Richneck Elementary will have new leadership, including principal, director for crisis planning and response – The Virginian-Pilot | #schoolsaftey

NEWPORT NEWS – Richneck Elementary will have new leadership next year.

During a Tuesday special meeting, the Newport News School Board approved several new hires and appointments, including a new principal and assistant principal at Richneck. The board also named a new executive director of crisis planning, prevention and response and a director of school safety. Both are new positions.

Jacky Barber will serve as Richneck’s new principal, and Rhonda Chambers-Harmon will take the assistant principal role. Barber has been with the division for more than 20 years, and is currently a principal at Sedgefield Elementary. Chambers-Harmon has been with the division since 2007 and is currently assistant principal at Stoney Run Elementary.

Former Richneck Principal Briana Foster-Newton was removed after the Jan. 6 shooting of first-grade teacher Abigail Zwerner. She remains employed by the division but has not been re-assigned. Assistant Principal Ebony Parker resigned shortly after the shooting.

Zwerner was shot by a 6-year-old student in her classroom. The school’s administration was criticized after the shooting for its response to warnings that the boy had a gun. Zwerner has filed a $40 million lawsuit against the school board and has named Foster-Newton and Parker among the defendants. Zwerner’s attorney has said that Parker ignored at least three warnings that the student had a gun.

The school has been under the leadership of Karen Lynch, a longtime Newport News administrator, since the shooting.

The Richneck shooting, as well as two previous shootings at two of the division’s high schools, led the board to re-evaluate its safety procedures. Weapons detection units were installed at all schools this spring and 40 security officer positions were added.

On Tuesday, the board named Robert Stewart Jr. as the division’s executive director of crisis planning, prevention and response. Stewart, who has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement, is currently the unit chief of the Evidence Response Team Program at the Federal Bureau of Investigations. He will begin his role with Newport News schools next month, with a salary of $140,000.

The board also named Carl Murray Jr. as the director of school safety, with a salary of $112,500. He is currently the school safety coordinator for Albemarle County Public Schools.

Both Stewart and Murray have ties to Newport News. Stewart previously worked for the Newport News Police Department. Murray is a native of Newport News and attended city schools.


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