By MEGAN WILLIAMS
Daily News-Record 3/6/19
HARRISONBURG — Michael Richards, former chief of staff for Loudoun County Public Schools, will be the next superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools.
After a five-month search, the School Board unanimously approved the hiring of Richards, who attended the board’s Tuesday night meeting, where he and Chairwoman Deb Fitzgerald signed his contract.
“I’m very excited to start this journey with you,” Richards said to the audience of about 50.
Richards was there with his wife, NoNieqa Ramos, and his son and daughter, who will be in the first grade and sixth grade, respectively.
“Harrisonburg city, what do you say we make education relevant and engaging for everyone?” Richards asked the crowd. “So much so that every child says, ‘I want to go to school.’” Prior to his four years as chief of staff, Richards served several diverse school districts in roles such as director of data and accountability, administrator of special campuses and programs, principal, facilitator of research, supervisor of special education, and as a teacher of high school English and special education.
Richards will begin as superintendent on May 1. His contract is through June 30, 2022, and stipulates a base salary of $176,000. Additional compensation includes a doctoral stipend of $4,861 and a bonus of $15,000 if Richards is employed after the first completed fiscal year of his contract. Richards will also receive an annual vehicle stipend of $7,000.
In his new role, he will oversee a division with 6,300 students, 800 employees and an $80 million budget.
According to a press release, board members feel that Richards is “a future-focused leader and enthusiastic advocate for building programs that prepare all students as global citizens and world-ready learners. He brings a strong background in strategic planning and in developing systems that promote equity, place students at the center of teaching and learning, and leverage the strengths of diversity.”
Richards thanked the board for its work during the hiring process, particularity Fitzgerald, who Richards said was meticulous and kind.
Richards also thanked Pat Lintner, interim superintendent, for which he received a standing ovation at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“It’s an exciting and pivotal time to be part of the Harrisonburg City Public Schools, especially given important projects on the horizon like the design, build and programming of HHS2,” Fitzgerald said in a press release. “I very much look forward to working with Dr. Richards to build more exceptional opportunities for our students.”
For the past few months, the School Board has been engaged in a search process with a national search firm to find a replacement for former Superintendent Scott Kizner.
The search turned up 37 applicants, five of whom were brought in for initial interviews in January.
From there, the board deliberated and brought the finalist and his wife to Harrisonburg one more time for dinner and extensive talks.
A contract was drafted in mid-February by the School Board’s attorney and was sent to the candidate after the board members reviewed it.
Harrisonburg City Public Schools last underwent the hiring process for a superintendent when the division chose Kizner in 2010.
Kizner left in August to take the same job in Stafford County.
During his last year as superintendent, Kizner was making $193,000, including benefits.