Manassas Journal Messenger 04-26-01



with the chief


Tiffany Schwab



MANASSAS – The new superintendent is going to lead the city to what school

board members have been calling, “the next level.”

He just doesn’t know what that means yet.

Chip Zullinger said he’s still studying the schools, diligently poring

over stacks of information on the system.

“The next level,” he said, has yet to be defined, and, as a

newcomer, it is not his place to impose a plan for an already successful

school system.

Instead, Zullinger and the seven-member school board will meet for upcoming

retreat “to articulate together what that next level might be,”

he said.

In his view, though, Zullinger said, a successful school system is one

with parental and community input combined with high levels of accountability

from students and school officials.

“Those will be attributes to what school divisions moving to the

next level will be all about,” he said.

Manassas is moving in the right direction, he said.

School leaders must keep up the momentum, looking for more powerful ways

to motivate students and educate parents about the importance of the Virginia’s

Standards of Learning, he said.

Students take SOL exams in grades 3, 5 and 8, and as end-of-course tests

in high school.

Starting in 2004, high school seniors will be required to pass six SOL

tests in order to graduate. In 2007, the stakes become even higher when

schools will be required to have a 70-percent student passing rate or risk

losing their accreditation.

The responsibility to do well rests not only with students and educators,

he said.

“It needs to permeate down in the households and become everyone’s

responsibility,” he said.

Zullinger was successful reaching out to the community at his previous

districts, officials have said. But, sometimes his efforts drew ire from

the school boards, who expressed concerns about his leadership style and

claimed he took action without their knowledge or approval.Earlier in his

career as a superintendent, Zullinger was known as a mover and a shaker.

He did what he did for children, he said, which sometimes got him in trouble

with his school board.

This time, Zullinger is taking it slow.

His first day on the job was April 17. He has spent his time meeting

with department heads, visiting schools, chatting with principals and reading

up on the system.

He is coming in without an agenda and will build off of plans already

in place, he said.

“I’m going to wait to evaluate what the district’s current plans

are,” Zullinger said.

He described the role of superintendent as the chief operating officer

of a school division.

“A school superintendent needs to assist in empowering a community

to do all it can to enrich the lives of the children who live in it,”

he said.

“That ought to be a very singular agenda,” he added.

Zullinger said he wants to be a hands-on superintendent, spending the

majority of his time in the schools. At the larger school divisions he worked

at, Denver and Charleston, S.C., he wasn’t able to visit the schools as

much as would have liked, he said.

But, it’s a real possibility in Manassas, he said.

“I think if I can figure out how to accomplish that, I can be of

a lot more value to the school division than I can sitting behind this desk.”



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