BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – A familiar face in local education will soon become the superintendent for Washington County, Virginia Public Schools.
Dr. Keith Perrigan was announced as the new superintendent at a Washington County Board of Education meeting on Monday.
Perrigan is currently the superintendent for neighboring Bristol, Virginia Public Schools.
He will take over for the retiring Washington County Superintendent Dr. Brian Ratliff.
News Channel 11 spoke with Perrigan at his Bristol office about his new position and his goals for Washington County Schools.
Although Perrigan has been with Bristol, Virginia Public Schools for six and a half years, he has almost two decades of experience with Washington County, Virginia Public Schools.
He was a teacher, assistant principal and principal at Abingdon High School, assistant principal at John Battle High School and a principal at Patrick Henry High School prior to taking the Bristol job.
“Having that previous experience and knowledge of Washington County, I think will certainly help me along the way,” Perrigan said. “Coming back to Washington County Public Schools is really a homecoming for me.”
Perrigan will run a school district that has more schools and students spread out over a larger geographical area than Bristol, Virginia.
He said he tries to be as active as possible in school events, but that becomes a bit more difficult in the larger district.
“To try to spread myself over 15 schools, four high schools, four middle schools, I think that is going to be a challenge,” Perrigan said. “I’m just going to have to schedule very strategically and do as much as I can to support every community.”
Perrigan said the top issue he wants to address is staff retention and recruitment.
He said the district needs to be a desirable place to work compared to other area districts.
“We’ve got to work on having compensation raised in all areas whether it be for teachers, support staff, administrators,” Perrigan said “If you want to have a great school division, you’ve got to recruit and retain the best people.”
But he also wants to build a work environment that makes people want to stay with the district.
“You also have to look at the working conditions that you have,” Perrigan said. “It’s not just about creating good salaries and good benefits. It’s about creating an environment where people want to come to work every day.”
As for facilities, Perrigan said Washington County, Virginia Public Schools has done a good job maintaining its buildings, but there is more care that needs to be done.
“There’s actually some building projects that have started now and some that are on the way,” Perrigan said. “Washington County, I don’t think, is in need of building a new school like we were here in Bristol, but certainly to take care of the existing buildings is going to be a priority.”
In addition to his prior work in Washington County, Perrigan also has plenty of experience leading rural school districts.
He is the founder of the Coalition of Small and Rural Schools of Virginia, something that can bring benefit to Washington County and across Southwest Virginia schools.
“Our shared voice certainly gives us more impact when things are going on in Richmond,” Perrigan said. “Whether it be school construction funding or increasing at-risk add-on funding or even enrollment loss funding, bringing those 80 school divisions together has certainly helped rural school divisions have more equitable funding.”
With the transition process underway, Perrigan said he wants feedback from students, teachers, parents and other involved parties.
“The best thing that I can do is hear from a large number of stakeholders, gather that information together, work with the new board to develop goals,” Perrigan said.
Perrigan will assume the position on July 1.
He said he has offered to help the school board with the search for Bristol, Virginia’s next superintendent.