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Chesterfield schools superintendent to retire after six years in the role

A man wearing a suite gestures while sitting in a chair behind a desk.
Billy Shields
VPM News
Chesterfield County Public Schools Superintendent Mervin Daugherty is set to retire before the next school year begins.

Mervin Daugherty led the division through the pandemic.

Chesterfield County Public Schools Superintendent Mervin Daugherty is set to retire before the 2024-25 school year begins.

VPM News reporter Billy Shields sat down with Daugherty to discuss his tenure — which included guiding the district through the pandemic — and the programs he introduced during his time in Chesterfield.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Billy Shields: You presided over the Chesterfield school system during the pandemic. What was that like? 

Mervin Daugherty: I think we handled it well. We actually started about 17 initiatives during the pandemic. I thought that helped us with some things. It helped us to learn some things about our school system.

You developed the first virtual school, is that right?

Eight virtual schools in the state of Virginia, as well as a very robust online secondary program for students throughout the state that can be involved in CCPS.

What’s the thought processes behind those initiatives? 

We knew coming out of the pandemic [that] there were students who excelled by being online and were more comfortable. We noticed some students’ grades went up, discipline went down and the participation increased. As long as there's a need for that opportunity, we should provide it.

There's something that I read about the recovery school. Is this the first recovery school in Virginia?

The Chesterfield Recovery Academy is the first in the state. It's a school for students who have finished their treatment and now were in recovery from addiction. …. [W]e open the doors up to any students who are in our region — all 15 of the school divisions. I think there's 43 high schools that can be involved. Over the first few years, we've seen quite a bit of success [for] students [going] into the program, staying clean and getting their diploma.

A lot of school superintendents I know of would, I think, be loath to even make an acknowledgement that [their students are using] drugs or alcohol.

The schools have to deal with everything that society has to deal with. For a school to say they don't have an issue with students [using] drugs or alcohol or tobacco or vaping — [that] would not be telling you the truth. Let's be transparent. Let's help the students.

The feedback that we have from students is that they doubt they'd even be alive right now if they hadn't gone through the program. If we can help one student, it's worth the effort.

Looking back at your six years here, what are some lessons that you learned that you wish you knew when you walked in? 

That may be the hardest question.

I think the thing that I've learned is the visibility of [the superintendent] — not in our schools, but in a lot of our community areas. I didn't know how large Chesterfield was when I came here; I understand it now quite a bit. [I’m] making sure that I'm out in a lot of the different community areas. I visit a lot of churches, a lot of community groups, but I think that [doing that] earlier would have been a lot more beneficial.

Coming in, I was an outsider; I wasn't from Virginia. It took a couple of years to get used to. But I had really good people on staff — people who really wanted to be successful with kids, [people] who were very helpful.

When you come into a system, you want to try new initiatives. You're pushing uphill for a while. Once you have success, people want to jump on a bandwagon. [But] not everybody is really excited about being in startup mode with you. There can be a fear factor — they don't want to fail.

I have a different philosophy: Let's go get it. If we're wrong, we'll just change plans. But if we're right, let's keep pushing the envelope.

Billy Shields is a multimedia journalist with VPM News Focal Point.
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