From Newport News Native to Superintendent

Dr. George Parker III shares his path towards education and the vision he sees for Newport News Public Schools


Laura Madler

The new Superintendent of Newport News discussed his educational policy and philosophy as an educator.

“If you had 30 seconds on the intercom at Menchville, what would you tell the students?”

“Good morning, Menchville Monarchs. This is the superintendent, Dr. Parker. I’m here to not only greet you this morning, but also tell you how special you are to me and my staff. We want to make every day at Menchville count for every student. I’ve had a lot of interaction with your staff and parents from Menchville so far, and there’s a lot of pride in this school. I think that pride goes a long way.”

This was the superintendent’s main message in his interview with the Lion’s Roar – emphasizing the unique qualities of every student and how the school system should be beneficial to them all. It’s a teaching philosophy that is woven throughout the superintendent’s own educational history, and now he has come to the Newport News Public School system with the intent to shape the schools with the same care and quality.

Dr. George Parker III was chosen as the new Superintendent of Newport News Public Schools in the spring of 2018. He left Caroline County, Virginia, where he was serving as Superintendent of the Caroline County Public School System. After three years living in the rural Caroline County, Dr. Parker noted how he enjoys being close to family and once again having “pretty much everything at your fingertips,” he said with a laugh. The new job has been a bit of a homecoming for the Tidewater native, who was born in Newport News and spent the formative years of his teaching career in the math department at Bayside High School in Virginia Beach.

The Superintendent wasn’t always in the education field, however. His career started in the navy before a temporary teaching job ultimately led him to discover his passion.

“When I graduated, I was commissioned in the navy for four years as a commissioned officer, and I didn’t want to do 20 years- I tried it and it wasn’t necessarily the career pathway for me. I tell students this all the time,” he said, “sometimes what you’re initially involved in, you may change your decision down the line. That was the case for me; I was a career switcher.”

He relayed his rather accidental journey to teaching, explaining, “I planned on going to law school or back to college, and a friend talked me into trying out teaching for a transition out of the military. So, I taught math for my first year and I fell in love with it. It turned out to be a good fit for where I was in that point of my life. Working with students seemed to be very enjoyable.”

Dr. Parker smiled and reflected on the journey- “Twenty-five years later I’m still doing it and I still have a passion for it, so I think I made a good decision.”

After so many years in education, the superintendent has developed his own educational philosophy, which he brings to every aspect of his career.

We should be focused on every child every day,

— Dr. George Parker III

“It’s a cliché for a lot of folks, but I do really believe sincerely that we should be focused on every child every day, and I mean that from the sense of equity. Our public school division has to work for all children; we have to make sure that we are equipped, committed, and well-trained to teach the students who we have- not the ones we want, but the ones we have.”

This idea of a dynamic educational system, built to address the needs of all students, is an idea Dr. Parker has adopted after his experience as both a teacher and a parent in the public school systems of Virginia. As a parent of three, he has realized how different kids learn in different ways, and how each may need unique factors to succeed. The experience of raising his son, now a senior in high school, in contrast to the schooling experience of his daughters, has particularly shaped how he views adaptable education.

“When he was in elementary school,” Dr. Parker commented, “I realized the importance of making sure that all kids can succeed. They’re not all alike, and some students will struggle a bit. And at that time, we, as adults in the school division, have to have the resources and the commitment to ensure that we’re providing the services and care in order for those students to be successful.”

Student success, however, sometimes relies heavily on factors that are hard for the school system to address. The Lion’s Roar asked Dr. Parker about staffing needs and teacher-sharing in schools, which has, in some cases, led to full-capacity class sizes and teachers working overload schedules.

“The key right now is to ensure that we continue to address class sizes in populations where we know we need smaller classes…we need to try for more opportunity for interaction with the teacher,” he said. The superintendent specifically pointed out entry-level high school classes, like Algebra I and English 9, that have been consistently hovering at capacity-level and could benefit from a smaller size.

Facilities can also be a major factor in student success. Learning a subject is a different experience when students have updated materials, as opposed to textbooks that are falling apart or were published before the students were born. Broken desks and school buildings in need of maintenance can contribute negatively to the overall learning environment, affecting students’ attitudes towards going to school and paying attention to their studies. On this issue, Dr. Parker praised the “excellent maintenance staff” of NNPS and their work for the schools. He did, however, note that increased funding for the public school system could help to refresh the facilities and learning materials for the students.

Finally, there is the issue of familiarity- breaking down the divide between students and the administration. It is not uncommon for there to be a clear disconnect between the students and the running of their schools. Social media and education groups like SAGE have eased this, but on the whole, most students in NNPS are unfamiliar with the people making the decisions that affect their education. Dr. Parker sees this problem being fixed through student leadership opportunities- “I think around major initiatives we need to build student leadership. We need to cultivate our future leaders.”

The superintendent continued, “I think the more we give opportunities for students to be leaders, the more they’ll interact with the leaders of their school,” thereby helping to bridge the divide between students and administration in the future.

Through the interview, Dr. Parker explained his approach to teaching and the vision he has for the school division in the future; he aims to build a public school system for the modern world, one that is built on dynamic learning and embracing the unique qualities of every student. Through observation of the city and schools across the system these past few months, there has been one uniting factor the superintendent believes will be key to his goals, and that is the Newport News community.

I think the people are what makes NNPS special.

— Dr. George Parker III

“I think that NN is special in that way, in that we really have a community supporting this school division,” he explained, reflecting on visits to the apprentice school, various STEM programs, and city events. “I’ve seen some good people, good teachers, good teaching, very good leadership, and the students who I’ve engaged with have been top-notch…I think the people are what makes NNPS special.”

With the support of the NNPS community, the Newport News native has returned home to lead, hoping to build a 21st-century school system that works for every child.