Petersburg superintendent cites personal reasons for abrupt resignation

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Dr. Joseph Melvin has been the superintendent of Petersburg’s Public Schools for almost three years, but on Wednesday night, there was a surprising announcement: Dr. Melvin submitted a letter of resignation to the school board.

The letter read:

“It is with my sincere regrets that I tender my resignation as superintendent for the Petersburg School System. I ask that the board release me from my contract effective October 31st 2015. I am requesting this resignation due to personal reasons. I would like to thank the school board, the people of Petersburg, and most of all the students and staff for allowing me the opportunity to serve your most precious gift, the children.”

Linwood Christian, the PTA president told 8news anchor Ava-joye Burnett that he’s concerned by the abrupt announcement because this is the second superintendent the system has seen in three years.

“If it is something personal and he sees it as it might affect his job performance, his stepping down was good because he didn’t want, as the Bible said, his good works to be evil spoken of,” Christian said. “And like I said, under his administration, we have made some gains.”

Success stories include major improvements in the SOL scores for the two year-round schools. However, under Dr. Melvin’s tenure, graduation rates also fell. The Department of Education says that’s because tougher standards were implemented.

“For the last decade we’ve had this constant change , and so for many of the educators, this is just another change and so they will adjust,” says Annie Mickens with the Petersburg Education Association.

The Petersburg Education Association is a group that represents teachers and other school employees. The organization’s big concern is the constant turnover in teachers. This is an issue they hope the new superintendent will take on.

“There is no easy fix, but I do believe that if employees believe that they are, number one, respected as professionals, number two, fairly compensated, and number three, allowed to be a part of the process in the decisions that affect them every day in their classrooms and on their jobs, they will stay,” Mickens said.

The president of the school board, Kenneth Pritchett issued the following statement:

Throughout this leadership transition, students will continue to remain our focus. The decision was a mutual one made by Dr. Melvin and the board. It will allow Dr. Melvin to explore other professional opportunities while allowing the school board to immediately begin the search for a new superintendent. This was not done due to a violation of contract terms or any other issues. The school board will soon name an acting superintendent to lead the division until a permanent replacement is selected. We will have a close personnel meeting on Monday at 5:30 p.m. The board will be exploring superintendent search options and will release details soon. We do anticipate community involvement opportunities, including community forums and a survey. Most searches take place in the spring. This will put PCPS ahead of the curve, hopefully providing an advantage. The board has 180 calendar days from Dr. Melvin’s departure to name a new superintendent.

The school board voted to pay Dr. Melvin for his 27 vacation days. Dr. Melvin’s last day will be October 31st.

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