By Aila Boyd
The Botetourt County School Board unanimously voted at a meeting at Central Academy Middle School on June 29 to name Dr. John Russ the new superintendent of Botetourt County Public Schools.
He currently serves as the deputy superintendent of Fredericksburg City Public Schools. He assumes his new position today.
Russ said, “We’re going to work hard, but we’re going to have fun.”
In his remarks following the announcement, he stressed his love of children. “Any teachers who are in the audience, I’m going to be in the classroom…not to check on you, but to get to know our children,” he said.
He went on to say that education is a community effort and requires the dedication of all involved.
“I truly look forward to getting to know all of you all and getting to know the members of our community,” he said. “I love this area. I grew up in Southwest Virginia. When I moved away from Southwest Virginia to Fredericksburg, I had to lose a lot of my Southern drawl. Now, I can speak like I’m used to.”
Michelle Crook, School Board chair, noted that the Fredericksburg division is roughly the same size as Botetourt County Public Schools.
Russ, who has 29 years of experience in education, has worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, director of assessment and accountability, director of human resources, chief administration officer, and most recently as a deputy superintendent. He received an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Emory and Henry College, a graduate degree in education from George Mason University, and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech.
“Our School Board is confident that Dr. Russ will be a great fit for Botetourt County and will provide the leadership to achieve the high expectations we have for our division,” Crook, who represents the Buchanan District, said. “I am excited to introduce Dr. Russ to members of the community over the coming weeks. I look forward to working with him to lead our school division.”
“Our board had the luxury of choosing from many qualified applicants. Dr. Russ rose to the top with his widespread education experience and enthusiasm for students. I look forward to working with him to push our system to excellence and beyond,” Anna Weddle, who represents the Amsterdam District, said.
Matthew East, who represents the Blue Ridge District, said, “I’m very excited to be able to appoint Dr. Russ today. He comes to us with, as Chairman Crook said, superb qualifications. We’re extremely excited to have him join our school division and lead us to the future.”
“We are looking forward to the great things that will come under your leadership,” Dana McCaleb, who represents the Fincastle District, said. “As a board, we had quite a few discussions on who our next superintendent would be and who would be the best match for our schools and our community. This was not a decision we took lightly. There was a lot of thought that went into this decision.”
Tim Davidick, who represents the Valley District, said, “Since January, I have witnessed an extraordinary series of events that are transforming the school division every day. I know that strong leadership is key to success, but I also know you have to have knowledge and passion in order for that leadership to shine through. I believe we have that correct combination in Dr. Russ. He’s the right person to take the helm of Botetourt County Public Schools and lead us to the vision of the future we share. I look forward to working with Dr. Russ to make Botetourt County a great place to educate and develop productive citizens for our future.”
Russ was selected out of a pool of 37 candidates.
The breakdown of the applicants’ experience is as follows:
- 11 current/former superintendents
- Seven assistant/associate/deputy superintendents
- 12 central office administrators
- Three principal/building level administrators
- Four other
Out of the 37 applicants, 26 are men and 11 are women. Virginia residents account for 26 of the applicants. Those who reside outside of Virginia include two from North Carolina, one from Florida, one from Iowa, one from Illinois, one from Indiana, one from Massachusetts, one from New Jersey, one from Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and one from Tennessee.
Dr. Larry Massie, who previously served as superintendent of Russell County Public Schools and Buckingham County Public Schools, led the division as interim superintendent from April 27 until today.
Massie said that it was a “great pleasure” for him to lead the division.
“You have not let us down. You’ve surpassed all of our expectations,” McCaleb said to Massie.
East added, “Dr. Massie, I want to sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming when we needed you. You could have just been a placeholder and a gatekeeper; however, you jumped in with both feet and helped us tremendously. We’re truly going to miss you.”
The need for a new superintendent was caused by the resignation of Dr. Lisa Chen due to personal reasons and a desire to pursue other professional opportunities. Her resignation, which was submitted in April, became effective on June 30. She did not play an active role in the running of the division following the submission of her resignation.