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DPS interim superintendent Catherine Magouyrk gets settled in new role as reopening is discussed

DPS interim superintendent Catherine Magouyrk gets settled in new role as reopening is discussed

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Catherine Magouyrk has been in Danville only for a short while, but she has quickly found her footing as interim superintendent of Danville Public Schools, thanks in part to a warm welcome from the community and personnel within the district.

“I haven’t run into anyone who hasn’t been willing to help and talk to me and offer support,” she said following Thursday’s school board meeting, her first since being appointed to the role on July 9.

Magouyrk assumes the position at a time when the school division is in the process of determining a safe reopening plan, finding a satisfactory academic year calendar and searching for a full-time replacement as superintendent following the departure of Stanley Jones at the end of June.

Her initial assessment of the school district is that it benefits from strong, committed people in the community, while she also recognizes areas for growth in student achievement and academic success. Addressing the latter issue, Magouyrk said, will come through a concerted effort of uniting the community toward a common set of goals.

“We have to all work together,” she said. “We can’t put responsibilities off on others. We have to own it.”

Regarding the reopening strategy and the school calendar, Magouyrk understands those decisions are ultimately made by the school board. She sees her role as being a resource while the board navigates those issues.

“I’m a strong believer in the school board. They’re elected by the community. They are the voice of the community,” she said. “So it’s my responsibility to give them all the information I can possibly give them so that they can make decisions that take us where we need to go.”

Magouyrk has already worked closely with the school board in her short time in town. She said she is encouraged by the professionalism of the group during this transitional period—especially when considering the board has three newly elected members in Philip Campbell, Tyrell Payne and Charles McWilliams III.

“I see a school board that wants to hold their school superintendent accountable,” Magouyrk said. “I see them (being) very serious about what they’re doing.”

Several of the school board members used their comment time during Thursday’s meeting to welcome Magouyrk to the district and say how impressed they were with her first few days on the ground.

“You’re a real pro,” McWilliams said, addressing Magouyrk directly. “Hopefully we can find someone as much like you as we can.”

On the topic of the superintendent search, Magouyrk — formerly the superintendent of Manassas City Public Schools from July 2012 through June 2018 — said that process is directed entirely by the school board.

When asked if she would consider applying for the position, Magouyrk said after the meeting, “I haven’t thought that far at all.”

On Wednesday, DPS introduced a widget on the division’s website called “Let’s Talk!” that allows students, parents, school division employees and community members to easily send thoughts and messages to leaders within the district. The messages are sorted and relayed to the appropriate person. Magouyrk said she wanted to introduce this service when she arrived so that more communication could be had among all stakeholders in the success of the school district and its students.

That communication is especially important now, she said, because of the transition from one superintendent to an interim superintendent and then, eventually, to another full-time superintendent.

“This tool will help in that transition,” she said. “(Members of the community) were able to converse with me immediately on my first day of work. This will carry on, and when the new superintendent does come on his or her first day of work, they will be able to begin building that relationship.”

At the moment, school officials hope to announce a new superintendent in November. Magouyrk’s contract with DPS runs through Dec. 31. She couldn’t speak to what sort of onboarding time a new hire might need or when that person would start in the role, but she wants to make it clear that she’s committed to helping the school district for however long she is needed.

“I want to work with this board until they find the best superintendent that meets the needs for Danville,” she said.

Parker Cotton is a sports reporter at the Martinsville Bulletin and Danville Register & Bee. You can reach him at (276) 638-8801 ext. 215. Follow @ByParkerCotton. 

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