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Familiar face named acting schools superintendent in Charlottesville

Jim Henderson, a longtime city schools administrator who retired last year, will step in as acting superintendent, the Charlottesville School Board announced Friday.

“We could not ask for someone better to step in as interim,” board Chairwoman Lisa Larson-Torres said in a statement. “Jim brings institutional knowledge, effective experience, wide areas of expertise — and even more, he brings warm relationships with our staff, our community partners and so many of our families.”

The board met in closed session Friday to vote on the hire. Henderson, 67, will make $700 a day, division spokeswoman Beth Cheuk said. He starts June 1.

The vote to hire Henderson was unanimous. After the vote, he signed the contract from a conference table at the division’s central office, and board members thanked him for taking the job.

Henderson also thanked the board for the opportunity.

“I look forward to maintaining the good work that was implemented and pushed forward by Dr. Atkins, with your guidance, and I’m here to continue that movement forward and to make the transition of the new superintendent as easy as possible,” he said. “So, I’m here to serve and I look forward to it.”

It was the board’s second closed session since schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins announced that she was going to step down May 31 after 15 years at the helm. Atkins spoke to the media earlier this week to discuss the leadership transition and her new job at the Virginia Department of Education.

She said that her role in the transition will be to make sure her office is equipped with notes and anything the new leader will need to be successful, continue current efforts and develop a new vision.

“That’s what I have to do, because any position in a job is larger than one person, and one person should never, ever control the destiny of an organization,” she said. “We’ve got incredible talent in this town, in our school division, and it’s my job to help support that talent and encourage that talent as I make my transition.”

The board is looking to move quickly to start the search for a permanent superintendent and is seeking proposals from interested search firms that are due by April 6. The search firm will be responsible for creating the application, recruiting and vetting candidates and helping to interview finalists and negotiate the final contract, among other tasks, according to the request for proposals released Wednesday.

Larson-Torres said in an interview that engaging the community is an important part of the search process for the board and that interested firms should be aware of that. Creating a community outreach plan with the board that engages a broad spectrum of stakeholders is also one of the firm’s responsibilities.

“They will need to know that this community is going to want every opportunity to provide feedback,” she said.

The board wants to appoint a superintendent no later than Sept. 23, according to the document, though that’s contingent on several factors, such as the number and quality of candidates who apply. According to state code, a school board has 180 days to fill the vacancy, though it can request extensions.

But the first step was finding an acting superintendent to take over for Atkins while the board conducts its search.

Larson-Torres said the board was looking for an acting superintendent who was trustworthy, had relationships with school principals and division staff, knew the lay of the land and didn’t want the permanent position.

Henderson fits the bill. He retired last year after spending more than 40 years in the city school system. He started teaching at Clark Elementary in 1975, served in a variety of leadership positions over the years and finished his career as associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

During his central office tenure, he oversaw a range of areas, from curriculum to student transportation to student discipline, among others, according to a division news release. He also helped with several social-emotional learning initiatives and the redesign of the division’s gifted education program.

“Jim’s long relationships and deep knowledge of our schools and programming will allow him to sustain our good work during this transitional time,” School Board member James Bryant said in a statement. “We are so pleased that he was willing and available to step into this role.”

When Henderson retired, Atkins said there was no way the division or community could adequately express their appreciation for his more than four decades of service.

Atkins will become the assistant superintendent for talent acquisition and development for the Virginia Department of Education after she leaves Charlottesville.

“Once you’re in education and you’ve made education your career, it’s very, very difficult to not continue to serve and to be a part of the educational program,” Atkins said in an interview earlier this week. “The Department of Education has so many broad and far-reaching initiatives that are under way right now that I’m incredibly passionate about.”

She’s looking forward to having an impact beyond the city school system and region.

VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle said Atkins will be joining the department as a part-time hourly employee. Her hourly rate will be $70, and her employment will be limited to 1,500 hours per year.

Atkins said she met with principals this week to talk about how she can help them as she transitions out and a new superintendent comes in.

“I can be of most service to our Charlottesville school division and our School Board by facilitating changes, tweaks and adjustments that we can make now in order to position everyone to serve our students the best as we transition to more face to face and look forward to the fall,” she said.

Atkins said leadership transitions like this are less about the person leaving and more about the work of the school system and continuity of that work.

“If I’ve been a good leader, then our school division will continue to thrive, our teachers will continue to have everything that they need, and our system will continue to advance and to move forward,” she said.

Atkins advised any new superintendent to get to know and understand the community.

“Charlottesville is unique,” she said. “You cannot describe it in words. … Charlottesville is the nexus of every beautiful thing that you can ever think of, and every challenging thing that you can think of. There’s so much beauty. There’s so much potential. There is so much value in Charlottesville city. If you handle that carefully, you will be successful. Handle it and appreciate it, and you will be successful.”Module Name: A1 5e

skyline.. text to come

1. 032721-cdp-news-walker-folo .. pls put the mug on the jump. pls put this refer on A1 at the jumpline: ONLINE: Find Hill and Snook’s full statement at

2. 032721-cdp-news-kites-p1

3. 032721-cdp-news-cases … attached art is for online only

4. 032721-cdp-news-henderson .. w/mug for A1

5. 032721-cdp-news-canna .. w/pic for A1


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