By Olivia Anderson | [email protected]
The Alexandria School Board appointed Melanie Kay-Wyatt, Ph.D. as the interim superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools at its July 28 meeting.
Kay-Wyatt is currently the ACPS chief of human resources and joined the district in July 2021. Previously, she served as both the ACPS executive director and acting chief of human resources, until she was promoted to chief on July 1. She will be the second Black female interim superintendent at ACPS.
Starting on Sept. 1, Kay-Wyatt will replace current Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D., who announced his resignation on June 10 amid mounting concerns about violence in ACPS, complaints from many parents about transparency and misgivings around his approach to COVID-19 safety.
Hutchings and School Board members praised the work Kay-Wyatt has done during her time at ACPS, though several parents in a local school-oriented Facebook group expressed concerns about aspects of her past performance.
According to a letter Hutchings sent to families earlier this year, Kay-Wyatt has increased staff recruitment fairs by 40% and targeted outreach to Latinx candidates and graduates from historically Black colleges and universities.
“Under her leadership, ACPS has strengthened partnerships with universities, resulting in more internship placements and a pipeline for educator applicants and student teachers,” Hutchings wrote.
At ACPS, she created a three-phase program for staff on/offboarding as well as a VIP recognition awards program to honor staff, and she assisted in improving employees’ total compensation packages.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kay-Wyatt spearheaded the staff vaccination effort and testing requirement process last fall. She also helped keep schools and offices open this year while simultaneously navigating critical staff shortages.
During Kay-Wyatt’s appointment at the meeting, Chair Meagan Alderton praised her work in human resources, particularly throughout the pandemic, and expressed excitement for what she’ll accomplish next year.
“It’s really been great to see her unique perspective to work in leading human resources from an instructional lens, knowing exactly how schools work and using that knowledge to make sure that we are doing our best in human resources to supply our schools with the staffing that we need,” Alderton said.
Kay-Wyatt’s career spans 26 years. Before joining the district, she worked in human resources at Spotsylvania Public Schools, served as a principal and assistant principal at Fredericksburg City Public Schools and served as a special education teacher at both Culpeper County Schools and FCPS.
“We’re thankful that she’s here, we’re thankful for her leadership, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Dr. Kay-Wyatt will do to help us move along because I know she will be amazing,” Alderton said. “It won’t be easy, but [she is] here for the cause and here for the fight.”
Kay-Wyatt expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve the school community, and according to an ACPS statement, will place an emphasis on continuing “work around social, emotional and academic learning, meeting the needs of the whole child and ensuring that we provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students, staff and families.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and I look forward to working with strong leaders, amazing staff and it’s just an opportunity for us to just keep getting better and better,” Kay-Wyatt said during the meeting. “I want to thank you for the opportunity and thank the community in advance for their support. We’re going to have an amazing school year.”
Board Member Abdel Elnoubi congratulated Kay-Wyatt on her new position, calling her the type of leader who is able to bring people together, build consensus, is eager to share credit and is passionate about students and their success.
“I’m excited to work with Dr. Kay-Wyatt, who is an experienced educator,” Elnoubi said. “… [She] recently led HR during a tumultuous time, a very difficult time, but she dug in, she worked, she embraced the role, she did a great job by the numbers and also by the testimony of some of the principals I talked to who actually saw the impact of her work and her team’s work on school staffing.”
ACPS received a large number of applicants for the role, which Elnoubi said “speaks volumes” about the district.
Vice Chair Jacinta Greene welcomed Kay-Wyatt into her new role while acknowledging that there is a lot of work to be done.
“We are so happy that you’re even interested in taking a job as the superintendent in these days and times. It’s just so very difficult and we understand that, and I just want to say that we are behind you 100% to support you, to make sure that you succeed,” Greene said.
However, a number of parents and community members have also expressed concerns in the Open ACPS Facebook group regarding Kay-Wyatt’s appointment, pointing to qualms with her handling of COVID-19 and a perceived lack of leadership during her time as chief of human resources.
“I want to give her a chance but what was her proven track record in hiring, retaining teachers and responding to staff concerns during her tenure as acting director of HR? Not exemplary IMO,” one parent wrote.
Another parent claimed Kay-Wyatt indicated that “she’s not concerned with teacher retention in this district, only with attracting new teachers.”
Kay-Wyatt’s contract includes a monthly salary of $21,383, according to a news release, and the board will immediately begin the search process for a permanent superintendent.
Kay-Wyatt’s contract extends through June 30, 2023, or until a permanent superintendent is hired.