Kay-Wyatt named superintendent

Kay-Wyatt named superintendent
Melanie Kay-Wyatt will serve as ACPS’ interim superintendent through June 2023, or until a permanent superintendent is appointed. (Photo/Olivia Anderson)

By Brianne McConnell | bmcconnell@alextimes.com

As the school year winds down, Alexandria City Public School officials are looking to the future with new leadership at the helm. The Alexandria School Board announced at the May 4 meeting that Interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt, Ed.D. will step into the role permanently.

“I think going through the process … it was challenging and rewarding at the same time. You have to make tough decisions that are in the best interest of that school or school community, so challenging. But also rewarding knowing you’re making a decision that is going to change the way we do schools or programming,” Kay-Wyatt said.

Kay-Wyatt, who has more than two decades of experience in education, was selected from a pool of 35 applicants after a months-long national search that was launched in November 2022.

The search included feedback from 2,056 community survey participants and representation from 19 stakeholder groups, including school principals, PTA council, students, bus drivers and senior leadership teams.

When asked about what a new superintendent would need to know about Alexandria schools, many of the stakeholder groups raised the issue of retention. Turnover has been an issue for teachers and the superintendent.

During the announcement of Kay-Wyatt’s appointment, School Board Chair Meagan Alterton said stability was key for her.

“It was one of the questions asked to anyone interested in the position, do you see yourself here for the next five years or more? What are your goals?” Alderton said.

Alderton said she believes the issue of stability trickles down to the classroom. The turnover from the top can affect the climate of teachers and staff.

“Historically what has been challenging is lack of a system,” she said.

Alderton said she believes a negative tone around the education field has added to the issue of recruiting and retaining educators.

“I think the climate socially and politically has changed when it comes to schools, and school leadership. The tone has been a lot more negative,” Alderton said.

ACPS has 18 schools serving more than 15,700 students who come from more than 100 countries and speak 124 languages.

Kay-Wyatt said she already has a list of priorities for her transition on July 1.

The list includes a focus on building a better school culture and school experience for students and staff, tackling absenteeism and a focus on instructional achievement.

“I think the pandemic has really made it challenging to make that a priority because there are so many things we have had to deal with as we transitioned back,” Kay-Wyatt said.

Alderton agreed, adding there has not been as much progress as she would like when it comes to achievement.

“We are really focused on academic achievement. We have to move the needle for our students, particularly those who are in a category who we know continue to struggle,” Alderton said.

Prior to her appointment as Interim Superintendent, Kay-Wyatt was the Chief of Human Resources and executive director of Human Resources for ACPS. According to a statement from ACPS, the department significantly increased recruitment and hiring during Kay-Wyatt’s time as chief.

Kay-Wyatt holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mary Washington College, a master’s degree in education from Old Dominion University, a master of education degree in educational leadership from University of Mary Washington and a doctorate in educational leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University. He started her career as a special education teacher in Culpeper Middle School in Fredericksburg, VA. She then served as a middle school assistant principal and later principal at Walker-Grant Middle School. She has served as a professor at the College of William and Mary and Shenandoah University where she focused on teaching classroom management techniques and human resource leadership.

Alderton said she believes in addition to Kay-Wyatt’s combination of classroom and central office experience, a major reason Kay-Wyatt was selected for the permanent position was how gracefully she stepped into the role of interim superintendent last fall.

“You’re dealing with a political landscape, local and national. You’re dealing with 18 different schools, school leaders, lots of personalities, community partners and she just jumped in and went hard. She was always out there and learning from whomever she was talking to,” Alderton added.

Kay-Wyatt said as a product of public schools herself, she just wants to give back. She said during her primary education in public schools, she developed a passion and dedication to getting the work done.

Describing the past year as both challenging and rewarding, Kay-Wyatt said she said she looks to the 2023-24 school year with only two words to describe how she feels, “I’m honored and humbled.”