Direction of CASIIT

How Professor Drake’s retirement has impacted the program


Photo courtesy of Grace Bianchi’s private collection

Ashley Ingram and Grace Bianchi, Author

Professor Gail Drake, who had been with Battlefield High School since its inception in 2004, announced her retirement just before the start of the 2022-2023 school year. Professor Drake was the CASIIT program’s leader, teaching many dual enrollment courses through Northern Virginia Community College, leading ILITE Robotics, and serving as the Cyber coach.

She had a significant impact on the Battlefield CASIIT program by guiding students into technology engagement and preparing them for a successful future. Many changes have occurred since her retirement, including the nomination of Professor Stephanie Evers as the program’s department chair and the hiring of Ms. Hostutler as the new program coordinator.

Since Drake’s retirement, the CASIIT leadership team has been working together to carry out all program responsibilities. “Our department is amazing,” Evers said, “and everyone has taken on a larger role, or done something more difficult, to accommodate this retirement and continue to have as many opportunities for students as possible.” With that said, the department held a meeting to vote on specific changes to the program. Portfolios are up to teachers now for assignments; however, they are not required for graduation anymore in order to earn a medal. The CASIIT SharePoint website, which was used to submit portfolios, will also be closed.

Another change seen with the shift in leadership is the department voted to eliminate the requirements for all volunteer hours, which totaled 10 hours per year; however, students are still encouraged to volunteer and assist the program. Sofia Miller, a senior and four-year CASIIT student who completed all her volunteer hours, has mixed feelings about the hours no longer being required. “Since it is my senior year, I think it is a relief that we no longer have to worry about it but also at the same time, it is not like we did it for nothing, but I could have saved myself from a ton of stress in my previous years,” said Miller.

Despite several leadership changes, the program’s expectations remain the same. The program’s academic requirements, such as maintaining a 3.5 GPA and the ability to earn a CASIIT medal for graduation, remain unchanged.

Additionally, Professor Drake was a primary teacher for Dual Enrollment CASIIT courses and taught through Northern Virgnia Community College. In order to teach these courses, teachers are required to have a master’s degree, making eligible teachers limited and spots hard to fill after Drake’s retirement.

Working with Professor Drake for five plus years, CASIIT teacher Michael McGaugh states “So as far as the future [of Dual Enrollment courses], if the school hired a teacher that had a master’s degree and can teach at NOVA then they can offer the dual enrollment classes.”

Professor Colleen Clarke, a CASIIT teacher in the program, has been promoted to Battlefield’s CyberPatroit coach, which Professor Drake had previously coached. Professor Clarke has worked as a CyberPatroit coach for an all-girls team in the past, but she stated that a lot has changed over the years and her job now is to be the “main contact point for competition-related correspondence – ensuring teams are registered for competitions, and they are following prescribed competition rules and team safety.”

Because the CASIIT program provides the most college-level opportunities for students in Northern Virginia, students can select and focus on a course of interest. With Professor Drake’s retirement, there have been many adaptations within the CASIIT program as it continues to grow and expand to fill student’s needs and aspirations.