Despite a year of setbacks that included vocal community disagreement with Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, both from the community and within the school system, the School Board rallied around him and approved renewal of his contract.
The new contract renews Hutchings’ role in ACPS through June 30, 2025. During the discussion Thursday night, School Board members repeatedly praised his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic over the last year.
“I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Dr. Hutchings,” said School Board member Michelle Rief. “He had to grapple with uncertainty of COVID and changing guidance from CDC… There’s no precedent or playbook on how to lead school division through global pandemic. Dr. Hutchings, you got us through this.”
Rief praised Hutchings’ work on helping to provide meals, laptops, and internet service for students who needed it.
“The past year has not been easy on anyone,” Rief said, “but we have made it to the end of the school year and are on a path to full reopening in the fall.”
The rest of the School Board more-or-less mirrored Rief’s comments, with some noting Hutchings’ present at the school as a relief from the school system’s frequent struggles with turnover.
“It’s easy to say in hindsight what this year could have or should have been,” said School Board member Veronica Nolan. “For context, this time last year, we were looking for eggs and toilet paper… I think it’s amazing what this team at ACPS has done together. That continuity is so important.”
Ramee Gentry noted that Hutchings’ tenure comes after a time when ACPS had three superintendents over five years. Another Superintendent was dumped by the School Board in 2007 in the wake of a DUI and rapidly increasing operations costs.
“ACPS has not had continuity [of leadership] for years,” Gentry said. “Turnover in superintendents leads to turnover in staff. When you do not have staff continuity, where they feel sure about where they are going, that ship isn’t going anywhere because it’s not steering in any direction.”
Hutchings’ faced his own turnover in staff — most notably the from former ACPS Chief Operating Officer Mignon Anthony who retired and published a damning letter about ACPS leadership in the Alexandria Times.
At the Board meeting, Hutchings passed the praise onto his staff.
“I need our community to know I am nothing without our team,” Hutchings said. “We are not able to accomplish anything in ACPS without our team. I am probably the most blessed superintendent in the world. I have people on my right, my left, my front my back. Our team comes together and we make it happen. We encourage each other and support each other. Thank you for continuously doing that on our behalf.”
Hutchings also thanked the board for their work over the last year, recalling individual memories and qualities of each Board Member.
“This is the best board that I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with several boards in the past eight years,” Hutchings said. “This board, when you talk about courage, boldness, vision, integrity, passion: that is exactly what we have here. I tell our staff that every opportunity we get how thankful we are to have that. This is a second contract for me in the place that made me who I am today. The ultimate gift in my life is this job. I appreciate that and I thank you all.”
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