By Kim Walter
The Virginia Association of School Superintendents has named Dr. B Keith Rowland, superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools, the Region IV Superintendent of the Year.
Virginia's Region IV includes the city school systems of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester, and the counties of Arlington, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Madison, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren.
Rowland is one of eight regional winners who will be considered for Virginia Superintendent of the Year. The winner of the state title will be announced at the association's annual conference on May 7.
Rowland was recognized for a number of achievements in the school divisions, including innovativeness in financial planning, energy conservation, community partnerships and the teaching and learning of students.
According to a news release, since joining the school system in July 2007, Rowland also has "helped to establish Shenandoah County Public Schools as a high respected school division in the Commonwealth of Virginia and has taken steps to increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates, and ensure that all students have a plan for their future beyond graduation from high school."
Rowland said Wednesday he was "surprised and humbled" that he had earned the recognition.
"There are certainly good things going on in all the divisions that are part of the region," he said. "And when you compare us to Fairfax, that's a big comparison, so this is quite an honor."
Rowland said the association was "quite impressed" with what the division has done recently in terms of school safety. He said he was able to discuss the community forums and their outcomes during meetings with other division superintendents.
Other focuses of the superintendent were online classes, credit recovery, dual enrollment and the availability of AP classes to students.
He added that the association showed interest in the Edinburg school project -- what will be a private day treatment and educational facility for children with severe disabilities -- which was approved late last year.
Rowland was quick to say that the recognition isn't just about what he's done individually for the school system.
"This is an opportunity to shed some positive light on what our division is doing," he said. "But this doesn't happen because of one person, this happens because you get everyone working together to meet the needs of the students."
Along with help and support from staff, Rowland is notably proud of the division's ability to sustain substantial cuts in funding over the past several years. He said the goal has always been to protect instructional programs in the county.
"I'm very pleased that we've been able to avoid cutting any of those positions," he said. "And even though we haven't been able to give a raise in the recent years, we haven't had to cut anyone's salary."
As a whole, the division staff and faculty have been "creative" with how they deal with what they're given. Rowland noted how quickly staff "got the ball rolling" after concerns were raised over the county's school safety.
"We held those forums, we heard what the people had to say, and we're already moving forward with that," he said. "I hope the community can see that positive things are happening here, and it's thanks to the work that each staff and faculty member does every day."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org