently served as director of research, evaluation and strategic improvement for Stafford County Public Schools, where she led the division strategic plan efforts and produced the 2027 Strategic Plan: Elevate Stafford. She also supports administration of the Virginia Assessment System and Academic Review process, oversees data collection and information, develops competitive grants, and refines and expands program evaluation and research capacity. In this role, she led the development of the winning planning grant for the lab school, and now leads its vision forward.

“Innovation is the word that comes to mind when I think of a lab school,” said Dr. Towery. “It’s a place where ideas are generated and permeated throughout the region and where more students and teachers can benefit. We can find ways to do things differently and have the opportunity to do education the way we want to do it.”

UMW and Stafford County Public Schools was one of the first partnerships awarded a College Partnership Laboratory School (Lab School) Planning Grant from the Virginia Department of Education in December 2022. Recently, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the initial 13 grants to support the development of innovative labs schools, with awards spanning the state. UMW and Stafford County Public Schools received the maximum amount of $200,000 to provide the initial funding for stakeholder engagement and planning, hiring an executive director, building organizational capacity and developing the curriculum for the proposed lab school, which will focus on the in-demand fields of computer and data sciences.

The University of Mary Washington's Stafford Campus is the proposed site of a new lab school that would seek to serve students from five school divisions, beginning with grades 9-12.
The University of Mary Washington’s Stafford Campus is the proposed site of a new lab school that would seek to serve students from five school divisions, beginning with grades 9-12.

The Stafford campus of the University of Mary Washington is proposed as the site of a new lab school. As a regional lab school, it would seek to serve students from five school divisions, beginning with grades 9-12, with the possibility to expand to additional grades in later years. The planning grant will be the first step in determining feasibility of the lab school. Future steps may include an implementation grant proposal to follow in spring 2023, with the school anticipated to open in fall 2024, beginning with approximately 400 students selected via a lottery.

“Dr. Towery has been an incredible partner over the last several months as we’ve worked together to move this important initiative forward. I am so excited that she will be leading this effort in the years to come and have no doubt that her experience and enthusiasm for this work will be the foundation for its success,” said UMW Provost Dr. Tim O’Donnell.

Dr. Towery’s experience leading new initiatives includes three years as director of program evaluation and special projects with Stafford County Public Schools. She focused on building the internal research and evaluation process in the division, as well as grant applications and programing. She also served as an accountability specialist in program evaluations and history/social sciences teacher in alternative education for Stafford County Public Schools, and was previously director of summer programs and a middle school history and social studies teacher with Fredericksburg Academy.

She is co-chair of the Education Research and Evaluation Network, a regional consortium dedicated to developing the capacity of internal K-12 research and evaluation teams, and she is the VALIN lead for Stafford County Public Schools. Her work has been presented or published by the Consortium for Research on Educational Accountability and Teacher Evaluation, Southern Regional Education Board: High Schools that Work, and the University Council on Education Administration.

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