Fredericksburg’s School Board has winnowed the 34 applicants for superintendent to six candidates for the vacant position.

It will conduct interviews through Oct. 24 to select a successor to David Melton, who retired in June.

“We are very excited and appreciative of the extreme interest in this position and in our city,” Chairwoman Jennifer Boyd said at Monday’s School Board meeting. “The FCPS School Board looks forward to selecting a highly qualified candidate to lead our school system into the future.”

Fifteen current or former superintendents applied, as well as nine assistant, associate or deputy superintendents. Among them was interim Superintendent Marci Catlett, who lives in the city and has served in the city school system her entire career. Also included in the applications were eight central office administrators and two building-level administrators.

School Board members decided during a special session in August that their preference was for candidates who have doctorates, will live in Fredericksburg, have teaching and public school experience and have been a superintendent or assistant superintendent.

In addition, they approved a list of leadership skills, personal characteristics, areas of expertise and other qualifications that they want the new superintendent to have. Those included expertise in planning for enrollment and infrastructure.

Those two topics became hot-button issues earlier this year, when parents questioned the accuracy of enrollment projections in Moseley Architects’ 2017 study, and the wisdom of expanding Lafayette Upper Elementary School instead of building a long-promised third elementary school. Construction was to have begun in July, but parents asked that the $1 million earmarked for planning Lafayette’s expansion in the proposed capital improvement plan for 2020 be used instead on finding creative, short-term solutions, which could include trailers.

School officials are adding one modular classroom each at Hugh Mercer and Lafayette Upper elementary schools this year to handle overcrowding, interim Deputy Superintendent Jon Russ told the School Board.

The school system had a total enrollment of 3,605 students on Sept. 30, which is the figure Virginia will use to determine the amount of state funding the city’s schools will receive. That’s close to the estimate of 3,592 students from Weldon Cooper Center, which City Council hired to do enrollment projections after parents raised their concerns. Moseley Architects had estimated a total of 3,707 students.

The council and the School Board recently formalized a joint working group, which will continue meeting monthly to discuss items of mutual interest, including meeting the needs of the school system as the city’s population continues to grow. Boyd and School Board member Kathleen Pomeroy volunteered to serve on it.

Catlett has also decided that the school system needed its own internal Enrollment, Capacity and Expansion Task Force. It has begun analyzing instructional needs, enrollment projections, building capacity and options for addressing immediate and future needs, Russ said. It will provide information for the joint working group, representatives from City Council, the School Board and stakeholders in the community.

“None of these committees will make decisions alone,” he said.

We are very excited and appreciative of the extreme interest in this position and in our city. —SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRWOMAN JENNIFER BOYD

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Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

cjett@freelancestar.com

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