Parents share frustration, distrust as Roanoke looks for new superintendent

By  | 

ROANOKE, Va (WDBJ7) At a tense meeting at William Fleming High School Tuesday night, parents and teachers weighed in on Roanoke's search for a new superintendent.

WDBJ7 photo

The meeting lasted two hours, and was put on by consultants from McPherson and Jacobson, the firm hired to help search for a new superintendent. In total, about 50 people, almost all African American, attended the meeting, including parent Wilton Kitt.

"I care about the future of my kids in school, as well as the next generation of kids coming up," said Kitt.

Kitt raised a number of points during the meeting, including the lack of trust between the community and the school district.

"They seem to be concerned that the voices of the community were not being heard by the previous administration," he said.

Multiple parents said they want the district to be more transparent while this search plays out, and to give the community a voice when it comes to finally choosing a new superintendent. Some also raised concerns that while the parents in attendance were almost entirely black, the two consultants brought in were white.

"I think the friction came from passion," said Dr. Ralph Ferrie, one of those two consultants.

He says the concerns he heard Tuesday are understandable. "When you're making a decision to get the best possible school leader for a district, that passion is going to come out."

During Tuesday's meeting, Ferrie asked the crowd four questions, including what qualities people most want in a new superintendent.
Opinions ranged from a leader who is responsive, to someone who can bridge the gap between communities in Roanoke and promote equity. Ferrie says those answers track with what he heard during the 10 other stakeholder meetings held during this process.

For his part, Wilton Kitt liked what he heard from the consultants, and the crowd. He just hopes people continue to listen as the search for a new superintendent continues.

"By hearing the voices of the community, we're on the right path to success," he said.

Ferrie said the best way for folks to put that "passion" to use, and to make sure their voices are heard, is to fill out the survey that's now online. It includes the four questions asked at the in-person meetings.

If everything goes according to plan, Ferrie says the district should have a final candidate by early May.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.