The Rappahannock County school board accepted a resignation letter from current school superintendent Aldridge Boone at its monthly meeting Tuesday night (Jan. 9).
Boone’s resignation is effective April 1, though, according to the letter, he doesn’t expect to be involved with the school system after Feb. 1; his two-year contract was set to expire June 30. The exact reasons behind Boone’s resignation are a personnel matter, and thus considered private information by the board (not to mention Virginia law). His resignation was accepted during the board’s closed session.
Boone, who was hired in March 2010 to replace the retiring Bob Chappell, said Wednesday he has accepted another job and will become the North Carolina district superintendent for the Department of Defense’s Educational Services. Boone, the county’s first African-American superintendent and a former Air Force officer, will be stationed at the Marines Corps’ Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.
School board chairman John Lesinski said the board accepted Boone’s resignation “with great sadness” and has been in contact with the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) to begin the process of locating and hiring a new superintendent.
“We’re going to build on the success of both he and his predecessors and we wish him the best of success,” Lesinski said. “We greatly appreciate his contributions to our schools.”
“We’re not going to be without a superintendent,” said Jackson district board member Amy Hitt. “We just found out about [Boone’s resignation] last night, but we have a very capable school administration here. We’re going to work together, move forward and do what’s in the best interests of all our students and staff.”
“It’s unfortunate timing,” said County Administrator John McCarthy, who noted that state law requires the school system to have someone in place acting as a superintendent. McCarthy also said because of the narrow time frame, there will most likely be an interim superintendent before a full-time replacement is found, a likelihood Hitt echoed.
McCarthy did say that the decision of who to hire for the position is entirely in the hands of the school board. “It’s their baby,” McCarthy said. He noted that no decision-making role (other than budget approval, which is slated to begin in earnest shortly) is played within the school system by the county government.
During Boone’s term and after the November 2011 election of an almost all-new school board, the school board and Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors had become noticeably less antagonistic than in prior years.
“I’m saddened to lose him,” said Stonewall-Hawthorne district supervisor Chris Parrish. “I had a good working relationship with him, especially when it came to the budget . . . he was very cautious about not wasting money.”
“Dr. Boone was a breath of fresh air at a time when it was needed,” said Hitt. “And I, too, wish him luck.”
“There are mixed reviews of him, of course,” said Rappahannock County Educational Association (RCEA) treasurer Dave Naser on Wednesday. Naser, a teacher at Rappahannock County High School, said most people “haven’t had a chance to react yet,” but of the reactions he had heard, most centered on a single emotion: sadness.
“I always found him to be forward-looking . . . he’s done a lot of good things for the system, like fighting for teacher salary increases, which we all appreciated,” said Naser. “We’ve made great strides with him . . . and I hope we can continue moving forward.”
Boone was popular in the community; public support for his rehire was voiced at the three previous school board meetings, including again Tuesday night.
“I see very positive changes here due to Dr. Boone’s contributions,” said Gary Light during the public comment period Tuesday night. “It’s typically clear by now what’s going on and I’m concerned the process [of getting a superintendent in place] may have broken down. We need to make sure we have a competent, engaged superintendent in June 2013.”
Light said in an interview Wednesday afternoon that he felt this was an issue that “should have been dealt with back in July. And the fact that it wasn’t – there’s a message there too. I wish more was clear.”
Hitt said the comments at recent board meetings “irked me. It’s not like I haven’t been doing my job. We’ve started talking to the VSBA and we’re not going to be without a superintendent.”
At least one observer familiar with the working relationship between the superintendent and the school board over the last year or so described it as “toxic.” Interviewed at his office Wednesday, Boone would not comment on his working relationship with the board, but was visibly surprised when told that Lesinski had referred a reporter’s questions about what happened at Tuesday night’s closed session to the superintendent.
Parrish also said he appreciated Boone’s “positive changes” to the school system, including switching the timing of end-of-semester exams to before Christmas break, rather than after it.
“He was innovative and tireless in his work to improve the curriculum,” Parrish said. “But if he was not offered a new contract, I can’t fault him for seeking other employment.”