Top school administrators to retire

Posted: December 11, 2013

The Winchester Star

Rick Leonard
Linda Meadows
Kevin McKew

WINCHESTER — The city school division will see a major shakeup in its leadership come July with the retirement of its superintendent, executive director and director of finance.

In a trio of press releases Tuesday, Superintendent Rick Leonard, 55, Executive Director Kevin McKew, 53, and Director of Finance Linda Meadows, 65, announced their retirements effective July 1.

“It’s been a great run and a great time with great people,” said Leonard. He added that he was “blessed and humbled” to have served at his position and was hopeful he made a positive impact.

Leonard began his career as a biology teacher and coach in Winchester Public Schools in 1980. He later became principal at Handley High School before becoming superintendent in 2009.

Leonard, who is retiring with two years left on his four-year contract, currently makes $153,365 without benefits.

He said retirement “seemed to be the right thing to do” after 34 years in the division.

Leonard served as project executive for the renovations and expansions at Daniel Morgan Middle School and Handley High School; replaced several key leaders, including seven new school administrators; developed a regional partnership between Valley Health and several local school divisions to support a health career pathways program; expanded intervention and remediation services; and increased the number of high school students graduating with Career and Technical Education (CTE) credentials, according to the press release.

Leonard said he doesn’t have what he considers a “biggest accomplishment,” but is most proud of helping “build collaborative teams and coaching good leaders.”

With his newfound freedom, he said he will go fishing.

“I’ll fish for fish and fish for opportunities,” he said. “I’ll look around. Nothing specific.”

When asked whether his decision to retire was linked to the recent delay in the John Kerr Elementary School project, Leonard said, “I don’t really think so.”

“There was certainly disappointment on the part of our board on not being supported by council,” he said of the panel’s recent decision to reject the School Board’s selection of a plan to construct a new John Kerr near the current facility. It was announced at a School Board meeting Monday that the opening of the new school likely will be pushed back from 2015 to 2016.

Leonard equated the project to any other tough decision the division faces and said he was hopeful that the School Board and City Council can reconcile their differences.

“We need a new, bigger school now,” he said. “That hasn’t changed.”

Kevin McKew, who arrived in the division as director of operations in 1999, said that although he would have liked to have seen the John Kerr project completed, it was not the reason for his retirement.

“I felt like it was time,” he said. “I have the ability at this point in my career to do something new and different. It’s something I have been interested in doing for the last year or so.”

McKew said he is interested in working in the private sector, but has no immediate plans. He has been the executive director overseeing operations and the Central Administrative Office for the past four years.

He said his biggest accomplishment was working on the renovation and expansion at Handley and managing and leading the division with Leonard.

“I’ll miss the people, the professionals,” he said. “Not only within the schools, but the school boards and dedicated School Board members I’ve worked with.”

McKew is the second-highest-paid employee in the division at $124,887.

Meadows, who began her career 41 years ago as a senior accountant with the City of Winchester, has been the division’s director of finance for the past 16 years. She makes $112,527 and is the fourth-highest-paid employee in the division.

Meadows said she was planning on leaving last year, but Leonard encouraged her to stay one more year.

“The school system is really losing a lot with Dr. Leonard,” she said. “He’s come through the ranks and knows the system.”

She added that McKew and other staffers made a great team.

“It’s going to be a big loss and a lot of knowledge going out the door.”

School Board Chairman John Bishop has already directed staff to develop a request for proposal for a search firm that will conduct a “large-scale” search for the next superintendent.

The School Board is responsible for hiring the superintendent and other division leaders.

Bishop said he still needs to talk to the board about plans to replace McKew and Meadows.

The loss of leadership in a domino effect is something the board has been concerned about for a while because many officials are at retirement age, he said.

“These are very important positions, and we obviously have a lot going on now with budget season, John Kerr and now we have this to tackle,” he said. “It’s an interesting time to be on the board.”

Bishop said all three leaders will be extremely hard to replace, especially Leonard.

“It’s really difficult to properly annunciate the proper respect for him and how much he has done for this school division,” he said.

About McKew, Bishop said, “You don’t replace somebody like that.”

Council President John Willingham said council, which appoints School Board members, has a good working relationship with Leonard and McKew.

“Both Kevin and Rick provided a substantial amount of time, effort and resources over their distinguished careers to Winchester Public Schools and the city, and to that we are grateful,” he said.

Willingham credited Leonard with expanding the CTE program and dealing with the ever-changing demographics of the division.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com