The Charlottesville School Board has set into motion its process for finding the division’s new superintendent.

The search is the current School Board’s first, as Rosa Atkins was appointed in 2006 — before any incumbent member assumed office. Atkins is slated to retire May 31.

“This is really kind of a new ordeal for this entire board,” School Board Chair Lisa Larson-Torres said. 

She said the School Board intends to name a permanent superintendent by October. 

“The board is unanimous, or we all feel 100%, that we are hoping to name an interim superintendent soon and are moving forward to engage a search firm for the permanent superintendent,” Larson-Torres said. 

Larson-Torres said the board has formulated a list of candidates for the interim superintendent position but declined to confirm whether those candidates are internal to the school division. 

State law requires school divisions to fill superintendent vacancies within 180 days, although school boards may request extensions. For Charlottesville City Schools, that means a permanent superintendent should be appointed by late November.

The search for the division’s permanent superintendent will be conducted in partnership with a search firm who will guide the process. Exactly which search firm the School Board will work with is yet to be determined, but the board has a list of potential companies from which they can request quotes. 

Ben Kiser, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, said selecting a search firm is generally the first step school divisions take to determine their new superintendent. 

“Once they decide [the firm], then that firm or organization will work directly with the school board on next steps and how to proceed in getting community input and stakeholder input as to the qualifications they want in their new superintendent, and then go from there in terms of advertising — whether it’s in-state advertising or … a national search” Kiser said. 

The coming superintendent search will be national in scope, Larson-Torres said. 

She, alongside other board members, anticipates that the eventual superintendent will embody the values that the board and Atkins have prioritized — namely, equity in education. 

“Dr. Atkins has set the groundwork for what is important to this community. We want someone who mirrors that,” Larson-Torres said. “Whoever this person is needs to step into some pretty incredible shoes, as far as Dr. Atkins goes.”

Seeking a superintendent whose goals are similar to those of the outgoing incumbent is common among Virginia school boards, Kiser said. 

“If school boards are very much supportive of the previous superintendent, they might think in terms of, ‘well we want qualifications that mirror the person leaving,’” Kiser said. 

The School Board intends to conduct extensive community engagement during its search for the next superintendent — though the specific means by which they will do so are yet to be determined. Whichever search firm the board selects will guide methods to engage the community, but the board can tweak the process as they see fit. 

Larson-Torres envisions that community engagement might involve virtual town halls, Zoom meetings or – depending on public health restrictions – face-to-face forums. Whichever means they choose, the board wants “as much community engagement as possible,” Larson-Torres said. 

The board has already begun closed meetings to discuss the upcoming superintendent vacancy, the most recent of which occurred Wednesday. 

“Stay tuned. We hope to have our interim named soon,” Larson-Torres said.


Ali Sullivan is a graduate of the University of Virginia. She received a B.A. in Media Studies and Government in 2020.