FRONT ROYAL – The Warren County School Board has appointed Christopher Ballenger, an Oklahoma transplant to Virginia, to serve as the next Warren County Public Schools superintendent.

The county’s search for a replacement for Greg Drescher, whose retirement in January to spend more time with his family came alongside the ongoing Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority investigation. Drescher had served as the chairman of the EDA and was a board member.

Ballenger moved to Virginia three years ago to take a job as the assistant superintendent for Smyth County public schools. He said on Friday night during a special School Boad meeting where he was introduced that he is excited for the opportunity to participate in a community that is growing as much as Warren County and said the county has a lot to offer because of that growth.

“Warren County is a growing community and there are going to be so many more possibilities over the next few years that will really heighten and enhance education within the county,” he said. “The community members are all supportive of this school system so I’m just excited to be a part of that. I think it’s going to be fun.”

An Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Ballenger said education has always been a passion of his.

“I love coming to work every day and working with great people and students and be able to see those light bulbs click on,” he said. “You can make a difference in people’s lives and in society.”

Ballenger is stepping into a community in flux and into a situation that is fluid due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools around the state are waiting to hear what phase of reopening they are looking at when schools reopen. Different states and different regions are approaching reopening with an eye on how far along in the recovery process their areas are and what they will be allowed, legally, to do.

Some schools are proposing distance education for most or all of the school year while others are toying with ideas about students going to school part-time to keep social distancing standards in place.

Ballenger said he isn’t sure what recommendation he will make to the School Board yet, but that he will start working right away to assess the situation Warren County faces.

“The first thing I need to do is look at what our team has put together so far,” he said. “Each division is doing something different across the commonwealth so really I just want to jump in and see where we are, what school life is going to be like and … it’s going to come down to which phase the governor has us in, come time for school to start.”

Ballenger was appointed to a four-year term as superintendent and will draw a salary of $150,000 a year. He will begin work on Wednesday.

– Contact Max Thornberry at mthornberry@nvdaily.com