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Newport News announces new principal and assistant principal for Richneck Elementary School

This decision comes five months after police say a 6-year-old boy shot Richneck first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — New leadership is set to take over Richneck Elementary School in Newport News.

School board members announced two division employees will become the principal and assistant principal roles.

Jacky Barber will serve as the new principal of Richneck Elementary School for the 2023-2024 academic school year.

Barber currently serves as principal of Sedgefield Elementary School. A spokeswoman with the school division said it's a job she has held since July 2020. 

Prior to leading Sedgefield, she served as the principal and assistant principal at Riverside Elementary School. She has also served as a reading and math interventionist, assistant principal and an elementary school teacher.

As for the assistant principal, Rhonda Chambers-Harmon is set to fill that role. She currently works as the assistant principal for Stoney Run Elementary, which she started in 2019.

Prior to that, Chambers-Harmon served as a teacher at Greenwood Elementary, Newsome Park Elementary and Palmer Elementary for NNPS since 2007. 

"We want to be first to welcome you to the division, welcome you back home if you're returning," said NNPS Board Chair Lisa Surles-Law during the special meeting Tuesday. "We really appreciate you bringing your expertise, your talents, and your love to NNPS. Thank you so much."

This announcement by school board members comes after former Assistant Principal Ebony Parker resigned from her position a week after police say a 6-year-old boy shot his first-grade teacher, Abby Zwerner, on January 6.

In Zwerner's $40 million lawsuit against the school division, Parker is accused of ignoring vital warnings the day of the shooting that the student had a gun on him at the school.

The attorney for former Richneck Principal Briana Foster-Newton said no one made the former principal aware of the gun on the day of the shooting.

A school division spokeswoman said Foster-Newton has moved away from her original position as principal but is still employed by the school division. 

Some parents who spoke off-camera to 13News Now said while it appears Barber and Chambers-Harmon look good on paper, they will wait to see how their actions portray their future with Richneck Elementary School.

13News Now reached out to speak with the school board members to learn more about why they felt these two administrators were fit for these roles, but a spokeswoman for the school division said they did not have availability Wednesday.

Meanwhile, leaders with Newport News Public Schools are still searching for a new superintendent. The school board voted to fire now-former Superintendent Dr. George Parker III shortly after the shooting. Right now, Michele Mitchell is serving as interim superintendent.

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