Stewart retiring from school board

Ruthann Carr

Shirley Stewart announced she will not run to retain her seat on the Fluvanna School Board.

Stewart, who represents the Rivanna district, will serve the remainder of her term which ends Dec. 31.

In making the announcement, Stewart said she had “mixed emotions” about her decision.

“My greatest joy from serving on the school board has been getting to know many of the staff and excellent programs available in our school system,” she said. “I appreciate how hard staff works to meet the needs of the students academically, emotionally, artistically and athletically.”

Stewart said the past year “navigating the responses to COVID-19” has been tough.

During that time, however, she saw a lot of positives:

  • Chuck Winkler and his team led the staff in planning for virtual and hybrid learning;
  • Most of the staff has been immunized;
  • Don Stribling’s work getting those vaccines delivered close to home;
  • The staff’s willingness to develop and follow mitigation plans that kept the community safe;
  • Under Josh Gifford’s guidance families gained Internet access;
  • Brenda Gilliam juggled the ever-changing dynamics of COVID-19 funding and moving targets related to curriculum and instruction.

Stewart acknowledged students lost instructional time.

“It’s imperative that we have the resources available to provide all students with support so they don’t become a lost generation of learners,” she said. “Providing summer school for those who are struggling the most is a great place to start.”

Stewart said she looks forward to working with Peter Gretz, the new superintendent. Stewart said she’d like to work on expanding Career and Technical Education and building relationships with area businesses so students can gain experience in those fields. She’d like to see the system as a whole become less reliant on the Standards of Learning tests to guide curriculum.

“We also need to better understand our struggling learners and close the academic gaps with our students of color and those who are economically disadvantaged,” Stewart said. “I’m excited to have a new superintendent who shares these values and will work diligently with him over the next six months to ensure he is well situated for success.”

Stewart said she feels optimistic about the future of Fluvanna schools and that things are moving in the right direction.

“My time on the Board has helped me learn more about the students and families we serve and how we need to accept everyone into our schools, ensure they feel safe and commit to helping our diverse population prepare for the future. By doing anything less we are losing out on making Fluvanna a great place to live and work.”

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