Education officials in Virginia ousted a school district superintendent Wednesday in the wake of a shooting in which a 6-year-old boy shot a teacher earlier this month.
The Newport News School Board voted 5-1 to approve a separation agreement and severance with Superintendent George Parker III during a special meeting. Board member Gary Hunter dissented.
Parker will be relieved of his duties effective Feb. 1.
“It is important that we state that this decision was made without cause,” Board Chair Lisa Surles-Law said after the vote. She said Parker was “a capable division leader who has served Newport News for nearly five years through some extremely challenging circumstances. This decision is based on the future trajectory and needs of our school division.”
Before the vote, Hunter said the board was rushing to oust Parker despite his positive performance evaluations.
“This superintendent has done a very complimentary job,” he said. “What we’re going to do tonight would be a tragedy if we’re making decisions without a complete investigation.”
The board also voted 5-1 to appoint Michele Mitchell, who served as executive director of special education, as interim superintendent. Board member Rebecca Aman was the lone dissenter, saying she wanted someone outside the school division appointed.
The removal came weeks after the Jan. 6 shooting of a teacher by a 6-year-old student during class. The boy shot 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner with a handgun owned by his mother as she taught class at Richneck Elementary School.
Zwerner is suing the school district. On Wednesday, her attorney, Diane Toscano, said that on the day of the shooting, concerned teachers and employees warned administrators three times that the boy had a gun on him and was threatening other students, “but the administration could not be bothered.”
“On that day, over the course of a few hours, three different times — three times — school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people. But the administration could not be bothered,” Toscano said.