Hutchings and Alexandria School Board Chair Meagan Alderton said in separate interviews Thursday that the superintendent’s resignation was neither desired nor requested by the school board.
“I think as a board we’re definitely sad to see him go,” Alderton said. “However, Dr Hutchings, he still has a lot to do. So we respect that. »
Hutchings, 45, said he felt sad to be leaving Alexandria, which is the school system he was once a student in and had long wanted to lead as superintendent. But continuing his anti-racism work in Alexandria led him to believe it was time to apply his talents to similar challenges in schools across the country, he said.
“As we’ve been on this anti-racism journey over the past few years, it’s really sparked more interest in advocacy for me to continue this anti-racism journey beyond Alexandria,” he said. “I exercise faith to…empower and advocate on a larger scale than here.”
The school board has been aware of Hutchings’ impending release for some time, Alderton said. But Hutchings gave formal notice – and his resignation was formally accepted by the board – at a special meeting on Friday morning.
Hutchings’ last day of work will be August 31. Alderton said the school district will work to appoint an acting superintendent as quickly as possible and then begin a nationwide search for Hutchings’ permanent successor.
Hutchings’ tenure has been partly defined by the coronavirus pandemic – as has been the case for superintendents across the country. Hutchings oversaw an almost overnight transition to online learning in March 2020, before slowly guiding students to hybrid and then fully in-person learning.
Hutchings’ response to the pandemic was marked by extensive presentations and updates on the school district’s coronavirus data, health initiatives and reopening plans. A handful of discussions within the school board have heated up, but Alexandria in general has seen far less turmoil and frustration about online learning and pandemic safety policies than other districts — although some were upset by Hutchings’ decision to transfer one of her two children to a private school during the pandemic. .
Superintendent of Alexandria transfers one of his two children to private school
Hutchings also emphasized racial justice during his tenure. Under his leadership, Alexandria adopted a five-year “Equity for All” strategic plan in June 2020. The plan aimed to close the opportunity and achievement gaps by 2025; he also called for an “equity policy audit” of all school policies in Alexandria to identify systemic racial inequalities.
Hutchings launched this audit in the 2020-2021 school year. Alexandria also conducted two Equity Climate Surveys, in which students, staff, and families shared their feelings about their experiences in the school system. And the school district has released an “Equity Dashboard” that allows members of the public to review real-time data on students’ academic and behavioral outcomes, by racial group.
Asked about his proudest accomplishments in Alexandria, Hutchings highlighted all of these developments stemming from the equity plan. He also mentioned the renaming of two schools, both of which previously bore the names of historical figures who held deeply racist beliefs about black Americans.
“This ACPS 2025 Equity for All plan, I believe, sets us up for success and gives us the roadmap we need to dismantle systemic racism in Alexandria City Public Schools,” Hutchings said.
Alderton also highlighted the Superintendent’s equity work in particular. But she also pointed to other developments, including the fact that all schools in Alexandria achieved accreditation in 2019 for the first time in the division’s history, and that under Hutchings, Alexandria achieved in 2021. its highest graduation rate (91%) and lowest dropout rate (5%) since Virginia began reporting data in 2008.
She further praised his “really transparent” budgeting, noting that the operating budgets adopted by Alexandria under his leadership in 2022 and 2023 emphasized employee compensation.
“I just have to say that under Dr. Hutchings’ leadership, I’ve seen such incredible growth in our school division,” Alderton said. “I know he is confident that we can move this work forward.”
Unlike some neighboring districts — particularly Loudoun County Public Schools — Alexandria has not experienced significant parental anger over its racial justice initiatives. What has sparked the controversy is a years-long debate over the appropriate role of the police in schools.
As Alexandria students returned to class, the assaults increased. Off campus, a student was stabbed.
In the spring of 2021, the Alexandria City Council voted to remove the police from the city’s schools, against the wishes of the superintendent and his top officials. The following academic year saw a series of violent incidents as students returned to campus, many for the first time since the pandemic began.
In the face of criticism and concerns from parents, the council eventually backtracked and voted to restore police to schools. Some violence, however, continued; more recently, an 18-year-old Alexandria City High School student was fatally stabbed in a shopping mall near campus.
In late April, the school board approved a proposal by Hutchings to create an advisory group that will work to reimagine the relationship between schools and city police. In the meantime, the council is asking for at least another year of funding for school policing, a request that the city council has yet to address through its budgeting process.
Prior to taking the top job in the Alexandria School District, Hutchings served as a superintendent in Shaker Heights, Ohio, as well as a teacher, principal, and administrator in school systems scattered throughout Virginia and Tennessee. He holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Old Dominion University, an MA in Educational Leadership from George Mason University, and a PhD in Educational Policy from William & Mary.
Hutchings’ contract, renewed in June 2021, was due to expire in 2025.