By Aila Boyd
Dr. John Russ will be celebrating his first month as superintendent of Botetourt County Public Schools (BCPS) on Friday. He was appointed to the position by the School Board on June 29. He assumed the position on July 1. He has since been present for both the July 9 and July 21 School Board meetings.
“Since coming here, the staff has been welcoming. They’re workers and nothing but professional,” he said.
With four weeks under his belt, Russ said that he has been meeting with members of the division and community in order to better understand how things are currently functioning and areas for improvement.
“This school division is in good shape. As with every division, there are areas we can improve in,” he said. “The biggest challenge we have right now is reopening schools.”
Although it’s difficult to assume the reins of a school division during a pandemic, Russ said that his situation isn’t unique. He stressed that it’s a difficult time right now to be a principal, central office administrator, parent, and student.
“This pandemic is a tough time for all of us. It’s going to take all of us to get through it,” he said. “The unfortunate part is that it’s going to take away from other components that we would have been focusing on in pre-COVID-19 times.”
He went on to outline his vision for the future of the division.
“Stability is what I want for the division. There have been a lot of changes in leadership, but I think stability is very important,” he said. “What impresses me the most is with all the changes that have occurred is how good the division is still functioning. That says a lot about the leadership both in the buildings and at central office.
Russ described the division’s math and reading scores as being “great,” but said that since those scores are the measurement by which schools are judged, he seems room for improvement. He added that he would like to see closure of achievement gaps for different populations of students.
He added that his main focus going forward will be on the students. “My message to principals has been that I’ll be in the buildings, but I’m not coming to see them. I’m coming to be around the kids,” he said. “I got into this profession because of the students. That hasn’t changed as I moved from teaching to central office.”