Superintendent for Chesterfield Schools leaving for state job; interim announced

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County Public Schools announced Thursday it has named an interim superintendent to replace Dr. James Lane, who has accepted a position with Governor Ralph Northam’s office.

Lane, who became Chesterfield’s superintendent in March 2016, will become Northam’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction on June 1.

Northam revealed the decision Thursday morning.

“Public education is the foundation of this Commonwealth’s economy and the quality of life we offer every family, and no one has as much responsibility for setting the direction of our public education — from early childhood through 12th grade — as the Superintendent of Public Instruction,” said Northam.

Lane said he will focus on creating an equity plan, STEAM-H subjects and workforce development.

“I think we have a broad range of items to work on,” he said. “But certainly in the short term, getting into the Virginia Department of Education and focusing on those initiatives that are moving forward like the new accreditation system, Profile of a Graduate, will be the immediate needs.” 

Lane said his experience in both small and large school divisions has prepared him for the promotion. He also served as superintendent in Middlesex and Goochland counties. 

“Part of my job as Superintendent of Public Instruction is to support teachers,” he said. “So I just look forward to supporting the teachers here and doing what we can to continue to make working with kids the best job in the world.” 

The Chesterfield County School Board will vote on May 29 to accept Lane’s resignation and officially vote to name current Chief of Staff Donald ‘Rusty’ Fairheart as the school district’s interim superintendent. 

A former superintendent for Middlesex County Public Schools, Fairheart has served as Chief of Staff for CCPS since joining the school division in 2016. 

“I am humbled to be chosen to lead a school division already recognized as a state and national leader
in public education,” Fairheart said. “Every day, my primary focus will be on how we can best support
each student and every staff member in our award-winning school division.”

“Serving as chief of staff has allowed me to work closely with the School Board, and I am keenly aware of the expectations our community has for this school division.” — Fairheart

Prior to joining Chesterfield Schools in 2016, Fairheart served as executive director for the multijurisdictional Southeastern Cooperative Education Program (SECEP) in
Norfolk.

He also served as superintendent in Middlesex County from 2007-11.

“The School Board is excited to have a leader with Mr. Fairheart’s credentials ready to continue our
important work,” School Board Chair John Erbach said. “Since joining us, Mr. Fairheart has immersed
himself in our school division’s efforts, and we have full confidence in his ability to close out the
current school year strong and continue preparations for the 2018-19 school year.”

“Mr. Fairheart has been and will continue to be a strong champion for our schools, and we look
forward to working with him as we continue to make the education of our students and the support of
our staff our top priorities,” School Board Vice Chair Rob Thompson added.

Fairheart has a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Old Dominion, a Master’s of
Art degree from Hampton University, a post Master’s Certification in Educational Leadership from
Virginia Commonwealth University, a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from Radford
University and has taken coursework for a Doctorate of Educational Policy and Leadership from
Virginia Tech.

His career started as a special education teacher with SECEP and as an instructional
specialist for York County Public Schools, and later served as assistant director of special education
and director of assessment for Gloucester County Public Schools.

More reaction from board members

“Chesterfield County Public Schools is highly respected across our great state, and we are proud that the Governor has chosen our own superintendent for state leadership. Two years ago, our School Board engaged the community as we developed the leadership traits and qualities that we wanted in the next school superintendent, and we found those qualities in Dr. Lane.” — Midlothian District School Board member Dr. Javaid Siddiqi

“The School Board has built a dynamic leadership team during Dr. Lane’s tenure. This leadership team has the same skill sets and desired leadership qualities that our community values. Mr. Fairheart’s strong leadership, broad range of experiences, and commitment to our shared vision for tomorrow’s schools will allow for a seamless transition” — Clover Hill District School Board representative Dianne Smith

“This is an important time for our school division. Mr. Fairheart’s knowledge and understanding of the opportunities in front of us will be beneficial as we develop a new strategic plan, transition school operating times, open new schools and plan for additional school rebuilds and integrate redistricted school boundaries.” — Bermuda District School Board representative Carrie Coyner

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