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Newport News school board lays out qualifications, receives applications for next superintendent

The board and Virginia School Boards Association are accepting applications for the position until May 26.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Who is the next leader to permanently take the helm at Newport News Public Schools (NNPS)

We may be months from knowing the answer. However, it's all part of a plan, as outlined by a timeline on the NNPS website.

"The Newport News School Board has engaged the Virginia School Boards Association to assist the board in the search for the next highly qualified superintendent for the school division," a division spokeswoman wrote 13News Now.

Earlier this month, the job posting for superintendent opened up after board members outlined the qualifications:

  • Experience as a principal is required.
  • An earned doctorate is required.
  • Experience working at the director level or higher is required.
  • Highly qualified candidates will have prior Superintendent experience.
  • Experience as a teacher is strongly preferred.
  • Experience as an assistant superintendent or equivalent position is preferred.

The next superintendent is also expected to prioritize aspects, like leadership and management skills, board and staff relations, climate and culture, as well as school finance. 

School safety was also listed two times. 

The vacancy is open, after all, partly from the fallout of the shooting at Richneck Elementary on January 6. 

This week, in a Good Morning America exclusive interview, the mother of the boy accused of pulling the trigger at Richneck Elementary publicly spoke about the shooting for the first time.

Deja Taylor, 25, said her son, who is now in her grandfather's custody, does not discuss the shooting. 

"We talk, we play, we do Uno, draw pictures but nothing of the incident," she told ABC News. 

Newport News police said the 6-year-old used Taylor's handgun to shoot and injure first-grade teacher Abigail Zwerner, 25.

"I am as a parent, obviously willing to take responsibility for him because he can't take responsibility for himself," Taylor added. 

She now faces charges of child neglect and recklessly leaving a loaded firearm that endangers a child. She awaits a bench trial in August. 

The fallout from January 6 also includes a lawsuit from Zwerner against school officials, as well as the firing of Superintendent Dr. George Parker III.

School board members made that call on January 25. The person to permanently take his place has not yet been chosen.

However, president of Newport News Education Association Dr. James Graves told 13News Now he has been pleased with the search process and pacing, so far.

"People had the voice to say what they want in a superintendent," said Graves. "We're on the motion. We're moving forward. We believe everything is going to be fine." 

He told 13News Now he prefers a candidate who has been a teacher.

"When you are a teacher for so many years, it seems like you never forget that. You never forget what a teacher goes through, you never forget what a staff member goes through," Graves said. 

He also considers the following among his top priorities: "Believe it or not; safety, approachability and being mobile." 

The deadline for applications is on May 26. Afterward, a school division spokeswoman said they will release how many they received.

In the meantime, Dr. Michele Mitchell has served on an interim basis in the position.

School board members plan to interview candidates all summer long. They want to make and announce their pick in August or September, according to the timeline.

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