Page Schools officially name division’s new leader
Page News and CourierLURAY, Nov. 5 — The search is officially over.
Five months after Dr. Randall Thomas announced from the auditorium stage at Luray High School that he was stepping down after his nine-year tenure as superintendent, school board chairman Morgan Phenix announced from the same stage that the division has a new leader.
The Page County School Board, during its meeting Monday night, unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Donna Power as superintendent, beginning Dec. 1.
“I'd like to take a moment to thank the community and the staff, the students and the teachers and administrators of Page County Public Schools, for supplying information to the school board in our search for a superintendent,” Dr. Phenix told a crowd of more than 100, who gathered at the meeting to recognize perfect Standards of Learning scores achieved during the previous school year.
Since the superintendent search kicked off in June, school board members have reiterated their goal of maintaining “transparency” throughout the search process. Referencing those efforts, and noting that no current board member had previously been a part of a superintendent search, Dr. Phenix said the process “was done professionally and properly.”
A month after Dr. Thomas announced his retirement, the school board met with officials from the Virginia School Board Association, who assisted the local school system throughout its search process. The school board announced at that inaugural meeting that it aimed to name the division's next leader by November.
Later in July, the school board held a public hearing and collected 142 responses through a county-wide survey that ranked an expertise in instruction and finance as top requirements.
In August, the school board unanimously appointed Dr. Gail Pope as acting superintendent. The retired superintendent for Manassas City Public Schools said at the time of that appointment that she did not plan to seek the full-time position.
In September, the division sent out a press release stating that among 32 inquiries, 14 applications were received. Dr. Phenix said Monday night that five candidates were called for initial interviews, while three were called back for second interviews.
Last month, the chairman of the school board said the board had “maintained confidentiality” throughout its search process. That statement followed conflicting reports over the new superintendent that emerged after online media reports posted on Oct. 11 and Oct. 16. Those reports by media covering the Westmoreland County area, where Dr. Power resides, indicated that the Superintendent for Colonial Beach Public Schools would resign on Nov. 30, to take the reigns at Page County Public Schools.
Referencing those reports, Dr. Phenix said Monday the school board was “very, very proud” to officially vote on the division's new leader.
After her appointment in 2009 as Superintendent for the Colonial Beach school system, Dr. Power established the division “as a sound, financial entity,” Dr. Phenix said, adding that the fete is “a primary concern of Page County.”
She served as Assistant Superintendent for Mathews County Public Schools in 2008. From 1998 to 2008, she was the principal of Lee-Jackson Elementary School in Mathews. From 1973 to 1998, Dr. Power served as a teacher and an administrator in Staten Island, N.Y., and Lancaster, Pa.
Dr. Power received her Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Policy from Va. Tech in 2007, with a dissertation focused on Special Education Law. She received her Master of Education degree in Special Education from St. John University, and another Master of Education degree in Administration and Supervision from Fordham University. Dr. Power received her Bachelor in Education degree in Elementary Education from Virginia Intermont College in Bristol.
“One of the things that was pointed out by many people, [was] that they wanted a superintendent that was a leader in instruction — that had integrity, that had vision and had a value structure,” Dr. Phenix said. “We believe that Dr. Donna Power meets those criteria and exceeds them.”
Dr. Power said her top priority as superintendent will be “to enlist the trust of all school employees and parents.” The division's new chief said she will accomplish that by maintaining visibility and being accessible to all community members. She said she plans to be put on the agenda once a month at the Page County Board of Supervisors meetings.
Supervisors' chairman Johnny Woodward said the new superintendent was already set to meet with county officials on Wednesday.
“We will work closely together to get things accomplished,” Woodward said, adding that supervisors will proceed with their search for a new county administrator during Wednesday's closed session, when board members review applications.
The next year will serve as a season of change for the county as a whole. In addition to a new superintendent for the school system, county supervisors aim to name a new county administrator in January. The Board of Directors of the Luray-Page Chamber of Commerce are set to announce this month the organization's new president, and the Town of Luray will hire a new town manager.
“Whenever you have new ideas and new perspectives, it should turn out for the good,” said Woodward, noting that he hopes to kick off the upcoming budget cycle shortly after Dr. Power takes the reigns in December.
Dr. Power said the budget process will be her top responsibility.
“My job is to guarantee to the school board the financial stability of the school system,” she said. “That includes accountability of every expenditure and making sure every dollar of revenue is received.”
District 1 school board member Randy Bailey attributed Dr. Power's appointment as “a milestone” for the school division, while District 3 school board member Sharon Lucas said the school board is “expecting big things to happen in Page County Public Schools.”
Dr. Pope is set to serve her final day as acting superintendent on Nov. 30. She said Monday she will continue to be an advocate for public education by working with an outside accreditation agency.
Dr. Power is set to officially begin on Dec. 1, according to the contract signed Monday night. Dr. Phenix said that contract reflects the former superintendent's contract in addition to a mandated 5.7-percent Virginia Retirement System requirement that went into effect this fiscal year.
Under the terms of Dr. Power's contract, the new superintendent must reside in Page County.