Jefferson County Board of Education hires new superintendent

April 03, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va - A Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools administrator who has grappled with staggering student population growth - an issue he fears is headed this way - was named the new superintendent of Jefferson County Schools Tuesday night.

The Jefferson County Board of Education voted unanimously to hire R. Steven Nichols as superintendent.

Nichols, 50, who currently is a coordinator for the instructional services department for Fairfax County schools, was awarded a three-year contract, which will include gradual pay increases, School Board President Larry Togans said.

Nichols, who will start work July 1, will be paid $95,000 in the first year of the contract, $97,000 the second year and $99,000 the third year, Togans said.


Nichols follows former Schools Superintendent David W. Markoe, who made about $76,000.

Nichols said Fairfax County continues to face surges in its student population, and because the wave of growth has been heading west, Nichols thinks Jefferson County is on the "verge of explosion."

The local school budget is about $42 million. The budget for Fairfax County Public Schools is $1.75 billion, and that is still not enough, Nichols said.

Property assessments, which are used to compute taxes, have increased by an average of $30,000 per home this year in Fairfax County, Nichols said.

"People are ready to kill us," he said.

Jefferson County has struggled to get money to build additional school facilities, and Nichols said he believes the way to get money for such projects is to lay out detailed plans.

People have to be made part of the process to insure success, he said.

"You just have to lay the groundwork," Nichols said.

Nichols told board members that he is "very child centered" and believes that students need to be kept in the forefront for an educational system to be successful.

He said he will be in the schools observing the system's educational process, and believes the school system should do more to tap into Shepherd College's public education program for help and advice.

"He's a real pro, I think. I think he will be a person who will not only communicate well, but will listen and be responsive," board member Pete Dougherty said.

"I'm very pleased. I think both the school board and the citizens committee, we're very impressed with him," board member Peter Morgens said.

A 15-member interview committee made up of school employees and other members of the community reviewed candidates for the position, Togans said.

There were 19 candidates for the job and the field was narrowed to five, Togans said.

Nichols brings 29 years of instructional experience to the school system. He has served in many roles including teacher, principal and assistant superintendent in all grade levels from kindergarten through college.

This is his first job as superintendent.

He has a doctorate from the University of Virginia, where he serves as an adjunct faculty member in the area of educational law.

Nichols has made presentations to professional and lay groups about curriculum, student development, assessment and law. He is also an author who has conducted extensive research into use of shared decision-making and other management approaches.

Nichols said he likes to do research on Civil War history, an interest that began while he was working as a National Park Service ranger in his college years.

Nichols said not only has he served in many different jobs in the education field, he has experienced just about every kind of school. He worked in schools that were strong in agriculture and he has worked in urban schools in the Alexandria, Va., area where youth gangs were a threat, he said.

"I've been there, seen it and done it," Nichols said.

Nichols said he was searching for a job in a "good place and not full of problems."

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