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Matsunaga Elementary to Open with New Leader for First Time Since 2001

In June, Spark Matsunaga Elementary School in Germantown said goodbye to the only principal the school had known, when Judy Brubaker retired after 14 years of service. A bittersweet ending to an era of leadership since the school doors opened in 2001. When Matsunaga Elementary opens next week, the school will be under the leadership of a new principal, but one who has been involved with the school on different levels for many years, James “Jimmy” Sweeney.

Most recently he worked as principal at Rosemont Elementary School in Gaithersburg. Sweeney has worked in MCPS since 1989, as a para-educator and first-grade classroom teacher at Thurgood Marshall Elementary in Darnestown, and a sixth and seventh-grade teacher at Kingsview Middle School in Germantown. As well as an technology instructional specialist for four years, an assistant principal for two, and of course principal of Rosemont for eleven years.

“I love Rosemont,” said Sweeney. “It is a great school with great students, staff, and parents, but it was time for a change for me and things worked out.”

Matsunaga is a school Sweeney was familiar with already having taught students who transition to Kingsview after promotion. His wife and sister have also taught at the elementary school, and when the position opened up to lead Matsunaga Sweeney jumped at the chance to take over one of the largest elementary schools in the county. According to MCPS, Matsunaga Elementary School enrolled 856 students, 268 more than Sweeney’s previous posting at Rosemont Elementary, which enrolled 588 last year.

“I am aware of Matsunaga’s reputation, and that is what made it appealing to me,” said Sweeney. It also helps to have the former principal’s support and guidance. “Principal Brubaker and I have communicated frequently to ensure a smooth transition. We have talked several times over the summer, and she has been extremely helpful,” said Sweeney.

Sweeney’s first plans of actions are to focus on the Matsunaga community and what it means to be a part of that large and active community of parents and teachers. “My main goal right now is to get to know the admins, students, staff, and parents,” said Sweeney. “I have been collecting information from stakeholders about what works well at Matsunaga and what changes people might like to see.”

This transition period has been a major change for not just Sweeney but the entire Matsunaga community but through this overwhelming time, there has been understanding and support. And while what this school year holds is uncertain, there is the guarantee of togetherness, which is what Matsunaga is all about. “My expectations are going to continue to uphold the reputation of excellence that has always been in place at Matsunaga,” said Sweeney.