WOODSTOCK —The Shenandoah County School Board wanted to find someone who would be a good fit as the next superintendent, and on Thursday the board unanimously approved someone they believe is just that.
The School Board unanimously approved Melody Sheppard as the Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent, effective July 1. Sheppard is currently an assistant superintendent at Warren County Public Schools.
"She comes highly qualified," Shenandoah County School Board Chair Cynthia Walsh said. "She has a great resume. She's also sort of the perfect personality and drive for what we need next in Shenandoah County. There are members of the community who wanted somebody from the outside and members of the community who wanted somebody from inside. This is sort of the best of both worlds, because she's from nearby. She knows the valley well, but she brings a fresh perspective and a fresh set of eyes to our county."
The School Board met at the Peter Muhlenberg Middle School cafeteria on Thursday evening and unanimously approved her selection as the new superintendent and then introduced her to an audience of approximately 40 people.
Sheppard said she found out she had been selected a little over a week ago and she and her family are excited.
"I was thrilled, beyond thrilled," Sheppard said of her reaction when she found out she had been selected.
Sheppard will replace Mark Johnston, who announced his retirement in November.
Sheppard, 50, has over 23 years experience as a school administrator. She said she is originally from West Virginia and received her bachelor's degree from West Virginia Institute of Technology in business education. She then received her master's degree in curriculum and instruction from George Mason University.
Sheppard said she is working on her doctoral degree in educational leadership through the University of Virginia and anticipates having that degree in the summer of 2022.
Sheppard served as the principal at Blue Ridge Technical Center, before becoming the Assistant Superintendent for Administration at Warren County for the last eight years. She was also the interim superintendent for nine months in 2019-20, before Chris Ballenger was hired as superintendent last June.
Sheppard said she liked her experience as interim superintendent in Warren County and said it will be helpful to her as she comes to Shenandoah County.
"It was during the pandemic, so that was definitely not a normal experience," Sheppard said. "But I really relied on the people I worked with to help me make decisions and that was very important."
Sheppard said she already knows some of the people she will be working with in Shenandoah County and is looking forward to working with them. One of the people she knows is School Board member Andrew Keller, who is a former principal at Skyline High School.
Walsh said that Keller was very fair throughout the selection process even though he knew Sheppard.
"He was very cautious at the beginning, because he didn't want to influence us one way or another," Walsh said. "So he was actually fairly quiet and didn't insert too much of his personal views, just to keep it fair."
Sheppard gave a short speech on Thursday after being announced as the new superintendent. She said she was looking forward to her new job.
"I am humbled and I am honored," she said in the speech. "I am looking forward to meeting the staff, the students, parents and guardians and the community. My husband and I are excited to become part of this great Shenandoah County community. I am looking forward to meeting and working with the staff here at Shenandoah County Public Schools and a successful start of school Aug. 5."
Sheppard's family was in attendance Thursday, including her husband, Dana, and her son and daughter, Jacob and Cierra.
Sheppard said she and her husband have lived in the area for 25 years and lived in Shenandoah County for the first six.
"We loved the area, loved the space," Sheppard said. "It's a great place to be, great place to live and work. I'm looking forward to it."
During her eight years as assistant superintendent at Warren County, Sheppard facilitated the renovation of two elementary schools, a non-traditional school and the building of a new middle school.
Sheppard said her eight years as assistant superintendent will help her as she takes on this new challenge in Shenandoah County
"It's been integral in helping with the transition, because you get to experience everything that the superintendent does," Sheppard said.
The Shenandoah County School Board used Real Synergy, LLC, as the search firm to assist in finding a superintendent. Walsh said they did a great job. She said she was pleased with the pool of applicants that they had for the job.
There has been plenty of controversy throughout the past 10 months over the renaming of two schools on the Southern Campus in Shenandoah County. Sheppard said she was not ready to talk about that, but she does want to meet people in the community and learn more about Shenandoah County.
"I'm going to listen first," Sheppard said. "I'm going to listen and learn. The first part of my tenure is going to be learning about Shenandoah County and learning the great things that's happening in Shenandoah County at all of the schools and moving from there."