The news this morning was filled with the story of a Washington, DC principal who had been shot to death in his home. It was a horrible story. The principal hadn’t shown up for work or meetings and a colleague went to the house to check on him…only to discover the worst. That principal’s name was Brian Betts and he was a hometown boy who grew up in Westgate, off of Lomond South. He went to Loch Lomond Elementary and graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in 1985. He was popular, was in plays and musicals and served as student body president. Brian went on to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was on the cheerleading squad.

Brian was lured away from a Montgomery County to a troubled school in the District, Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee spoke very highly of him tonight. He was wildly popular with students, faculty and parents according to sources. He brought an energy to his new job assignment and was often seen out on the street talking to his kids. According to the Washington Post:

Some, including Rhee, wondered how Betts’s school would carry on without him.

“With him, potentially more than any other principal in this city, these children are going to be devastated because they have such an intense relationship with him,” she said. “I never talked to Brian at any point where he didn’t have kids with him.”

Brian Betts is survived by his parents, Doris and Delbert Betts of Florida and his sister, Jennifer Betts Altomare. Many people from this area remember Brian as a decent, fun-loving young man. His students remembered him tonight as Mr. Betts, who made learning real and personal and most importantly, made them feel special. Westgate remembers Brian. Manassas remembers Brian. What a horrible shame!

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UpDate: Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s statement on the death of Brian Betts

The unexpected death of Brian Betts is unspeakably tragic for his family, for the Shaw Middle School community, and for all of DC Public Schools.

Brian Betts had the courage to take on the leadership of a struggling, underachieving DCPS school. He came in the 2008-2009 school year and he brought enthusiasm, love and high expectations for the 300 students at Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson.

He was an inspirational leader for the teachers and for the students, and that leadership was bringing results. He knew what the children under his care were capable of, and he was determined to show them how to get there.

Brian Betts’ death is an incredible loss of a young and dedicated school leader. I considered him a colleague and friend, and my own sense of loss is deep.

I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Brian’s family, and to the family he has built at Shaw


The family will receive friends from 6:00-9:00 P.M. Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at Pierce Funeral Home, 9609 Center Street, Manassas, Virginia. Private services will be held Thursday, April 22, 2010 followed by burial at Stonewall Memory Gardens, Manassas.

13 Thoughts to “A Very Special Westgate Person: Brian Betts”

  1. Chris

    This is a horrible loss for so many. I went to school with Brian, and have fond memories of him. He always had a smile on face and his laugh. Obviously he went on to inspire others. Clearly, he was making a positive impact in his two years at Shaw Middle School, downtown. The comments from the student on his FB tribute page are a true credit to the type of person we all knew Brian would be.

    My deepest condolences to Brian’s family, friends, former classmates, and the many students lives he had an impact on.

    I’m still in disbelief that this could happen to such a caring individual.
    RIP, Brian.


    Awful. I read it in the Post this morning, but of course, I get a much more in depth perspective from! I didn’t realize from their piece that he was from Westgate and went to Loch Lomond.

    It is also so bizarre that he lived in the house that a 9 year old girl and her father were killed in 8 years ago. Freaky. I remember that story from years ago and just recently the Post ran an article or series of articles on how the mother of the 9 year old has coped over the last 8 years and the killer finally faced justice. That was just in within the last 6-8 months or so ago. RIP.

  3. Wolverine

    That story just reinforces my own admiration for those teachers of any race or background who opt to go into troubled inner city schools to try to make a difference when they do not have to do that. It looks to me like Brian Betts lost his life while demonstrating an absolute best side of being a caring American.

  4. Brian was a very special person for sure. I knew him when he was just a boy. He sure went on to make a difference in so many people’s lives.

    Twinad, wasn’t that story creepy. {{{shudder}}}


    Very creepy. And if this turns out to be a random act of violence that is even more weird. How could someone target the exact same house to just bust into and start shooting people? How random is that? They caught the guy that committed the first crime, so it can’t be the same person. The only new detail I’ve heard is that his vehicle was found in SE. The story this morning made it seem like it wasn’t a break in though.

  6. Casual Observer

    I just sat down at the table started to read this article in the WaPo, but had to put it aside to do something upstairs. Of course, that lead me to check my email…which lead me to check And now I’m reading this post and it’s just so sad. PWCS and SJHS should be rightfully proud of Brian Betts.

    DC Public Schools has lost a bright shining star. My heart goes out to the families and faculty at Shaw Middle School.

    I did read the WaPo story about the mother who has been trying to cope with the murder of her daughter — but to learn that this murder occurred in the same house! Wow.

    So sad.

  7. Firedancer

    As a fellow educator, my heart goes out to Brian’s family. What a tragic loss. I hope the culprit was not a student whom he had been trying to help. Bless him for reaching out to troubled youth.

  8. I will check out that follow up story, Casual.

    I prayed all day hearing the name Brian Betts that it wasn’t the Brian Betts I knew. Unfortunately, It was. ( Not to wish it on someone else of course.)

  9. Jennifer Betts was on channel 7 this morning. She is Brian’s younger sister. Jennifer certainly has stepped up to the plate during this tragedy.

  10. Thanks Alanna. They will be caught. I feel confident.

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