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The Rappahannock County School Board formally announced Monday that former Wakefield Country Day School headmistress Kathleen F. Grove has agreed to serve as interim superintendent from Feb. 4 to June 30. The same day, current superintendent Aldridge Boone sent a farewell email to the school division’s staff, at home for an unexpected snow-and-ice day, in which he says it was clear enough to him that his two-year contract would not be renewed and thus he went and found another job.
Equal parts bitter and sweet, Boone’s email (reprinted in its entirety here) decried the “blatant hypocrisy” of the school board’s appreciative remarks after his departure was made public; a departure, he wrote, that “is neither about children nor about what is best for children.”
“It is a sad fact of life that whenever we are arrogant enough or egotistical enough to make judgments about things of which we know nothing,” he wrote, “this kind of nonsense invariably happens.”
The email was sent anonymously to the newspaper Tuesday.
“Dr. Boone resigned before the board took a vote,” school board chair John Lesinski emailed Wednesday morning. “He also dictated the terms of his resignation, which stated his last day on the job would be Feb. 1. He did not indicate any flexibility in the timing of his departure as he informed the board he had accepted another position. His letter to the staff is a most unfortunate final communication to the dedicated educators and persons who support Rappahannock County Public Schools. You can quote me.”
Boone did not respond to email and voicemail requests for comment Wednesday. Neither did school board members Amy Hitt of the Jackson district, Paul Brown of Stonewall-Hawthorne or Wakefield district’s Chris Ubben. Aline Johnson of Piedmont district – the only school board member not serving her first term on the elected body – picked up the phone on the second ring.
“It’s hurtful, really hurtful,” Johnson said. “In time, all of the details will come out. But now I can’t really talk about it. I have prayed over this more than anything else I can remember. I like the man [Boone] . . . I will have to say we had a good relationship. I’ve done my best to work with him.”
Johnson confirmed Lesinski’s comment that the board never got the chance to cast a vote on renewing Boone’s contract. Meeting in closed session in January ostensibly to discuss the board’s evaluation of Boone, she said, he handed them copies of his resignation letter at the start of the meeting. “The contract wasn’t even brought up that day,” she said.
“I will tell you that the two of us have really tried to work this out,” Johnson said, speaking of the superintendent. “I have to support what’s best for the schools and the children.”
Boone, who was hired in March 2010 to replace the retiring Bob Chappell, is headed to Jacksonville, N.C., where he will be 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.
Grove, meanwhile, has held a wide range of positions in education, serving as assistant superintendent for Arlington Public Schools for eight years, supervising all the curricular areas, special programs such as early childhood and technology, and programs serving special populations, including gifted services and English as a second language students.
“I am pleased to be of assistance to the students, staff, and families of the Rappahannock County Schools during this interim,” Grove said. “I look forward to working with the school staff and wider community to ensure that we are serving our children well and to working with the board to identify a strong candidate for the superintendency. Once a new superintendent is onboard, I will return to enjoying my retirement in our beautiful county.”
“The board is extremely pleased to welcome Mrs. Grove as the interim superintendent,” Lesinski said in the school board’s press release Monday. “Her knowledge and expertise, both in the public and private education systems, will serve RCPS very well. Kathy will be more than just a caretaker. She will help us to develop the next strategic step as we look to the future for the schools and in the selection of a permanent superintendent.”
Lesinski said Grove’s first task will be to develop and finalize the school’s budget, though “not to the exclusion of anything else. There’s a lot more involved in running our schools than just the budget,” Lesinski added. “She’s not just minding the ship.”
Boone said this Monday that he had a “budget framework” worked out which he plans to pass along to Grove. As far as being involved with the school system beyond that, he responded, “No one has approached me about anything.”
The search for a new, permanent superintendent will shortly “begin in earnest,” Lesinski said. “This is obviously a critical time for us. That’s why we wanted to make sure we found the right person.”
Lesinski said interviews with several candidates for the interim position were conducted last week and that he was grateful such a “stellar” candidate had emerged on such short notice.
“She’s an outstanding public servant,” Lesinski said. “But it was a competitive selection process and it was encouraging to see so many good choices [apply].”
Lesinski said the school board is in discussions with potential search firms to aid in the search for a new superintendent and plans to work closely with the community, soliciting public input when selecting Boone’s replacement. “We want it to be an inclusive, transparent process,” Lesinski said.
A schedule for the search process will be released soon, with a target date of July 1 for hiring a new full-time superintendent.