About Joel McDonald

With over a decade of experience working with Virginia Beach City Public Schools, six as a data support specialist and school improvement coordinator and almost four years as a Virginia Beach School Board member, Joel is as dedicated as ever to doing what he can to help students succeed in Virginia Beach schools and beyond.

Joel’s life story has been continually rooted in Virginia Beach. His mother’s family moved to Virginia Beach in the 1960’s and his father’s in the late 1970’s. His parents met while his mother were attending Bayside High School. His father enlisted in the United States Air Force they married shortly after. The couple moved to Oklahoma where his father was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, where Joel was born.

The Air Force took his family all over the southeastern United States. From Oklahoma, they moved to Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia and then Florida. In 1998, the family received orders to their only overseas post at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan.

“As a high school student, the trust and responsibility I was given to help teachers use technology in their classrooms and try to engage students in the computer lab was really incredible.”

While living in Japan, Joel discovered an interest in computers and technology. He taught himself how to create websites the summer before he started ninth grade. In high school, he excelled in multiple computer programing classes and was invited as a founding student in a new program his high school was offering: Cisco Networking.

Joel’s first foray into education was an after-school gig helping to integrate technology into classrooms at an intermediate school on Kadena Air Base. His former Spanish teacher was working on the project and invited him to join, remembering a Spanish paper Joel had written about his abilities with computers. At the intermediate school, he helped manage the computer lab, set up the school’s intranet, and both prepared and delivered professional development for teachers on using technology in their classrooms.

“I always considered Virginia Beach home, no matter where we lived. The decision to move to Virginia Beach was one of the best I’ve ever made.”

In 2002, Joel was finishing his junior year in high school and his father received the news that the family was not going to be able to extend their stay on Okinawa for another year. Joel’s choice was to either stay with his family on Okinawa and move to Nebraska five months before graduation or if he would move to Virginia Beach to live with his grandparents and finish school. He chose to move to Virginia Beach, where he had always considered home.

In 2003, Joel graduated with honors from Bayside High School with recognition for advanced mathematics, career and technical education, and scholastic excellence. He also completed the Cisco Networking Academy at the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) where in a class of nineteen students he was one of three to pass the exam to earn his Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) credential.

“When considering what to do for work when I went home, I felt working for a school was a good fit for me. I was right. From working with administrators, teachers, parents, and students, I enjoyed my time at Luxford and value my experience there.”

After high school, Joel provided IT and administrative support to contracting companies before serving as a full-time missionary from 2004 to 2006 in Colorado and Kansas. During part of that time, he worked in a church run employment center in Colorado Springs developing systems to more efficiently manage volunteers, and helping job seekers with their resumes and employment search.

Soon after returning to Virginia Beach, Joel became the data support specialist at Luxford Elementary School. He improved data collection systems and reporting to allow teachers to more effectively plan classroom instruction. On the school leadership team he helped craft the school’s annual continuous improvement plans and facilitate principal advisory committee meetings. He worked closely with the school’s computer resource specialist to provide technical support to teachers and training. During his six years at Luxford, he assisted with the adoption and training of a division wide electronic grade book and new learning management systems. Later, he took on the role of school improvement specialist, where he worked closely with math and literacy coaches, guidance, administration, and division coordinators to develop, implement, and monitor improvement plans and track student performance.

Joel also managed the many after school clubs available to students and served as club coach or director for several- including running, computer, flag football, and drama. He took an active role in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), serving as treasurer for a year. He was a committee member and helped raise funds to install an athletic trail around the school’s field and establish and manage an annual run/walk at the school called the “Dragon Dash.” During his last year at Luxford, he served as race manager for the event.

Joel’s time at Luxford Elementary came to an end in August 2012 as he launched Comit Strategies, a web design and hosting company based in Virginia Beach. He was elected to the Virginia Beach School Board that November to represent the Rose Hall district. While building his small business and serving on the school board, he also completed a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with an interdisciplinary minor in the impact of technology from Old Dominion University in 2014.