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Newport News School Board to vote on 'separation agreement' with superintendent

The meeting comes in the wake of a shooting at Richneck Elementary School on Jan. 6, where police said a 6-year-old shot his first-grade teacher.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The Newport News School Board will discuss a separation agreement and severance with Superintendent Dr. George Parker III during a special meeting Wednesday night.

School board members will also consider an appointment of an interim superintendent, according to the meeting agenda.

READ MORE | Lawyer for Abby Zwerner to make first public remarks since Richneck shooting

The meeting comes in the wake of a shooting at Richneck Elementary School on Jan. 6, where police said a 6-year-old shot his first-grade teacher, Abby Zwerner.

13News Now spoke with Board Chair Lisa Surles-Law who said this was not an easy decision, but they want to head in a new direction as a school division. 

"We’ve heard from our teachers, we’ve heard from our administration and we have a direction that we need to head and at this time, it sounds like our best decision," she said.

Surles-Law would not say who the board is planning to appoint as the interim.

During a town hall meeting with parents on Jan. 13, Dr. Parker said at least one administrator knew about a tip warning that the student may have been carrying a weapon but didn't say who that administrator was.

During a press conference just 12 days ago, Surles-Law said Dr. Parker had the board's full support.

The school division hired Dr. Parker as superintendent in 2018. Before coming to Newport News, he served as superintendent at Caroline County Public Schools.

While no vote has officially been taken yet, Newport News teacher Cindy Connell says firing Parker is the right decision.

"I think that considering all of the national and international bad press the division has justifiably received in the past few weeks, that there was no other possible outcome for the school board," Connell said.

Evident by some public commentary during a Jan. 17 school board meeting, Parker fell under public scrutiny on the heels of three shootings on school grounds since September 2021. That month, a shooting at Heritage High School left two students injured. Following a basketball game at Menchville High on December 2021, a Woodside High student was killed. The latest was the shooting mentioned above at Richneck Elementary.

She said looking at those past incidents, Connell said this decision is long overdue.

"I don’t think this is a new feeling, and I think that if you were to take a poll of teachers, most people felt like he was not an effective superintendent," said Connell.

When asked if the board was already thinking about hiring a new superintendent after those previous shootings, Surles-Law said the following:

"I think you always think in terms of how you can do things better and so everything is on the table at that time."

Connell said she knows what she wants to see in a new division leader.

"Someone who is willing to listen to us and to help us make the changes that we feel like need to be made in order to keep us all safe," she said. "I think it’s a good first step in a very long road that we’re going to have for the board to try to regain the trust that it’s broken with its employees and with the community."

The school board meeting will take place at 6 p.m. There is no public comment section listed on the agenda.

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