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Who do you want as NNPS' new superintendent? School board wants community to weigh in

Newport News Public School board members are starting their search on Thursday, months after they fired former Superintendent George Parker III.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The Newport News School Board announced Thursday that it will begin the process of hiring a new superintendent.

A spokeswoman for Newport News Public Schools said the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) has been selected to assist the board in the search for the next highly qualified leader for the school division. 

This announcement comes approximately two months after school board members voted to fire former Superintendent Dr. George Parker III over concerns about how he handled the shooting inside Heritage High School and the shooting outside Menchville High School, leading up to the shooting at Richneck Elementary School.

In addition to the VSBA, community members will be able to voice their opinions, concerns, and more regarding what they want to see in a new superintendent.

"The community’s voice will be instrumental in defining leadership characteristics and qualifications of the next superintendent of NNPS," the press release stated. "The school board is seeking public input and has created a survey related to superintendent criteria, which is also available on the home page of the school division website." 

“We are seeking a highly qualified leader to move the school division forward by accelerating academic achievement and improving the climate and culture across the school division while ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and staff," said School Board Chair Lisa Surles-Law. "We want to ensure that the public has a voice in this process and hope that parents, staff, students, and community members will take time to fill out the survey or attend one of four public hearings. We sincerely appreciate everyone who will be actively involved in this process.”

In an interview with 13News Now, Surles-Law acknowledged the recent challenges following the shooting and the importance of picking the right person during a sensitive time.

"Emotional healing for students and staff has been very much what we needed," said Surles-Law. "We are going to have listening sessions, open meetings for the division, but we're also going to do that internally for our staff, as well, and that's a unique element for our superintendent searches."

Newport News parent Ethel Cobbins said she wants a superintendent who will go beyond just listening.

"Someone who values the students, values the teachers, and I think most important, someone who really, really cares and goes down to the level of seeing what's going on at all of the schools," said Cobbins.

Cheryl Avent is another concerned parent. She said she has spoken up multiple times at school board meetings after the shooting at Heritage High School where a student brought a gun into the school and shot two other students.

"My daughter was right in the midst of it...and that was devastating to get that text, that call from her," said Avent.

Avent said she wants a superintendent who doesn't just have open ears, but also an open mind when it comes to parents' concerns, so she never has to get that kind of text from her daughter again.

"Because sometimes the students can't reach adults in the school board capacity," said Avent. "But adults can listen to adults and these are our children. We love and care for them, so yes, that's important."

Hard copies of the survey are available at the School Administration Building, 12465 Warwick Boulevard in Newport News, and in the main offices of each school.

In addition to the survey, the school board will also host four public hearings to provide more opportunities for input.

This is the full timeline of the search process, according to the NNPS spokeswoman:

March 23, 2023
Announcement to the public of Superintendent Search

April 13, 2023 (6:00 p.m.)
Public Hearing (Central- Location TBA)

April 17, 2023 (6:00 p.m.)
Public Hearing (North – Location TBA)

April 20, 2023 (5:30 p.m.)
Staff Public Hearing (Location TBA)

April 22, 2023 (10 a.m. – Noon)
Public Hearing (South- Location TBA)

April 23, 2023
Deadline for Surveys

April 25, 2023  
Board Meets to establish qualifications

April 26, 2023
Provide established qualifications to VSBA

May 1 – May 26, 2023
Receive applications

June 7, 2023 (1 p.m.)
Second meeting with the VSBA

June/July/August 2023
Interviews with candidates

August/September 2023
Announcement of the person selected

Michelle Mitchel took over as interim Superintendent until a new one is hired.

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