Herron to lead WJCC Schools as new superintendent

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Interim Superintendent Dr. Olwen Herron has been appointed as WJCC Schools' new superintendent. (Courtesy WJCC Schools)
Interim Superintendent Dr. Olwen Herron has been appointed as WJCC Schools’ new superintendent. (Courtesy WJCC Schools)

The Williamsburg-James City County School Board may have selected a new superintendent, but the division will not see an unfamiliar face.

At least 35 school board meeting attendees stood and gave a standing ovation after the School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to appoint Interim Superintendent Olwen Herron as the new superintendent.

Her new superintendent contract will start Wednesday and end June 30, 2020.

“I am truly honored,” Herron told the School Board. “In the last six months, I’ve told my colleagues I’m living my dream, and tonight, my dream has come true.”

Herron has served as interim superintendent since former superintendent Steven Constantino’s resignation in July. Constantino is now the Virginia Department of Education’s chief academic officer and assistant superintendent for Instruction.

Olwen was appointed as deputy superintendent in 2012. Following Herron’s appointment as superintendent Tuesday, the deputy superintendent position will be vacant, Director of PR & Engagement for WJCC Public Schools Betsy Overkamp-Smith said.

Board member Jim Kelly gave a brief background of Herron’s achievements and educational background.

“I personally remember how excited Dr. Constantino was with her hire,” Kelly said.

Herron earned her doctorate degree from Regent University in Virginia Beach, her master’s degree from The Queen’s University in Northern Ireland and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Liverpool in England.

She has also served as chief academic officer and chief accountability officer in Fort Bend Independent School District in Sugar Land, Texas; director of organizational development and coordinator of leadership development in Virginia Beach; and school-based administrator and English teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She also has significant teaching experience in Northern Ireland.

According to Herron’s employment contract, she will be paid $180,000 yearly salary. She will also be given compensation for other job-related expenses, including $15,000 per fiscal year in deferred compensation to invest in a selected annuity or plan, $750 per month car allowance and charge card for gasoline purchased for business-related travel; $2,500 per fiscal year for job-related dues, membership fees, tuition, and professional subscriptions. She will also and paid premiums for board-sponsored health insurance and Virginia Retirement System group term life insurance.

Before Herron stepped into the superintendent role, Constantino, who became superintendent in 2011, spearheaded the effort to fund and construct a fourth middle school, supported the implementation of several technology initiatives, including Manufacturing Day and Project Lead the Way, and improved graduation rates, all while maintaining full accreditation for all WJCC schools, according to a WJCC Schools news release.  He was named Region Two Superintendent of the Year in 2015.

After Kelly named Herron as the next superintendent, Herron took a few moments to thank the School Board, school staff and community members for their support in recent months.

“Your confidence in me is the reason I’m here today,” Herron said. “I’m excited about the future of this school division.”

During the meeting, Herron expressed her commitment to pushing WJCC Schools forward.

“Olwen has a passion to continuously improve teaching and learning and to turn visionary ideas into reality,” Board Chair Kyra Cook said in a WJCC Schools news release. “In WJCC, she has facilitated significant leadership discussions about equity and has shown that she has a keen understanding of quality systems and performance management. Dr. Herron also goes beyond data to build trusting relationships and partnerships with staff and community members.

“Olwen is not a status-quo leader and is motivated to push and get things done. Plus, she will provide a seamless transition to strategically sustain our school division’s forward momentum,” Cook said.

In other business, the School Board came to a consensus on which name may replace Rawls Byrd Elementary School.

Although the School Board has not yet voted on the official name change, “Laurel Lane Elementary School” was the most popular name amongst board members Tuesday night.

At their meeting Jan. 17, the Rawls Byrd Renaming Committee presented the School Board with three different names generated by children at the school.

“Glasshouse Elementary” and “Laurel Lane Elementary” were by far the most popular names among board members. While no members voiced serious dislike for the third option, “Sarah G. B. Jones Elementary,” several School Board members said they felt if the school were to be named after a person, it should be someone involved with Williamsburg.

“Laurel Lane, it just rolls off the tongue,” board member Lisa Ownby said.

Board member Sandra Young agreed with Ownby about naming the school after a person, but said she was leaning toward Glasshouse Elementary because of its historical nature. She said she would not disapprove of Laurel Lane Elementary, however.

Kelly, Cook, Hummel, Beers and Taylor echoed Ownby’s thoughts as well.

Board members also affirmed that the elementary school’s penguin mascot would stay.

“Stick with the walking bird,” member James Beers said.

The School Board will vote “yay” or “nay” on the name “Laurel Lane Elementary School” at their regular monthly meeting Feb. 21.

If members vote to approve the name, the transition will start July 1 of this year.

Fearing can be reached at 207-975-5459.