NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- George Parker III, the superintendent at Newport News Public schools was released from his duties in a special meeting on Wednesday night.
Parker will no longer be superintendent of the school district as of February 1. He served as superintendent for the district for nearly five years.
Parker has been sharply criticized by parents and teachers who have called for his resignation or firing after police say a 6-year-old student shot and wounded his first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School.
"When a leader loses the trust of those who follow them, then it's time for you to go," said Vice Chair Dr. Terri Best.
"It would be the staff that would not necessarily support where we have to go and we need to become a much more student discipline and safety division," Douglas Brown, another school board member, said.
However, not all members of the board were in support of the move.
"Getting rid of someone is not going to particularly fix this problem. This is not a Newport News problem, this is a gun problem," Gary Hunter, an opposing board member said.
Dr. Michelle Mitchell has been named as interim superintendent. Mitchell is the current executive director of advancement.
The school board said that they are looking outside for a permanent hire for the position of superintendent.
Parker shared the following statement with Newport News staff members:
This evening the Newport News School Board voted to terminate my service as division superintendent from NNPS. This decision was made without cause and after careful consideration of the future of NNPS.
I would like to thank you and the School Board for affording me the honor of serving as your division superintendent for nearly five years. To our executive team, principals, faculty and staff across this system, I am truly indebted to you for the heart work that has been on display throughout my tenure. I will truly miss you all.
I wish Ms. Zwerner and the Richneck staff and community best wishes in their recovery from this unfortunate and tragic incident. I admire their bravery and the selfless love that they have demonstrated for each other and their students.
Despite significant challenges, I will depart NNPS knowing that we have made progress in several important areas. During my tenure, for example, we have made significant progress in improving teacher and staff compensation by providing a 19.6 percent average increase in teacher compensation and a 14 percent average increase for bus drivers over four fiscal cycles. Additionally, we were able to raise the initial starting pay for all classified employees to a minimum of fifteen dollars per hour.
We improved academic services for students by expanding reading and mathematics diagnostic assessments, remedial reading programs and mental health services. Our efforts in providing mental health therapy by adding clinically licensed mental health professionals to our division staff was recognized at a national level when NNPS was awarded the Silver Magna Award from the National School Board Association. Because of these enhanced academic services, our students have continued to excel. For example, forty-five percent of the Class of 2022 graduated with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, and these graduates earned over 2,000 industry and career certifications and more than $55 million in scholarships and academic awards.
We have continued to focus on academic and social emotional learning opportunities as well. During my tenure, NNPS added courses in cyber-security and iSTEM. We also initiated a Virtual Learning Academy that now serves students grades 6-12. We expanded mentorship initiatives such as RISE, BLOOM and My Brothers Keepers. Additionally, we are moving forward with middle school athletics. Student athletics and mentor programs enable our students to collaborate with our community in building character, career interests, and leadership.
We have also focused on operational excellence. In collaboration with community stakeholders, we have completed a 15-year Facility Master Plan, which will allow NNPS to be better positioned to work jointly with city and community leaders in efforts to improve aging facilities. Additionally, the realization of a new Huntington Middle School is currently underway with plans for a school opening in 2024.
These and many other accomplishments are not mine alone. They are the work of dedicated individuals across NNPS. As my time here comes to an end, please know that I will continue to root for the entire NNPS team, including your future leadership.
Best wishes for an extremely bright future NNPS!
Police say Abigail Zwerner, 25, was shot by a student in her class as she was teaching at Richneck Elementary School. Police Chief Steve Drew has repeatedly characterized the shooting as “intentional,” saying the boy had the gun “on his person,” aimed the gun at Zwerner and fired one round, striking her in the hand and chest.
Zwerner was hospitalized for nearly two weeks but has been released and is continuing her recovery on an outpatient basis, a hospital spokesperson said.
Six days after the Jan. 6 shooting, Parker revealed that at least one administrator had been told the day of the shooting that the boy may have had a weapon. He said the student’s backpack was searched, but no weapon was found.
In a press conference on Wednesday morning, Diane Toscano, Zwerner's lawyer, said she notified the Newport News School Board that she plans to file a lawsuit on Zwerner's behalf.
"The school and community are living the nightmare. All because the school administration failed to act," said Toscano. "Were they not so paralyzed by apathy they could have prevented this tragedy."
The assistant principal of Richneck Elementary School also resigned from their position on Wednesday evening.
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