LOW MOOR — Sherman Callahan has been appointed acting superintendent of Alleghany County schools.

The school board approved the appointment Monday during a called meeting. Final approval is contingent upon contract negotiations between Callahan and the school board.

Callahan became the school division’s director of elementary instruction in July 2019. He served as principal of Sharon Elementary School for 10 years before his promotion to the central office.

Callahan will serve until a permanent replacement is  found for former superintendent Gene Kotulka, who retired Sept. 30 after five years at the helm.

The school board approved funding Monday to initiate the search process for a superintendent. The search will be coordinated through the Virginia School Boards Association at a cost of approximately $7,900.

The search comes as Alleghany County and Covington are in discussions about creating a joint school division. Under a plan approved by each locality’s governing bodies last month, the school divisions will merge administratively in 2022. Students will begin attending the joint division in 2024.

“It’s not a given who our superintendent will be in a merged school system,” said Jacob Wright, chairman of the Alleghany County School Board.

Wright also chairs a Joint School Services Committee that crafted the merger plan.

Gina Patterson, executive director of the Virginia School Boards Association, said the merger will create a unique situation for Alleghany County in its superintendent search.

Under Virginia law, a superintendent must initially be appointed for a minimum of two years. The maximum contract a school board can offer to a new superintendent is four years.

“That makes that a little bit interesting,” Patterson said of the county’s search during the merger process.

“It’s important to be up front in the position announcement,” she said.

State law gives the county 180 days to appoint a superintendent, unless an extension is granted by the Virginia Department of Education. The 180-day timeframe began on Oct. 1.

Law requires a candidate hold a Virginia superintendent’s license or meet qualifications to receive a license.

The school board will begin the search process by seeking public input. The community will be allowed to participate in a survey through Oct. 27. A public hearing will be held on Oct. 20 during the board’s regular business meeting at Callaghan Elementary School.

The survey is  available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/AlleghanySearch and on the home page of the division website. 

Hard copies of the survey will be available at the Central Office Complex, at each school, and at the two public libraries. Hard copies can be completed and mailed to: Lorie Bess,  Alleghany County Public Schools, 100 Central Circle, Low Moor, Va. 24457.

“We are asking our community to please take a few minutes to fill out the survey so we can compile a list of qualities they would like to see in our next superintendent,” Wright said. “Finding a superintendent who  is a great fit for our students, our community and our staff is the number one priority for the Alleghany County School Board.”

Calllahan was named acting superintendent by a 5-0 vote Monday. Donnie Kern, the school board’s Clifton Forge West representative, abstained from voting.

A resident of Daleville in Botetourt County, Callahan joined Alleghany County schools in 1995 after graduating from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in education.

He taught physical education on the elementary-school level before moving to Clifton Middle School in 2002. He transferred to CMS after receiving a master’s degree in administration and supervision.

Callahan is a native of Alleghany and he is married to Lindsey Ward Callahan, who is a news anchor for WSLS TV in Roanoke.

“I just want to keep us going in the right direction and not have any confusion going on. It’s going to be a bumpy year-and-a-half,” Callahan said in reference to the merger transition.

“Mr. Callahan’s friendly nature, easy-going personality and his ‘team approach’ to decision making is something the board feels is very important as we make our way through these unprecedented times,” Wright said.

“We feel very confident in our outstanding team at the school board office and we feel this appointment will only strengthen the education opportunities for our students in the Alleghany Highlands,” he added.