Superintendent signs on

The Rappahannock County school board signed up a new superintendent Tuesday. He’ll have plenty to do when he starts July 1, but it looks as if his predecessor, through June 30, will be just as busy.

Retiring school superintendent Bob Chappell, left, and superintendent-to-be Aldridge Boone confer before school board meeting. Photo by Roger Piantadosi.

At the start of the board’s monthly meeting Tuesday night at the high school, former Appomattox County superintendent Aldridge Boone and Rappahannock school board chairmain Wes Mills each signed on the appropriate line of Boone’s three-year, $105,000-a-year contract to serve as the first new superintendent the school division’s had in seven years.

“It’s been a great, exciting journey to find our next superintendent,” Mills said, “and this board is very pleased to have Dr. Boone on board.”

Outgoing superintendent Bob Chappell retires June 30 after 19 total years with the school system going back to 1982, including stints as high school principal and assistant superintendent. Tuesday night, he stood aside and snapped photos as Boone and Mills shook hands.

The photos are sure to appear in the next “Facts4U” schools newsletter, which Chappell assembles, posts online and emails every week for parents, staff and students.

Chappell said Tuesday he hoped most of the major challenges facing the school system will be resolved before he leaves. And the board’s other actions at Tuesday’s meeting held a fairly good indication of what those issues are.

Personnel and athletics

High school principal Adam Burket last week announced his intention to resign at the end of the school term. The board acted to advertise the vacancy and begin the process to find a replacement for Burket, who has held the job for just two years, and who suffered health problems last year that kept him away from the school for an extended period.

“I am exploring other opportunities in other counties,” Burket emailed in response to a request for comment Monday.

The board will have to act quickly to advertise, narrow down and interview candidates for the position, Chappell said after the meeting. “And there are 19 or 20 superintendents retiring this year statewide,” he said, which will make the search even more challenging, as principals are often leading candidates for superintendent jobs.

The board also began advertising last month for a new athletic/activities director (a 12-month full-time position that requires some teaching hours) and the part-time positions of varsity football coach varsity basketball coach.

All three of those positions are currently held by athletic director Bob Czekaj, who apparently has been offered a full-time teaching position instead.

The change was Chappell’s decision, as was the decision during last month’s budget-preparation period to return Rappahannock schools to the Bull Run District of the Virginia High School League (VHSL).

The athletic changes are evidence of a still-unsettled difference of opinion among the school division’s staff, parents, students and administrators – or a “great divide,” as one coach put it, pleading for anonymity – over how the Bull Run District’s smallest-by-half school should approach competitive sports.

Some say the students and athletes benefit from a more competitive schedule; those are the parents and staff (including Chappell) who believe it is “the right thing to do” to return to Bull Run District competition.

Others are willing to trade extended travel time and fewer District and state titles for closer games and better win-loss records. Proponents of the semi-independent schedule have included Czekaj all along — and, when the decision to withdraw from Bull Run was originally made three years ago, it was made by a group comprised of Czekaj, Chappell, assistant superintendent Becky Greer and the high school’s administrators.

“It’s crazy around here right now,” said a high school teacher who also requested anonymity, speaking of worry shared among teachers and students alike over how another principal – and the changes in the athletic department – will play out next year.

Those problems, if they exist come fall, will be on Boone’s plate. As will:

Facilities and funding

The school board Tuesday voted to revise its capital improvement priorities for the next several years — apparently a response to the Board of Supervisors decision last week to pay off Ameresco and decline, once and for all, the performance-contracting firm’s offer to upgrade the high school and elementary school’s aging and ailing energy and related systems. (Taxpayers and then supervisors last year balked at the deal’s required $2.5 million loan, to be paid off with guaranteed energy savings.)

Essentially, the revised plan raised, to top-priority items, all the improvements the school board thinks it can afford to do itself with money already in the proposed 2011 budget.

These include, according to the plan prepared by Chappell and adopted by the board Tuesday: installing surge protection; adding heat to the elementary school cafeteria; modifying the high school’s geothermal system and the auxiliary gym’s heating and air-conditioning system, installing roof-exhaust fans in the elementary school and the School Board office building and replacing entrance doors at the high school.

Though some items were not included, the total for the top-priority repairs is well under $100,000.

The more expensive work – much of it first recommended by Ameresco and some of it recommended again, though in very different ways, just last month by SRP Inc., the engineering firm hired by the county to study alternatives to Ameresco’s proposal – will also bring the most savings, Chappell pointed out Tuesday night.

Those items, as listed on Chappell’s revised capital improvement plan, include replacing heating system pneumatic controls and valves ($165,000, according to SRP) and replacing the schools’ single-pane windows with energy-efficient upgrades. Estimates for the latter, according to Chappell, are close to $1 million.

The Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, decided at its last session to consider funding up to $1 million of school (and some minor county building) repairs with funds already collected for a now-defunct plan to erect a county office facility on Bank Road.

The supervisors were scheduled to hold an open-to-the-public work session on both the county and school budgets Thursday, April 15, at 7 p.m. at the courthouse. The combined public hearing on the schools and overall county budget is set for 7 p.m. Monday, April 26 at the high school auditorium.

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Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 534 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.