By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
The Alexandria School Board has selected Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr., a T.C. Williams alumnus, as the district’s new superintendent, ACPS announced in a Dec. 14 press release.
Hutchings said coming back to his hometown was like a dream come true.
“Alexandria’s always been a part of my heart,” Hutchings said in an ACPS video. “It’s a part of me, and I’ve lived in different cities, and I’ve been in different states, but my heart has always been in my hometown … the simple fact that I’m able to now go back to where it all began for me and to open doors for the next generation, that’s pretty amazing.”
Hutchings will begin his new position with ACPS in July 2018 after completing his fifth year as superintendent at Shaker Heights Schools in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio.
Hutchings is not only a product of ACPS – he’s also a prior school district leader, working within the system from 2010 to 2013. He first served as director of middle school programs for ACPS and later as director of pre-K-12 initiatives.
“Dr. Hutchings not only experienced Alexandria as someone living and growing up here in the city and as someone who was a student in ACPS, but he also has experience of actually being a staff person within ACPS,” School Board Chair Ramee Gentry said. “That’s a lot of different kinds of angles and perspectives that he can bring to the role.”
Hutchings’ appointment follows previous superintendent Dr. Alvin Crawley’s departure in July. Since Crawley left for a faculty position at George Mason University, Dr. Lois Berlin has acted as interim superintendent.
Gentry said the superintendent search process had been a collaborative effort among the school board, school staff, city staff, parents, students and other community members. She said the process revolved around creating a leadership profile that captured the kind of superintendent the community wanted.
“You end up with a pretty comprehensive idea of what you’re looking for, then you have to match up that list with actual human beings,” Gentry said.
A report by HYA, an executive search group that worked with the school board in the selection process, detailed what Alexandrians wanted in their new superintendent. Residents sought a communicator and collaborator, an experienced and innovative instructional leader, someone with operations and management ability and someone strong, respected and committed to Alexandria.
Hutchings appears to be a near-perfect match for the profile. Growing up in and working for the school system, Hutchings’ commitment to Alexandria is hard to question.
Hutchings grew up in Alexandria’s West End, attending ACPS’s Patrick Henry Elementary School, William Ramsay Elementary School, Mount Vernon Community School, James K. Polk Elementary School, Francis C. Hammond Middle School and T.C. Williams High School. He was senior class first vice president of his T.C. graduating class, a member of the high school track and field team and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America club.
“It’s very interesting to hear how many actual schools he went to in ACPS,” Councilor John Chapman said. “He’s hit six of them through his time here, and I think that’s a very interesting perspective of not only many different schools, but also many different neighborhoods.”
When he met Hutchings as an ACPS administrator, Chapman was president of Alexandria’s NAACP. He said that although they had operated in different spheres, they bonded as homegrown Alexandrians and felt passionate about similar issues, such as academic achievement for students of color.
“It’s always very cool to have somebody that was a product of that same school system come back and be able to lead it,” Chapman said. “I think there’s a passion to see the system improve and get to a level of traditional excellence. That passion doesn’t always exist with somebody from the outside.”
Chapman said he sees Hutchings being a very hands-on superintendent.
“I think that’s what’s needed from any superintendent that works in our city — somebody that has no fear of going out to the community and talking with people,” Chapman said.
John Porter, former principal of T.C., said Hutchings has always been outgoing and engaging, even when he was in high school in the early 90s.
“He was always one of those kids [who] could relate to adults as well as to his peers,” Porter said. “He was very understanding of a variety of people, interacted with all kinds of kids from a variety of different backgrounds, races, religions and ethnicities, and just was an all-around good kid.”
Porter said he stayed in touch with Hutchings since he graduated in 1995 and moved on to pursue a career in education.
After graduating, Hutchings attended Old Dominion University and earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. He also holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from George Mason University and a doctorate in educational policy, planning and leadership from the College of William and Mary.
Hutchings is an experienced educator and administrator. In addition to his past positions at ACPS and Shaker Heights Schools, he has served as a teacher and leader in Prince William County; Richmond, Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee.
Berlin said the fact that Hutchings has previous superintendent experience is a huge advantage.
“I think he comes in really well prepared,” Berlin said. “Alexandria is a very complex place, and it’s a not a place where a new superintendent should cut their teeth. I think it’s a huge advantage that he understands how to be a superintendent and all that entails from budget to instruction to relationships.”
Some of Hutchings’ accomplishments during his work as Shaker Heights’ superintendent include implementing early leaning opportunities that narrowed the achievement gap, focusing on staff professional development and helping initiate a program to bridge the summer learning gap.
Leading up to July, Berlin said she and Hutchings will communicate every week to ensure that he comes in well aware of what’s going on in the ACPS system.
“We have the same goals of making sure every child succeeds,” Berlin said.
From the school board side of things, Gentry said Hutchings has demonstrated a passion and commitment to ACPS’s 2020 strategic plan.
“The benefit of having a strategic plan like that is that that was our goal when Dr. Crowley was here, that is our goal while we have the benefit of Dr. Lois Berlin as our interim and that continues to be the goal with Dr. Hutchings,” Gentry said. “[He has] an enthusiasm for continuing to use strategic planning as a tool for leading the division.”
Hutchings’ background, experience and personality have convinced those who know him that he is the perfect choice for ACPS’s new superintendent.
“People are really excited,” Berlin said. “Oh, I think they’re over the moon … There are so many pluses here.” Porter agreed about that point.
“For Greg it’s about kids. And if it’s about kids and what we can do to better help kids achieve, then he will be a success on moving forward with various issues,” Porter said.
“I know through our discussions over the years, this is in many ways his dream position, to come home and serve in this realm,” he said. “He’s a genuine person. And again, he really cares. It’s not going to just be a job for him – it’s going to be a calling.”