Thursday, September 13, 2012

White smoke

Following a search done with all deliberate speed, Goochland has a new superintendent of schools.

At its September 11 meeting, the School Board voted unanimously to appoint James F. Lane, Ed.D. the current superintendent of schools in Middlesex County, as superintendent of schools. A four year contract with him was also approved. Lane’s salary will be $130,000 and he will report for duty on December 12.

According to a statement read by School Board Chair Beth Hardy, District 4, Lane was among 45 applicants and seven finalists from 13 states who applied for the position.

Hardy cited Lane’s expertise in the areas of finance, student achievement and innovation as factors that propelled him to the front of the pack. His experience also includes a stint as a middle school band director, which should bode well for Goochland’s music programs.

In a brief statement, Lane said that he is excited about moving to Goochland with his wife and three year-old son and becoming part of the community. He said that he has been drawn to Goochland and that being superintendent of schools here is his “dream job.”

Providing further evidence that he does not plan to hunker down in the central office, Lane said that he plans to do a listening tour before he starts work to find out what makes Goochland special and learn the community’s expectations of its school system.

Dr. Pete Gretz, assistant superintendent since 2008, has served as interim superintendent since late spring and will be Lane’s second chair.

“We express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Gretz for his hard work. His focus and leadership skills have been a critical part of managing through this transition, and he will continue to lead us in many of these areas even after Dr. Lane officially assumes his role,” said Hardy.

Board vice chair John Wright District 5 echoed Hardy’s sentiment thanking Gretz for his “insight and professionalism.”

The selection of Lane was the culmination of a thorough, yet speedy search for a new superintendent. The School Board actively sought, received, and incorporated community input during the selection process. This was yet another new way of doing things in our school system.

Middlesex, whose county seat is Saluda, has about half as many people and public school students as Goochland. Its school budget for fiscal 2012 was just under $12 million.

Lane’s appointment bodes well for the future of public education in Goochland and confirms the wisdom of county voters who replaced the entire school board last November.

To be sure, our school system still faces many challenges. Funding is perhaps the most serious concern. Until real estate values rebound and aggressive economic development policies generate additional revenue, doing more with less will be the new norm.

The September 11, meeting, the first regular meeting since school started on August 20, was a textbook example of conducting the people’s business. (Meetings are streamed live. Recordings are posted under the school board tab of the website:, which is well worth a visit.)

Gone are the mute bobble heads of yore, replaced with elected officials who are engaged and informed about the matters at hand.

The school year began with a new attitude.

Sekou Shabaka, President of the Goochland NAACP, told the board that he was “overjoyed” with the new order in the high school, where students are expected to be ready to learn and sagging pants unacceptable. He thanked the board for implementing a “new way of doing things” in our schools.

Shabaka also wanted to know why, in the 18 years that Goochland has participated in the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, we have sent just two African American students to this prestigious institution. He asked the school board to put a clear and transparent system in place to illustrate how decisions about who goes to the Governor’s School are made and who makes them.

During last year’s campaign, Kevin Hazzard District 2 proposed creation of volunteer advisory committees to address matters including grant writing, energy conservation, and community and minority involvement.

Of particular importance, contended Hazzard, is a committee to secure grant money to supplement the school budget. To date, only two people have stepped forward to join this group.

Hazzard likened the grant writing process to a machine with many parts working together for a particular outcome.

These “parts” include: hunting and gathering to identify grant opportunities; working with teachers to understand and identify resources they need to meet a particular goal; determining if Goochland schools can deliver demonstrable results after a grant been obtained, and compiling supporting data for the actual grant application.

To find out more, go to:

This school board is working hard to ensure that each student in our school reaches their full potential in spite of fiscal challenges. The good news is that the board has just gotten started.

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