The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Stafford names new schools’ chief
The head of a school division in the Eastern Shore will take over Stafford County schools in April.
W. Bruce Benson, who now leads the Accomack County Public Schools, was hired Thursday night by the Stafford County School Board, ending a five-month search for a new leader.
Benson will lead the Accomack school division through the budget season before starting his job as superintendent of Stafford schools.
He began his education career in 1983 as a science teacher with Franklin City Public Schools in Virginia. He later served as a technology coordinator in Franklin and a director of curriculum and an assistant superintendent in Albemarle County before taking the superintendent spot at Accomack in 2011.
“I’m a superintendent, but I’m a teacher first,” Benson said. “My heart will always be in the classroom.”
School Board member Nanette Kidby said that more than 50 people applied for the position to lead Stafford schools. The search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates narrowed that pool to about 10 people and board members interviewed three candidates before choosing Benson.
Benson stood out because of his educational philosophy, Kidby said.
“He has an amazing vision that takes you right to the classroom level,” she said. “It just lines up so well with what we want in Stafford County for our students. It’s a perfect fit.”
Benson’s passion for technology and education made an impression on School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Johnson.
Benson said that he once considered leaving the education field to pursue a career in computer science but then decided to combine his love of teaching with his interest in technology. Merging the two isn’t just about giving kids the latest gadgets, he said.
“A device never changed teaching,” Benson said.
But the right tools could help students learn in innovative ways, he added.
Benson also talked about wanting to make sure that instruction wasn’t driven by standardized tests and instead focused on critical thinking skills which would prepare students for the future.
“Life is not a multiple-choice test,” he said.
According to its website, Accomack has 5,200 students in 11 schools. That compares to 27,229 students in 30 schools in Stafford.
When he starts in April, Benson will earn $200,000 a year, according to his contract with Stafford schools. He will also receive other benefits, such as a car allowance of $670 a month and up to $10,000 in moving expenses.
The contract does stipulate that Benson relocate to Stafford within six months of starting the job.
Benson said that he and his wife, a nurse, are looking forward to living in Stafford. Avid runners, the pair are hoping to find some good trails to train for races.
School Board members specifically sought someone who would bring his or her family to Stafford, after the last superintendent left early to return to his family in North Carolina.
“My wife and I very much want to become part of the community,” Benson said.
Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973