By Kim Walter
WOODSTOCK - B. Keith Rowland, superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools for the past six years, announced his retirement during Thursday night's school board meeting.
The announcement of his retirement - effective June 30 -- was made at the end of the meeting. Rowland explained his decision by reading a letter out loud to the board, staff and community members in attendance.
He said the decision was tough to make - something that took much thought and consultation with others.
"I've been told that you'll know when it's time," he read. "Even though I have some reservations and possibly even fears, I know it's my time to go."
Rowland explained that he hopes to not look back on his life and realize that he retired too late, especially given the abundance of other opportunities he can now explore.
While Rowland has been with the division for more than five years, his time working in Virginia's public education system will total 36 years. His past positions include bus driver, teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal, principal and, of course, superintendent.
"Even though it may be time for me to retire, it is an opportune time for someone else to lead this school division. This school division is poised to continue on the path of success."
Rowland thanked the division and community for having him and entrusting him great responsibility. He also thanked the School Board and Board of Supervisors for helping him through some "hard times in public education."
"Shenandoah County has become my home, and it will always hold a special place in my heart," he said.
Gary Rutz, school board chairman, finally broke the long silence that followed Rowland's announcement by thanking him for his "tireless efforts" which have allowed the school system to move forward.
Rutz listed several initiatives that Rowland was involved with, including an improved relationship with the Board of Supervisors, land acquisition, energy savings, maintaining SOL certification in all schools and progress with the Edinburg School project.
"Seeing you interact with students, with teachers, the community meetings you always held, your many recognitions of staff and students," Rutz said, listing memories from Rowland's time.
"Most of all that can be said is that your heart was always in the right place, and that was for the betterment of the Shenandoah County School System," Rutz said, his voice shaking. "You will be missed."
Sonya Williams-Giersch, board member, asked to speak and took a moment to collect herself.
Through tears, Williams-Giersch thanked Rowland for his service and for always giving his all, and called him an "absolute blessing to the school and communities."
She continued to wish Rowland and his family "the best and God's abundant blessings."
"I'd like to quote some scripture that comes from Deuteronomy, the 28th chapter," she said. "Wherever you go, whatever you do - you will be blessed."
The room again grew silent, and Rowland lead the board into a closed session.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org