Our History (1970-2000)
On August 3, 1970, Corinne Fleger Jeffries was appointed principal of Louise Archer Elementary School. In February 1971, construction began on the fifth addition to the school, which included a gymnasium, science lab, a new library, and a new classroom wing. The classroom wing, or “pod” as it was called, utilized an experimental open classroom design that was just coming into use in Fairfax County Public Schools. The addition increased the pupil-capacity of the school to 540 children, and created an enclosed courtyard at the center of the building.
In April 1971, FCPS Superintendent S. John Davis wrote a letter in response to an inquiry from Thomas B. Wright, the Providence District representative to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Superintendent Davis stated in his letter that the enrollment at Louise Archer was 361, and was comprised of 71 African-American children and 290 white children. He went on to describe that a boundary shift would take place in September 1971, reassigning approximately 120 children from Flint Hill Elementary School to Louise Archer to relieve overcrowding at Flint Hill.
In January 1973, legendary folk singer Burl Ives visited Louise Archer and taught the students an ecology song. The Washington Post reported that Mr. Ives was disappointed when he asked for requests and, instead of his well-known tunes, the children asked him to play “The Candy Man,” and other recent popular songs to which he did not know the lyrics.
During the 1975-76 school year, Principal Jeffries took a leave of absence at the end of November. She was succeeded briefly by Acting Principal Wayne S. Chester who served until the appointment of Principal Judith Ramig-Azzara in May 1976.
Historian Sylvia B. Taylor states in her book, “Louise Archer: The Educator and the School,” that soon after Principal Ramig-Azzara came on staff, “...neighboring Madison High School Industrial Arts students made and installed red shutters and flower boxes which were added to the front of the school. These students saw Louise Archer School as part of the community and took ownership of this project, gladly contributing to the school.”
Mrs. Ramig-Azzara was an admirer of Mrs. Louise Archer and she helped to preserve an appreciation of Mrs. Archer’s contribution to the school and an awareness of its history. Since February 1977, Louise Archer Day has been an annual event for the student body and community during which a program commemorating Mrs. Archer and other famous African-Americans is performed by the students.
~ Sylvia B. Taylor
From 1976 to 1981, enrollment at Louise Archer School dropped from 496 to 337 pupils. Declining enrollment was not unique to Louise Archer. As the 1970s drew to a close, and the last children of the baby boom graduated high school, student enrollment in eastern Fairfax County was in steep decline necessitating the closure of several schools. Louise Archer was one of five schools in Vienna that was studied for closure. The others were Cedar Lane, Cunningham Park, Marshall Road, and Vienna elementary schools. Following completion of the consolidation study, the Fairfax County School Board voted to close Cedar Lane Elementary School at the completion of the 1980-81 school year.
The 1980 and 1990s
During the 1982-83 school year, a Gifted and Talented (GT) Center opened at Louise Archer Elementary School. Prior to September 1982, Vienna area students enrolled in the GT program were bused to Haycock Elementary School in McLean. The GT program was the forerunner of the Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) in use today. In October 1982, the Sullivan Reading Lab was dedicated in memory of a beloved reading teacher, Mrs. Claire Sullivan. In 1984, FCPS administrators reported to the School Board that there was an unexpected turnaround happening in kindergarten enrollment in the Vienna area. The report stated that birth rates were on the rise again and estimated that within five years the kindergarten enrollment at Vienna area schools would increase from 3,700 to more than 4,450. The first children of the Millennial Generation were poised to enter FCPS.
In May 1985, after months of planning and fundraising by the PTA and school community, the parents, teachers, and students joyfully built a beautiful, creative playground and amphitheater. The bulk of the construction was completed in just four days by this community effort which resembled an old-fashioned barn or house raising. The large wooden playground offered a variety of ways to swing, slide, climb, crawl, balance, and use one’s imagination. The area also included picnic tables and benches, seating for the amphitheater, and a hard surface for basketball and shuffleboard.
~ Sylvia B. Taylor
In the 1990s, due to safety reasons, the School Board directed that all wooden playgrounds be torn down. The creative playground at Louise Archer was replaced with a metal one in 1995.
In October 1986, Louise Archer reading teacher Ann Simmons was selected Reading Teacher of the Year by the Greater Washington Reading Council and the Virginia State Reading Association. Then, in November 1988, a bond referendum was held and voters approved $180 million to fund numerous school construction projects, among which was the renewal of Louise Archer Elementary School. Construction began in March 1990, and was completed at a cost of $2.8 million.
On June 19, 1996, the entire Vienna community celebrated Judith Ramig-Azzara’s 20th anniversary as principal of Louise Archer School. Fairfax County School Board member Stuart Gibson expressed his hope that she would “continue to add sunshine to the school environment” for many more years to come. “The sun always shines at Louise Archer School,” a phrase coined by Principal Ramig-Azzara in the mid-1980s, was later adopted as the school motto.
On April 9, 1999, Louise Archer Elementary School celebrated its diamond anniversary. Students, faculty, and the community celebrated the history of the school and the diversity of its student body. The school had come a long way from the era of racial segregation, with children from more than 50 different cultures living and learning in harmony. Just over one year later, on June 4, 2000, students, faculty, and the community gathered again, this time to say goodbye to Principal Judith Ramig-Azzara and congratulate her on her retirement. Sylvia Taylor wrote: “Mrs. Archer’s dream of providing the best in education for children has become a reality at “her” school. Nurturing this dream with love, enthusiasm, and a determination to keep the standards high, had been the goal of dynamic principal, Mrs. Judy Ramig-Azzara. For 24 years she exuberantly carried the mantle of Mrs. Archer, keeping her legacy of excellence alive, developing a family atmosphere within the school, and maintaining good relationships with the community.”
Children at Louise Archer truly believe that they are going to the best school in Fairfax County – because we tell them that they are and we truly believe it. I feel that Mrs. Archer and I have the same philosophy of education – that all children can learn and should be encouraged to meet their highest potential and that success is the best motivation for learning.
~ Principal Judith Ramig-Azzara
Taylor, Sylvia B. Louise Archer: The Educator and the School. Fourth Edition. Sylvia B. Taylor, 2016. “Louise Archer: The Educator and the School” was originally printed in 1976 as a spiral bound historical account of Mrs. Archer as principal and the school's history, as told to Ms. Taylor by former students, parents, and residents of Vienna. Since then, it has been the foundational source of information about Mrs. Archer and the school's history for the students at Louise Archer School. Over the years, it has been revised as new information became known.