Bartlett said he helped develop the "Blacksburg Electronic Village," a computer network that linked Blacksburg-area businesses, banks, governments and schools with the local Virginia Tech campus. It allowed people to do their banking and shopping by computer, Bartlett said. From an education standpoint, it gave students access to the Internet by 1991, he said.
"I think we hired the real deal," said Board of Education member Edwin Hayes.
Board of Education President B. Marie Byers said the school system now has a "great person in the driving seat."
Bartlett was chosen from among 33 applicants. The field was reduced to nine and then four. One candidate later withdrew, leaving three.
Board members would not identify the candidates as they conducted their search.
Parents, community leaders and school officials filled the auditorium at the Board of Education office on Commonwealth Avenue to hear the announcement.
Bartlett, who begins work Nov. 3, was named acting superintendent through June 30, 1998. On July 1, he will begin a four-year contract as superintendent. Under state law, four-year contracts for superintendents must begin on July 1, school officials said.
Bartlett talked briefly about his vision for local schools, a plan that blends tough standards and new curricula for students, avoids a large heirarchy in favor of local school control and changing the way the system is funded.
Bartlett said it also is important to set up a process in which educators can be rewarded on a regular basis for effective teaching.
In terms of funding, the school system cannot continue to be stepchild to other organizations, and local officials have to "stop beating" each other over the issue, Bartlett said.
Bartlett said county school officials must clarify the type of education they want for students, devise a method to measure it, and "hold principals and others accountable."
Tough standards must be set for students, Bartlett said.
"We just need to step out and show them the way. Exert our leadership," Bartlett said, adding that the curriculum is where "rubber hits the road" in education.
A recently released curriculum audit of the school system showed a wide range of problems in the system, including high dropout rates and infrequent use of computers. Bartlett said he hopes the report can be used to change the system, although he said it contains some "harsh" comments.
Bartlett will receive the same benefits as other school employees, Byers said. He also will be provided with an Oldsmobile Cutlass, which he can use to travel back and forth to work and for business travel, Byers said.
Bartlett, born in Galax, Va., said he probably will live in an apartment until his wife, Susan, can finish her teaching contract in Roanoke County.