In 1996, when Betty Covington became the first elected female to represent the Potomac Magisterial District on Virginia’s Prince William County School Board, she was following a path she had set for herself decades earlier.
Fresh out of East Carolina University when she accepted her first teaching job in Prince William County in 1961, Betty already understood that education was the means to get off the farm where she grew up. Her next goal was a progression from classroom to administration to school board, and she discovered that the University of Virginia could help her get there.
A Curry School degree carried a lot of weight.
“A Curry School degree carried a lot of weight,” Betty says. “I knew I would have no problem getting a job.”
A mother of two at the time, she began working on her master’s degree in administration and supervision while still teaching full time. After a grueling three-year combination of on-Grounds and off-Grounds courses, Betty completed her degree in 1971.
“My Curry professors were outstanding. They accepted differences of opinion and encouraged classroom debate,” Betty remembers. “I had fantastic classes.”
After 11 years of teaching, she was appointed assistant principal of Dale City Elementary. Two years later, she became principal of Saunders Kindergarten Center then moved to Kilby Elementary.
Thirty years of leading Prince William County schools were interrupted only by a brief flirtation with retirement, which is when she won her first bid for the school board. Eighteen months later found her back in school, however, as principal of Dumfries Elementary.
“I missed working and the contact with students,” she explained.
Throughout her career Betty chose to work in schools in high poverty areas. “I felt I could make more of a difference there,” she says. At Dumfries she was the fourth principal in seven years. She made it her mission to raise students standardized test scores and get the school accredited—a goal she had achieved by the time she retired a second time in 2003.
That same year Betty was reelected to the school board and is currently serving her third consecutive four-year term. She advocates for the 14 schools in her district and says she enjoys attending every school function she can.
In 2009, the Prince William County Human Rights Commission recognized Betty’s advocacy for all of the county’s students—regardless of income or ethnicity—and she recalls that Human Rights Award as her proudest achievement. She is also honored to be the namesake of the Betty Covington Educator of the Year Award presented annually by the Prince William County Boys and Girls Clubs.
You get a sense of reward and satisfaction in being able to give back.
Betty has been committed to the Prince William County Schools for over 50 years now, but she credits the basis for her success to the Curry School. In return she volunteered six years of service on the Curry School Foundation board of directors and continues as a member of the Foundation’s Honors and Awards Committee.
Also to show her appreciation, she began giving to the Curry School Annual Fund in 1987 and has sent in a donation nearly every year since. Her contributions started at $100 a year and have grown gradually, until her cumulative giving total has reached over $7,000.
“You get a sense of reward and satisfaction in being able to give back,” Betty says, “because the education I received at the Curry School enabled me to have a wonderful career. I want to help others get the same chance. Education is so important. It is the foundation of our society.”