Prince William schools superintendent receives contract extension, pay bump

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Dr. LaTonya McDade, superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools, urges graduates to maximize their potential in the days ahead during Woodbridge High School commencement of the class of 2022 at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax in June. (Photo by Paul Lara)

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The Prince William County School Board announced Thursday that it voted unanimously to extend Superintendent LaTanya McDade’s four-year contract for an additional year, into the summer of 2026.

McDade was hired last year to replace Steve Walts, coming to Prince William from Chicago, where she held the third-ranking position in Chicago Public Schools. She faced a historically eventful first year on the job, with PWCS returning to full in-person learning for most students for the first time since March 2020. Teacher shortages worsened and bus driver shortages wreaked havoc on the division’s transportation services in the early days, and a new wave of COVD infections brought new highs in the number of students and faculty quarantining. All the while, students and teachers were navigating a tremendous amount of learning loss from virtual schooling during the worst of the pandemic that sent standardized test scores and grades falling dramatically.

McDade made it a point to visit all 96 PWCS school buildings during her first 100 days on the job.

“It allowed her to get a real on-the-ground insight into each school, each department, the division, how it runs and what kinds of improvements she’d like to see happen,” School Board Chair Babur Lateef told InsideNoVa. “I don’t think, to my knowledge, she took a real vacation all year. She might have had a few days off, but she worked nonstop.”

McDade also quickly made her mark on the institutional direction of the school system. Shortly after the start of the school year, her administration adopted the “Launching Thriving Futures” unfinished learning plan, detailing how American Rescue Plan Act money would be used for increasing tutoring, math coaches and more in an effort to help students who’d fallen behind over the pandemic make up ground. The division then drafted and finalized its four-year strategic plan, setting lofty goals for student achievement while increasing the 90,000-student division’s emphasis on post-graduation preparedness, pre-professional training and reading and math achievement.

Finally, in the spring, the School Board adopted McDade’s first budget, which provided for record pay raises and staffing increases. Speaking with InsideNoVa, Lateef also pointed out that she spent the whole school year without a formal deputy. Last month, the division announced that Carol Flenard – most recently the interim superintendent for Spotsylvania County Public Schools – would take over the second-ranking position in PWCS, a full year after it was vacated.

McDade, whose salary started at $310,000, gets an automatic raise equal to the average staff raise, which this year was 7%. By Virginia law, school superintendent contracts can’t be longer than four years, the length of McDade’s.

“The School Board generally believes, very resoundingly, that she exceeded all expectations. We got more than we asked for,” Lateef said. “Many of us were just really impressed with her commitment to in-person education and her commitment to making up the gaps and the learning losses that happened due to the pandemic. We’re not there yet, but she has been committed to doing that and we’ve made some progress.”

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