Following a nationwide search, the Loudoun County School Board on Tuesday found the division’s next superintendent was already in the job.
After serving as interim superintendent since Jan. 1, Scott A. Ziegler was selected by a unanimous School Board vote.
He served as the assistant superintendent for Human Resources and Talent Development before being tapped as the interim superintendent in January, following the departure of Eric Williams who took a job leading a school district near Houston, TX.
In announcing the choice, School Board members praised his leadership in returning students to the classroom following months of debate over whether that could be accomplished during the pandemic, among other leadership qualities.
“Consider where we were on January 1, and where we are now, the difference is really clear,” Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) said.
During his first month on the job, Ziegler hatched a plan to return students to classrooms. After nearly a year of strife from parents, students were able to return to classroom learning four days a week.
“We had facts, we had figures, we went back and forth, but we could not make a decision, until you stepped in. Not only stepping up to be interim superintendent, but making a profound decision that impacted the lives of our students,” Jeff Morse (Dulles) told Ziegler.
Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn) echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve seen him come into this role, save us, open up Loudoun County. I’m looking forward to his leadership,” Mahedavi said.
John Beatty (Catoctin) pointed to an example of Ziegler’s problem-solving. In January, he recommended buying desk shields to reduce COVID transmission in classrooms.
“I appreciated that youwere trying something. Just that you tried something. It was a small thing, but that is just one of many things youbring to the position,” Beatty said.
While dealing with pandemic would typically be a career-defining challenge for most people, Ziegler’s biggest challenges may still be ahead of him. County parents remain at odds about cultural issues, including the School Board’s equity work.
“After almost six months on the job, Dr. Ziegler has shown us what it means to be a strong leader in communication, tough decision-making, and providing empathetic and respectful learning environment for all—the mission of LCPS,” Beth Barts (Leesburg) said.
“To our community, I thank you. I have heard your feedback loud and clear. I will continue to keep that communication going,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler said he had three goals when he took over in the interim role: to return students to in-person learning, to improve communications with the staff and parents, and to amplify student voices.
“We have been successful, if not perfect in all of those,” he said.
He expressed optimism to the community, saying that the coronavirus crisis is nearly over. He praised teachers and students for overcoming the challenges presented over the past year, while acknowledging that there is still much work to be done.
“Our students are hurting. They are experiencing racism and hatred in our buildings, and we need to take steps to mitigate that,” he said.
He also pointed to several of his initiatives to help students return to normalcy after the pandemic, including a student mental health task force, that was created last week.
Ziegler will be paid $295,000 in the first year of his four-year contract, which is the maximum amount of time Virginia state law permits for a superintendent to serve at one time. The new contract will begin July 1 and expire on June 30, 2025. He will be entitled to a salary increase, approved by the School Board, each subsequent year that he receives a “proficient” performance rating. He will also receive $12,000 year in vehicle expenses. He will be able to terminate the contract within four months of giving written notice to the board.
Ziegler came to school division in 2019 to take the top HR position. He began his career teaching special education at Portsmouth Public Schools in 1992. He went on to become an assistant principal within the Portsmouth school division.
He holds a doctorate of education from Northwest Nazarene University and is the 11th superintendent in the 104-year history of the school division history.