After 15 years of exemplary leadership and service, Dr. Rosa S. Atkins, superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, has announced her pending retirement from the school division. She is currently among the longest-serving superintendents in Virginia. The resignation will become effective May 31, 2021.
“I’m so honored to have served the students, families, staff, and community of Charlottesville,” Atkins noted. “It’s been a pleasure to serve and work alongside such tremendous people. I’ve actually postponed this decision for a while due to the pandemic, but I’m at a point where I want to spend less time as superintendent and more time as Nana.”
Atkins became superintendent in 2006. Over the years, she has earned numerous recognitions, including being named one of two national finalists for the 2017 AASA Women in School Leadership Award for Superintendents sponsored by the School Superintendents Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At the time, Atkins noted, “I’m humbled to be one of the award finalists.I don’t view it as an individual accolade, but as recognition of all the good work accomplished by the teachers and administrators of Charlottesville City Schools.”
In addition, in 2011, Atkins was named Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, as well as Virginia State University Alumnus of the Year for Professional Education. In 2014, Dr. Atkins was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 100 Future-Ready Superintendents and invited to the American Association of School Administrators’ Digital Consortium at the White House.
Aside from awards, she has served and led a number of organizations, including the Virginia Association of Schools Superintendents, the Urban Superintendents Association of America, Women Education Leaders in Virginia, and a number of state committees and boards such as the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia. Most recently, she co-chaired Governor Northam’s Commission on African American History Education, which led to significant changes to training, state social studies standards, and more to make Virginia’s schools more inclusive, honest, and supportive. She is currently chairing Virginia’s LEARNS (Leading, Engaging, Assessing, Recovering, Nurturing and Succeeding) work group to guide school divisions’ efforts to help students recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
Since Atkins’ arrival in 2006, both student achievement and graduation rates have risen, division student enrollment has grown, and Charlottesville has been consistently recognized as one of the top-performing divisions in the state. Suspension rates have fallen 80 percent and graduation rates for black students have risen 25 points, reaching 96 percent or above for the past two years. Among other innovative initiatives, Charlottesville has invested in technology and STEM while maintaining its commitment to its acclaimed fine arts programs. She also led the division to create a locally-supported preschool program for three-year-olds and has spearheaded greater community partnership for early childhood education. In addition, she has supported the division’s nationally recognized work in social-emotional learning, mental wellness, trauma-informed approaches, and positive student supports. Her commitment to equity has made possible an expanding array of unleveled classes (leading to increased enrollment in honors, advanced placement, and dual enrollment classes), a redesigned gifted education program, and the creation of a dedicated supervisor of equity.
During the pandemic, her leadership has led to meeting all known needs for internet access and device access from preK- through high school, the implementation of new learning and communications platforms, strong online instruction, and daily meal deliveries at sites and bus routes across the city. Yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam visited Venable Elementary to recognize the school division’s efforts to serve students as this week the division opened its doors to preK-grade 6 students along with a first wave of in-person students at Buford and CHS.
At a School Board meeting on Thursday, the Board unanimously voted to support the Superintendent’s decision. Board chair Lisa Larson-Torres noted, “We thank Dr. Atkins for her calming presence, her bold work to promote equity, and above all, for her commitment to children. We especially appreciate her staying on to give a steadying hand this past year during the pandemic. We are sorry to see her leave, but we support her and wish her all the best in the next chapter. ”
Atkins concluded, “While it’s bittersweet to leave Charlottesville City Schools, I know my colleagues and Board members will continue to provide great leadership.”