BRISTOL, Va. — Increasing enrollment and promoting science and math education are among the top priorities for new Sullins Academy Head of School Roy Vermillion.
The private school’s board of directors recently removed Vermillion’s interim tag, a post he’s held since classes began in August.
“This is my third year at the school but my first year as head of school,” Vermillion said Wednesday. “I started teaching here and this position came up and they asked me if I would take it. I said ‘absolutely.’ I love this school, love the teachers and the mission that is going on here.”
A Kentucky native with more than 20 years experience in both public and private education in South Carolina and Florida, Vermillion moved to Bristol in January 2015 to be closer to family. He calls it the right decision.
“It’s an extraordinary school. It’s not like work. Our faculty and staff arrive early and stay late. They love children, love education, and they’re where they’re supposed to be. I feel the same way. This is a place that I really love, and we want the best for this school,” he said.
Among his responsibilities are securing Sullins’ financial future and growing enrollment at a school celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“We want to make sure this school is successful, not just for now but for these children’s children. We want this school to be here another 50 years to celebrate that 100th anniversary with pride,” Vermillion said. “We’re always working to increase enrollment and working on our endowment — making sure it is successful for many years to come.”
The school currently has 153 students enrolled from pre-school to eighth grade, but the goal is to reach 225.
Sullins students come from across the Tri-Cities, Abingdon and Elizabethton, Vermillion said.
“It’s a challenge having young children travel a long way, but, when they arrive, they realize it’s an extraordinary school and it’s worth the drive for folks throughout the Tri-Cities and beyond,” he said.
In the current year, there has been a greater emphasis on STEAM — an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and math education.
“We’ve done a STEAM initiative. Research shows more than 80 percent of students know, by the end of their eighth-grade year, that they’re interested in one of these disciplines,” Vermillion said. “We want to build that excitement at an early age so they can choose. This country needs engineers, architects, designers and the best people in medicine. We need to educate students to go on and be the best engineers and scientists in our nation.”
Vermillion has two master’s degrees in education from Cambridge College and the Converse College Graduate School, in addition to a bachelor’s of science degree in education from Eastern Kentucky University.
Board Chairman John Rainero praised Vermillion, in a written statement. “His performance in the interim capacity and as a teacher was impeccable. Mr. Vermillion has significant experience in independent school education, gifted and talented education and ... in administrative capacities in prior independent schools, including as head of school. He should bring great confidence to the Sullins Academy community,” Rainero said.
Sullins prides itself on a commitment to each child, small class sizes and academic excellence, he said. That begins with families willing to invest in their children’s education. “Because we have that investment and that commitment to education, we produce an extraordinary product,” Vermillion said. “We produce students who are well prepared for high schools or boarding schools. We’re a college prep school, even at age 4. Our mission is to educate these students to go to college and make an impact on our community.”