Virginia educator named Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools
It’s never too late to learn, and Jefferson County Board of Education members were recently reminded of that fact when they began interviewing candidates to serve as the district’s new superintendent of schools.
As a group, they were pleased that so many highly qualified candidates – from as far away as California – chose to apply for the job vacated last December by former superintendent Susan Wall.
But right from the start, there was something special about Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson, board president Scott Sudduth said Tuesday afternoon, speaking prior to a special board meeting held to introduce their unanimous choice to lead the district.
Looking back, it didn’t take long to realize Gibson was the right person for the job, Sudduth said, explaining that he’d felt a special spark after her first interview.
“We learned things from her about our school district, things that we didn’t even know. We learned things about the performance level of our students in different schools – things that I had never heard anyone articulate before,” he said.
In addition to being impressed with Gibson’s initiative, Sudduth said it also showed that she knows how to look for and analyze data, while also helping board members learn from it too.
Jefferson County Circuit Clerk Laura Storm attended the afternoon meeting – which was standing room only – to swear Gibson into office.
She was given a three-year contract with an annual base salary of $168,000 and will officially begin her duties July 1, Sudduth said.
Although she’d had plenty of opportunities to leave the Henrico County Public Schools (a district that is adjacent to Richmond) where she served as deputy superintendent of schools, Gibson said she wasn’t sure this was the right move, so she began to investigate – including making a trip to the area -prior to any interviews.
Right from the start, Gibson said she’d felt something special – and those feelings only grew when she first looked at the data gathered earlier this spring by headhunters, as they held public meetings aimed at determining what qualities citizens most desired in a superintendent.
Time and time again, those survey results reflected what board members also stressed – the importance of hiring someone who would love Jefferson County’s schools and build on the strong community foundation already in place, Gibson said.
“I still get goosebumps thinking about those comments and my later conversations with the board members, because they valued the same kinds of things I do. And I also felt this was the kind of caring community where I would want to send my own son,” she said, pausing momentarily to shake hands with staff members who’d gathered for this announcement.
“It also had a lot to do with what they want for this school system’s future. they were just totally amazing,” Gibson said, adding that she now has no doubt about her ability to commit to Jefferson County Schools.
A self-proclaimed statistician, Gibson said data is important because it provides a means for measurement.
“Data doesn’t tell the whole story, of course, but our children’s future is too important to guess about what might work,” she said.
“So I did as much data review as possible on the state website, and one of the things I discovered was that Jefferson County has the lowest truancy rate in the entire state of West Virginia. That was another validation for me, because it says that people value education and trust the schools here. This is like an educator’s dream,” Gibson said.
Gibson’s professional career spans more than twenty years as an educator and a facilitator of programs enhancing school systems throughout Virginia. After graduating from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, her career began in Georgia at the South Metro PsychoEducational Center as a lead therapist and educator. After receiving her master’s in special education with a concentration in emotional behavioral specialization, she held leadership positions in several organizations including adult mental health service and workforce development. In 2004, Gibson earned her doctorate in educational administration from Nova Southeastern University while serving as the Director of Special Services in Greene County, Virginia, according to a JCS press release.
In Henrico County, she held a wide range of responsibilities including all instructional programming, assessment, data reporting, program evaluation, fiscal management, instructional technology and exceptional education programming. She developed and remodeled existing instructional and behavioral curriculum and programs to meet student needs based on intensive analysis of student performance at the local, regional and federal levels, the release stated.
“Throughout her career Dr. Gibson’s results demonstrated her high expectations for educational staff members and for students. She consistently achieved an increase in graduation rates, Advanced Placement scores, SAT scores and student achievement for diverse populations in multiple divisions. Capitalizing on her background in special education, she raised the graduation rate of students with disabilities in multiple districts,” the release reads.
“Conscientious of fiscal management in education, Dr. Gibson played an integral role in increasing graduation rates and lowering truancy and discipline rates while running a school system with budget reductions. She managed a system with a $70 million budget reduction over four years,” it continued.
Eager to get started working locally, Gibson said she has plenty to do in her current post before leaving.
“We have nine high schools, so I would say I have about 14 graduation ceremonies to attend in the next two weeks,” she said with a smile.
But she also has ideas for her new bosses, too, including holding some board retreats over the summer.
“That’s something we definitely want to do, and we look forward to having those planning sessions,” Sudduth said.