School Board looks inside when choosing its interim superintendent

By Luke Christopher and John McCaslin
Rappahannock News staff

Gary R. Blair, the director of human resources for Rappahannock County Public Schools, has been appointed the school system’s interim superintendent following the resignation last month of Donna O. Matthews, who is leaving to join the Virginia Department of Education in Richmond starting March 10.

The selection was announced Tuesday night (Feb. 21) during the regular monthly session of the Rappahannock County School Board.

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Gary R. Blair

School Board Chairman John Wesley Mills told the Rappahannock News: “The board is delighted with Dr. Blair’s appointment to interim superintendent. His extensive experience will be a great benefit to our school system and provide a smooth transition as he is integral to existing operations. We are fortunate to have such a qualified individual who is willing and knowledgeable within our system. I’m sure he’ll create a healthy atmosphere over the coming months.”

Blair joined the Rappahannock school system in September 2014 as head of human resources. He is also currently an adjunct professor at Averett University and scholar/fellow with the Virginia Foundation for Education Leadership. For four years, until 2012, he was division superintendent for Buckingham County (Va.) Public Schools. He earned his doctorate of education, educational leadership and administration from the University of Virginia in 2010, and his master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1979.

“As the interim superintendent, I will work to preserve what works well and to enhance our continued journey into excellence,” Blair read from a statement Tuesday night.

“I believe in the value of teamwork. In the words of Henry Ford, ‘Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is a progress and working together is a success.’ With a positive team spirit, leadership that is founded with integrity, trust and passion for the success of our students, it is with a great sense of pride that I look forward to the months ahead.”

Under Blair, the human resources department mission statement reads in part: “At Rappahannock County Public Schools, we treasure our tradition of excellence for our students and our commitment to our family of professionals and support staff. Our goal in human resources is to recruit, hire, develop and maintain our most valued resource, our people. We firmly believe that each and every person deserves respect and dignity daily and even though our size is small, we are huge on providing a caring, supportive and collaborative community that focuses on student success.”

In other news, the school board requested that Stacey Whitt, the schools’ assistant director of finance and food services, review the possibility of Local Choice offering the same health insurance to county and school employees.

The superintendent recommended not combining insurance plans for school employees and county employees. “If we merge then we would automatically be on the county’s pre-selected two plans; thereby, our employees would no longer have three plan choices and the county would [process] our claims.”

The item that received the most discussion was auctioning surplus former police vehicles that bus drivers are currently provided when driving between home, picking up busses at the schools, and going home on their breaks. The board is considering auctioning them off because they are close to disrepair, expensive to maintain and no longer cost effective.

One bus driver, Tom Pendleton, spoke in public comment about how these vehicles are still useful to bus drivers. After hearing the public comment, the board decided to table, for further review, the action item of the Designation of Surplus Cars for Closed Bid Auction until the next meeting on March 14.

An unedited video of the School Board 6 p.m. session on Tuesday, Feb. 21 can be found online at rappnews.com/video, or on the newspaper’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/RappNewsPlus

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