Kenneth Pritchett has again been named Petersburg’s School Board chairman.
This is the 10th time that the Ward 3 member has been chosen to head the governing body for the city’s schools.
“I really do appreciate the confidence and trust of each board member for re-electing me as the chairman of the board,” Pritchett said Thursday.
Pritchett was unanimously elected Wednesday evening. Steven Pierce Sr., who represents Ward 1, was named vice chairman.
The two men will serve one-year terms.
As the head of the city’s School Board for the past decade, Pritchett has often been the target of criticism as the district struggled. He and the board were accused of interfering with administrators and making it difficult for the school system to attract talent and develop cohesive policies.
But state education officials have said for some time that that assessment was unfair and that Pritchett was working hard behind the scenes with Virginia’s Department of Education to get the right policies and people in place. Chief among those efforts was recruiting and hiring Marcus J. Newsome as superintendent last year after he announced his retirement from Chesterfield County.
In the past several months, there have been encouraging signs that Petersburg is moving in the right direction. According to the state’s education department, the district’s on-time graduation rate has risen 10 percentage points to 85.5 percent, and two of the city’s six schools have been fully accredited.
Helping the school district improve is that it is part of the state’s Challenged Schools Initiative, which looks to address issues in the Petersburg, Richmond and Norfolk school systems. Those districts were chosen because they have the highest percentage of unaccredited schools in the state.
On Thursday, Virginia’s secretary of education, Dietra Trent, called Pritchett a staunch advocate for the city’s school district and an “indispensable and tireless partner in Gov. (Terry) McAuliffe’s efforts in Petersburg as part of the Challenged Schools Initiative.”
“As we have successfully engaged with local leaders to tackle a variety of serious issues, Ken has been a constant source of expertise, enthusiasm and leadership,” she said.
More work remains to be done, though, Pritchett said.
He said it is the board’s goal this year “to develop, adopt and implement a strategic plan; adopt a well-developed annual budget; (and) update all board policies,” while continuing to work with the state and the community.
Said Newsome: “Chairman Pritchett has been a pleasure to work with. He has been very supportive of our new leadership team since we arrived in Petersburg last July. Under his steady leadership, the School Board is committed to doing what’s right for our students and employees.
“Our challenges are real, but we are optimistic about our future,” Newsome added.