Dr. Olwen Herron’s ’09 (School of Education) passion for students is making a measurable difference in the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools in Virginia. After careful consideration, Herron was selected to serve as superintendent of the Williamsburg James City County Public Schools system. After serving as acting superintendent, she is continuing her work making a quality education accessible to every student.
“We have a fast-growing English-learner population,” said Herron. “We want to make sure they’re successful. We have a growing special education population, and increasing diversity in general. I think as we change the system, we have to be prepared to continue to meet the needs of all students. One passion of mine is to reduce those achievement gaps that currently exist.”
Herron and her administrative team examine data to find these gaps and use research-based strategies to remove barriers from students’ learning. This has led her team to place high priority on early literacy for all students, regardless of economic background. Each month, she updates the school board about what groups of students are facing challenges, and what is being done to address equity in education.
“We’ve been very strategic in telling our story by what we’re doing and what we still need to do,” said Herron. “I’m driven to make a difference for students, and one of the ways we do that is by creating the capacity and skillset in adults to make that happen.”
A teacher at heart, Herron spent 18 years in the classroom, both in Ireland and Tulsa, Oklahoma. She moved up through the ranks of leadership, and worked in Virginia Beach overseeing professional development, and their leadership development program. She expanded her education by earning a doctorate at Regent, focusing on adult education.
“Regent deepened my understanding and knowledge of how to build a capacity in people to be successful,” said Herron. “It fed into a passion I have already and was using in my current job at that time. One of the key things that motivates me is really that talent management, that development of talent, that giving the people tools they need to be successful.”
Herron’s dissertation explored the issue of trust in the superintendency, whether it was competency or relationship based. Through her research at Regent, she discovered the importance of competency, but also having an engaged superintendent, which inspired her to build strong, trusting relationships in an organization.
“I feel equipped for it,” said Herron. “I’ve been prepared for this moment and time in my career, and I could say that God has prepared me for such a time as this.”
Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools is home to 15 schools, more than 11,000 students, 900 instructional staff, and 700 support staff. Before assuming her new role, Herron served as deputy superintendent in the district since 2012.