Dr. Ashby C. Kilgore ,superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, announced on Oct. 18 that she will retire in February 2018 after 10 years of service. Kilgore is the longest-serving superintendent of Newport News Public Schools since its consolidation with Warwick County Schools in 1958.
Kilgore will leave a lasting legacy with Newport News Public Schools. During her time, Newport News Public Schools’ on-time graduation rate reached a record high, jumping to 93.4 percent up from 72.9 percent in 2008. During the same time period, the dropout rate decreased from 12 percent in 2008 to 2.3 percent.
Kilgore established a national award-winning dropout prevention and recovery program a year after being appointed superintendent, which provides an array of services to help students graduate on time including online courses, summer learning opportunities, community-based education, graduation coaches and an evening high school program.
Kilgore also developed the Career Pathways initiative, connecting students to career exploration and development as early as preschool. She expanded the career and technical education options for students by opening the Governor’s STEM Academy at Heritage High School, the Governor’s Health Sciences Academy at Warwick High School and the Discovery STEM Academy. Now more than 70 career and technical education courses help prepare students to earn professional certifications. Because of this, Newport News Public Schools students earned 3,300 certifications (a 417 percent increase since 2007), during the 2016-2017 school year. In addition, she designed and launched the Early College program in partnership with Thomas Nelson Community College, which gives high school seniors the opportunity to earn up to 19 college credit hours.
Kilgore is the architect of the region’s first, public, day-long summer program for students. SPARK, the Summer Program for Arts, Recreation and Knowledge, serves nearly 7,000 students in kindergarten through high school during the summer. SPARK joins Newport News Public Schools with 30 corporate, non-profit, and city, state and federal partners to provide full-day instruction and enrichment activities. The program also provides the students with three meals and transportation without tuition costs. SPARK gained national recognition in 2016, when the program earned an award of excellence for innovative learning from the National School Boards Association.
An early leader in youth development, Kilgore established a comprehensive district-wide youth development initiative to assist students in growing their leadership, citizenship and teamwork skills. Service learning is now part of the curriculum in all grade levels. In addition, nearly 90 percent of students in Newport News Public Schools participate in a school club, activity or sport.
Under her leadership, The Newport News Agenda for Public Education was created to guide the school district’s future and evaluate student results. The Agenda established high expectations, rigorous content and persistent support for students and teachers. Through innovative teaching and learning, Kilgore has guided the school division’s efforts in increasing academic performance and opening doors to unique opportunities for all students.
Kilgore was named Virginia’s Region II Superintendent of the Year in 2011 and a 2012 Old Dominion University Darden College of Education Fellow in recognition of her career achievements. She is also the recipient of a 2016 Urban League of Hampton Roads Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Leader Award in Education, a 2015 Humanitarian Award presented by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, the 2014 Thomas Nelson Community College Medallion, the 2014 Distinguished Educational Leader Award presented by the C. Waldo Scott Center for H.O.P.E., and a 2011 Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award presented by the State Coalition for Justice for Civil Rights for contributions to education.
Kilgore’s 45-year career in public education began as a high school teacher. She subsequently served as a principal, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent. She has also served as an adjunct professor in educational leadership at Old Dominion University and The George Washington University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Old Dominion University, as well as a Doctorate in Educational Administration and Policy studies from The George Washington University.
Kilgore’s retirement will go into effect in mid-February, but her last day with Newport News Public Schools will be December 20, 2017. The Newport News School Board will name an interim superintendent before Kilgore’s departure.