US Assistant Secretary of Education extols Rappahannock’s strides in education

During his visit last Thursday, US Assistant Secretary of Education Frank Brogan applauded Rappahannock County Public Schools for being “probably the northernmost schools in the state of Virginia that are reopened in a traditional model.”

Superintendent Shannon Grimsley escorted Secretary Brogan on tours of both high and elementary schools, visiting classrooms to observe the new COVID-19 safety protocols and even popping his head into the high school library to exclaim to the librarian, “I like your school!”

High School Principal Jimmy Swindler and Elementary School Principal Lisa Gates showed the secretary how they have managed to resume math classes, welding classes, health classes, seminars, and usage of the schools’ “neuronasiums,” spaces where students can go to use exercise equipment and stimulate their bodies and brains in class. 

County Administrator Garrey Curry, County Supervisors Debbie Donehey, Christine Smith and Keir Whitson, and School Board Chair Wes Mills also accompanied Secretary Brogan on the tour, as well as Rappahannock’s representative to the Virginia House of Delegates, Michael Webert. 

“You will not find a more dedicated team than this one,” Webert said. “Every penny is utilized immensely to benefit the students … that’s why I never miss an opportunity to come to Rappahannock.”

This visit is a first for the Assistant Secretary since the beginning of the pandemic. “We had to stop visiting schools in March and it broke my heart,” Brogan said, adding that visiting schools like RCPS is the best part of his job. 

Brogan’s team selected RCPS because the district was within driving distance of D.C. and furthermore because the schools “not only managed to reopen, but reopened successfully. ” 

“We looked for schools where people are doing it differently … and getting positive results,” Brogan said. “It is so impressive what you have done here.”

Throughout the tour, faculty and staff emphasized the importance of teamwork and commended the RCPS leadership team for its support. “I would say we all drank the Shannon juice and got pumped up for school,” said Karen Sanborn, RCHS’s Executive Assistant to the Principal. 

“Yes, indeed,” said Secretary Brogan. “Cheerleader in Chief!” 

At the end of the tours, Secretary Brogan and Dr. Grimsley held a roundtable discussion with administrators, faculty, parents and students to discuss RCPS’s reopening success.

“I just want you to know, when I get back to D.C., I’ve got a story to tell about Rappahannock and what I’ve seen during this visit,” Brogan said. “Because … what I think Rappahannock has done is find a beautiful blend to give everybody … opportunities to make decisions in terms of how their child — or children — will go into the 2020 school year. So I commend you.” 

Brogan said he was not sure where the next school visit will take him, but he has his sights set on schools in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

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