HARRISONBURG — It’s been a few months since Michael Richards took over as superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools, but he’s had only a few weeks with students back in the classroom.

Richards has been spending a lot of time in the schools, getting to know teachers and students.

“Now that the kids are back, I’ve been focusing on supporting teachers and principals,” Richards said.

On the first day of school, Richards visited every school in the division, starting with the schools that have new principals this year.

“It’s clear that principals and staff are doing a great job just based on how well orchestrated the first day of school was,” Richards said. He added that walking through the halls on the first day, he was impressed with how much real learning was going on, as opposed to the usual first day agenda that includes rules and expectations.

“They got that down quickly,” Richards said.

With the exception of school bus delays the first week of school, things have been running smoothly with no major mishaps and he’s also making an effort to meet families, Richards said.

This has allowed Richards to focus on bigger picture objectives for the school division, such as the design of the new high school and the development of the division’s five-year comprehensive plan.

Richards is spending a lot of time in meetings and in focus groups. Recently there was a community summit to discuss the goals of the school division moving forward, which Richards said was well attended and thoughtful.

The audience was vocal and represented a large swath of the community.

“Community members said a lot of things that reiterated the values of the school division,” such as equity, resilience and supporting families and supporting diversity.

There were a number of individuals who spoke at the summit with the support of translators, which is a reflection of the diversity in the schools, where more than 60 languages are spoken.

The school board is working with a consulting firm to develop the plan, which will likely be voted on this spring.

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or mwilliams@dnronline.com. Follow Megan on Twitter @DNR_Learn

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