Eight applicants for schools superintendent

Schools chief likely chosen by end of June

The application period has drawn to a close for those wishing to become the next Rappahannock County Schools Superintendent.

The opening resulted from the unexpected departure early this year of Donna Matthews.

“We have received eight applications, although we may still receive more as long as they are postmarked by May 19 — so they should all be in by end of week,” Rappahannock School Board Chairman John Wesley Mills told this newspaper on Monday.

Mills said the board would start meeting on Tuesday night “to begin evaluating the candidate pool.”

“Our goal is to determine a top three or five and set up interviews for the coming two weeks,” he explained. “It is likely we will not have a decision by the June regular meeting, but potentially before the end of June.”

He said the interviewing would be “handled privately as a series of closed session meetings.”

The chairman added that the board may decide to negotiate with interim Superintendent Dr. Gary Blair to remain for a “month or so” until the school system is comfortable with the choice of superintendent.

Mills said this week that he is not taking the hiring of a new superintendent lightly, calling the process “a significant decision in the life of our school division.”

“I’ve been through this two other times,” Mills said earlier of the search procedure, adding that for legal and other reasons the vetting process must be “tightly managed.”

But he was also aware of the need for transparency and community involvement with the selection — “people want to make sure they can be part of the process,” he noted.

Rachel Bynum, a parent of two children in the school system, said on the heels of Matthews’ departure that “teachers and parents” should indeed have a say in the selection of a superintendent.

“I hope they will not rush, but will take the necessary time to find a good fit for our unique small community,” she said. “I believe our schools will be even better if we find a new superintendent who will take action to revitalize community support and involvement, with a clear intention of supporting our teachers, while nurturing students to become lifelong learners . . . in a rapidly changing world.”

Matthews had caught the entire school community by surprise when abruptly announcing her resignation. Her 5-year contract with Rappahannock schools wasn’t set to expire until mid-2018.

She later said in an interview with this newspaper that she’d been “quietly looking” for another job that would allow her to spend more time with her husband in Buckingham County and her children, who live out of state. Before her announcement she accepted a position with the Virginia Department of Education in Richmond, which began March 10.

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John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.