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Jackson honored, praised as he leaves county schools
On Wednesday, his next to the last day as Henry County School superintendent, Anthony Jackson reflected on his tenure here. He is shown in his office, which had been cleaned out and packed in anticipation of his departure today. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
By DEBBIE HALL AND PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writers
Today is Anthony Jackson's last day as superintendent of Henry County Schools.
He was honored Wednesday night during a reception at Piedmont Arts Association. There, an estimated crowd of about 100 people watched as H.G. Vaughn, vice chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors, gave Jackson a plaque.
During his remarks to the crowd and in an interview, Vaughn said Jackson has been an outstanding superintendent. Vaughn said he was especially pleased with Jackson's working relationship with the board of supervisors.
For instance, Vaughn said, Jackson worked with the supervisors in tough budget years to make choices the least painful as possible.
Jackson joined the Henry County Schools in July 2009. Last month, he announced that he had accepted the superintendent's post in the Nash-Rocky Mount, N.C., school division and would leave Henry County at the end of July.
When you have a good and ambitious person, "it's hard to hold on to him," Vaughn said. He told Jackson, "Certainly no one wants to hold you back."�
"The Henry County School System will be a better place because of the short time we had him ... ," Vaughn added.
Other supervisors echoed Vaughn's comments at the reception. Reed Creek District Supervisor Tommy Slaughter, Iriswood District Supervisor Milton Kendall and Blackberry District Supervisor Jim Adams all noted that there has been a good working relationship between the supervisors and the school system under Jackson.
Jackson also has worked well with the community, Slaughter said, and the schools' use of technology has improved under his leadership.
"Everybody thinks the world of him," Slaughter added.
"He's done a good job. I wish him well," Kendall said.
Adams said Jackson has "been a good communicator with the board" of supervisors. For instance, one of the toughest issues the supervisors face is developing budgets, and after the supervisors would tell "our side," Jackson would ask what the school system could do without burdening taxpayers, Adams said.
"I think Henry County will miss him," Adams added.
Kathy Rogers, chairman of the Henry County School Board, said in an interview, "I think he's been incredible for us." He has reached out to stakeholders in the community, including the board of supervisors, economic developers and the faith-based community, she said.
She said he has moved the school system forward, and she hopes that momentum keeps going.
Betsy Mattox, who represents the Reed Creek District on the Henry County School Board, said Jackson brought the community together and improved technology, course offerings and other opportunities for students. "We're going to miss him," she said.
Pastor Carl Keith of CrossPoint Church said Jackson supports faith-based organizations volunteering in schools and helped enable CrossPoint to have volunteers at Stanleytown Elementary School and Bassett High School.
"I think he's done an excellent job," Keith said.
Jackson told the audience that he enjoyed working in Henry County and hopes he left the school system better than he found it. He added that his goal is to lead with confidence but be humble to serve.
Any progress made during his time here has been with the help of others, Jackson said.
"We've done it together. It's not about me," he said, thanking people for their support of the school system.
"I'm just absolutely humbled by the experience and opportunity," he said in an interview. "Any success I have will be tied back to here."�
Earlier Wednesday, Jackson reflected on his time in Henry County. His philosophy does not allow for regrets, he said.
"I believe you give 100 percent every day. If at the end of the day, you're questioning, then you didn't give 100 percent," he said. "I feel I listened, stayed focused on collectively those things that were important for children ... and we bore fruit."�
"We have served children well" and succeeded in areas including communications with various sectors of the community, ensuring youngsters continued to perform in difficult times and investing in infrastructure, Jackson said.
For instance, the Virginia Department of Education in March awarded $3.4 million in bonds to the county school division to pay for upgrades to the heating and air conditioning system at Magna Vista High School and to replace roofs at John Redd Smith and Sanville elementary schools, according to previous reports.
Staff development also was a focus, and the school division spent some of its Title 1 federal stimulus funds to allow 42 teachers to participate in the certification process for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, previous reports stated.
The county division also made significant investments in technology, including launching a nationally recognized iPad initiative, and Jackson helped support the expansion of Advanced Placement programs and alternative options for at-risk students as well as implement virtual courses, according to previous reports.
During his tenure, the division has received national, state and local distinctions. The county's 14 schools achieved full accreditation and 93 percent made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The school division as a whole also made AYP.
The division was one of only eight in Virginia to receive the 2011 Virginia Board of Education Excellence Award.
Jackson led the division through the development of a strategic plan and to prioritize shrinking resources to ensure that expenses were aligned with priorities.