By Ryan Cornell
Three administrators atop the Winchester Public Schools totem pole will be venturing elsewhere starting next summer.
Dr. Rick Leonard, Kevin McKew and Linda Meadows announced on Tuesday that they will be retiring from their jobs at the school division on July 1.
Leonard, who describes himself as "a healthy 55," will be trading in his division superintendent duties for the rod and reel.
"Usually trout season doesn't go very well with being a superintendent, so I may pursue that," said Leonard, an avid bass fisher. "I'm willing to expand my options."
He started in public education as a teacher for 11 years. As he ascended the ranks of school administration, serving as an assistant principal and principal, he said he had his eyes on two targets: earning a doctorate degree and pursuing the superintendent position. He achieved his first goal by earning a doctor of education, majoring in educational administration, from Virginia Tech. He hit his second target when he was appointed superintendent of Winchester Public Schools in 2009 after a period of working as assistant superintendent.
Leonard is leaving after his fifth year as division superintendent.
"I'm allowed to be a hands-on superintendent, so I visit classrooms frequently," he said. "It's the highlight of my day, being out in the buildings and interacting with students and staff and at student functions such as concerts and sports events."
His achievements include serving as project executive for the renovations and expansions at Daniel Morgan Middle School and John Handley High School, developing a regional partnership between Valley Health Systems and local school divisions to support a health career pathways program and increasing the number of high school students graduating with Career and Technical Education credentials.
"For me, public schooling and education is about the people you work with and the people you serve," he said. "I'll miss those interactions more than anything else."
He leaves a four-year contract with two years left and a salary of $153,365.
McKew, 53, is stepping down from his position as executive director at the school division, a job with a salary of $124,887.
He's served as executive director for the past four years and has been with Winchester Public Schools for a total of 15 years.
"I've spent half of my career here, that still kind of blows me away," he said. "The time definitely has flown."
He said he was initially hired at the division as the director of operations, after being lured away from his job as Chief of Product Management for the Loudoun County government. Although he started his career with a civil engineering degree, he said he always anticipated being involved in education.
"Public education is something that I care deeply about and believe in," he said. "When I saw the operations position, it seemed like a natural fit."
Like Leonard, he said it's the people he'll miss most.
"One of the things I like most about public education are the sorts of people that gravitate toward this line of work," he said. "I believe they're some of the most caring people in the world."
Although McKew will be retiring from public service, his career is far from over. He said he's at the point in his career where he saw a "window of opportunity" to try different things.
"I just felt like it was the right time to look at other things that I might want to do," he said.
He might not know which direction he's headed in, but he does want to stay in the city.
"That's the one firm plan that I have, stay in Winchester," he said. "I love the community and definitely want to stay here and finish out my career in some fashion."
Meadows, 65, has served as the director of finance for Winchester Public Schools for 16 years and has worked for the city for 25 years before that. She exits with a salary of $112,527.
She said she's watched Winchester change "quite a bit" since she began working as a city accountant in 1973.
"I think what really kind of makes you feel old is seeing the kids that your kids went to school with and their kids and grandkids," she said. "It really doesn't feel like it's been that long."
Meadows has held the position through three division superintendents: Dr. Glenn Burdick, Dennis Kellison and Leonard.
"At the end of the day, it's the kids, it's the students," she said. "You try to do the best and give them the best education possible. When you look back at your life, it's the relationships you have with people."
She said she wants to be able to "enjoy her grandkids" and care for her mother. She added that she hasn't given any thought to hobbies she might pick up.
"My kids say I'm gonna be bored to death, but I'm sure I'll find something to do," she said. "Rick said I could go fishing with him."
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org