Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas announced today that Dr. Bernard Hairston, the school division’s Chief of Community Engagement, has been appointed Assistant Superintendent for School Community Empowerment. In his new role, Dr. Hairston will be responsible for expanding the participation and input of students, teachers, administrators, staff, and community partners in developing school division policies, programs, and budget initiatives to meet School Board priorities.
“School Community Empowerment was a very deliberate choice in Dr. Hairston’s title,” said Dr. Haas. “All of our most substantive and very best decisions have had a strong connection to our school communities. The advice we receive from staff and our community partners is a valuable resource, and I am pleased to further elevate that purpose in our organization through Dr. Hairston’s leadership,” he said.
The appointment follows an initiative announced by the Superintendent at last week’s School Board meeting in which Dr. Haas said he had accepted an offer from his city counterpart, Dr. Rosa Atkins, for the two divisions and their two boards to work together on the development of a statement of commitment and supporting practices to ensure that “racism and discrimination will find no home in our school communities.”
“Dr. Hairston has been a highly influential advocate for equal educational opportunity in our school division and in our region for many years,” said Dr. Haas. “More than that, he has developed programs that have brought more equity into our classrooms and, with that, higher academic achievement by students. His contributions will be very influential to the success of all of our schools, but most immediately, in the collaborative work we have ahead of us with Charlottesville City Schools,” he said.
In fact, the superintendent said some of that work already has begun. Dr. Hairston is overseeing the drafting of an anti-racism policy by a group of leadership students under the guidance of a policy and equity researcher from the University of Virginia. While the drafting of this policy began before the agreement between the two school divisions last week, its findings will be helpful, Dr. Haas said, to the joint effort.
Several of the school division’s most accomplished programs originated with Dr. Hairston. As the founding president of the African American Teaching Fellows, he helped to develop a partnership that has increased the number of teachers of color in county and city schools.
Other programs initiated by Dr. Hairston include the national award-winning M-Cubed program, which has significantly increased the number of African American middle school males who enroll and succeed in advanced math classes. Prior to the program’s debut, only one African American middle school male student was enrolled in an advanced math class, which often is an indicator of academic success in high school.
Most recently, the division became the first in Virginia to institute a formal professional development program for teachers on cultural responsive teaching strategies and practices. Dr. Hairston coupled that with a certification process that requires teachers to show evidence that they are having a demonstrable impact on individual student learning.
“The central tenet around culturally responsive teaching,” said Dr. Hairston, “is that students come to us with a wide variety of life experiences. Students vary in how they learn and in how they process information from teachers. Our goal is to increase teacher awareness of these differences and to assist them in reaching every student where they are in their development. Research shows that students become more engaged, more confident, and more excited about learning. And it shows in the results,” he added.
As the founding chapter president of the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, Dr. Hairston led the development of a scholarship program that has generated over $100,000 in awards for students in nine Central Virginia public school divisions. The chapter twice was recognized by the national organization as its chapter of the year.
Dr. Hairston recently chaired the Superintendent’s Listening Tour, a series of meetings that Dr. Haas conducted with nearly 400 students, parents, employees, and community members. The meetings will be used by the Superintendent to formulate his 100-day operational and strategic plan for the school division.
“When I proposed to the School Board that the listening tour was an important model for the development of my strategic and operating plans as superintendent, there really was only one leader who stood out as the perfect choice for the responsibility to make it a success. That was Dr. Hairston, who ensured that the tour included as many people and points of view as possible,” Dr. Haas said.
Dr. Hairston joined Albemarle County Public Schools in 1992 as an assistant principal at Western Albemarle High School. He became principal of Burley Middle School in 1997, where he developed and led the division’s first formal anti-bullying program. During his tenure, there were significant academic gains by Burley students. He became the Executive Director of Community Engagement in 2006 and Chief of Community Engagement earlier this year.
Dr. Hairston received his undergraduate degree in Industrial Arts Education from Norfolk State University and his Masters in Industrial Education from Virginia State University. He also holds a Doctor of Education degree from Virginia Tech.