Dr. Bernard Hairston, a National & State Leader on Educational Equity, to Retire as Assistant Superintendent for School Community Empowerment

Dr. Bernard Hairston, who joined Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) in 1992 as the associate principal of Western Albemarle High School and rose to become an assistant superintendent for the division, said this week he will retire on June 30.

Upon his appointment as Assistant Superintendent for School Community Empowerment in 2018, the school division’s superintendent, Dr. Matthew Haas, described Hairston as a “highly influential advocate for equal educational opportunity in our school division and in our region,” and added that Dr. Hairston “has developed programs that have brought more equity into our classrooms and, with that, higher academic achievement by students.”

Among programs championed by Hairston were the division’s first formal bullying prevention program when he was principal of Burley Middle School; our national award-winning M-Cubed program that increased the number of middle school black males who succeeded in advanced math classes; our partnership with the African American Teaching Fellows that brought more teachers of color to the division; and, since 2015, our award-winning culturally responsive teaching program that has lifted tests scores for students in all demographic groups. The latter received the state’s highest educational equity award in 2021.

Hairston, who has presented nationally on the success of culturally responsive teaching, said the program operates on the basis that, based on life experiences, students vary in how they learn and process information from teachers. “Our goal is to increase teacher awareness of these differences and to support them in developing the classroom strategies and techniques that turn these differences into assets for learning,” Hairston explained.

Scores on the state’s Standards of Learning (SOL) tests have increased for many students taught by teachers who have earned either a micro-credential or certification in the program designed by Hairston. Last year, the Albemarle County School Board approved a recommendation from the superintendent that all teachers earn a micro-credential or certification in culturally responsive teaching within three years for newly hired teachers and within five years for all other teachers.

Hairston’s equity leadership also encompassed the school board’s adoption of an anti-racism policy in 2019, making ACPS one of the first school divisions in the Commonwealth and the nation to do so. The assistant superintendent worked closely with students from the division’s high schools in drafting the policy and training requirements that reject all forms of racism as destructive to the mission, vision, values and goals of the school board and school division.

When Haas was appointed superintendent, he turned to Hairston to lead a series of meetings with more than 300 parents, teachers, students and staff to support the development of the superintendent’s initial strategic and operational plans for the division.

Outside the school division, Hairston served as the founding chapter president of the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia. The chapter, twice recognized by the national organization as its chapter of the year, has distributed well over $160,000 in scholarships to more than 170 students in nine Central Virginia public school divisions.

“My more than 40 years in education have gone by in the blink of an eye,” Hairston said this week. “I never dreamed as a young man that I would have the opportunity to work with so many outstanding professionals so strongly committed to positively impacting the lives of so many young people. My mother would be extremely proud,” he added.

In addition to the policy and programmatic changes he brought to the school division, Hairston’s influence on school division operations can be seen in accountability measures and tools he introduced to address historic opportunity and achievement gaps in public education. In addition to introducing and hosting annual equity conferences and an annual report, Hairston developed a policy checklist that is used by decision-makers in the division to ensure that all policies and programs are vetted from an equity lens to serve the academic, social and emotional interests of students in all demographic groups.

“What I most value about Dr. Hairston, having worked with him for nearly two decades, is his evidence-based, visionary and relentless efforts to push us to be better educators and leaders for all children,” Haas said. “The most solemn responsibility we have in public education is to ensure that every child, regardless of life circumstances, reaches their highest potential. As a matter of conscience, Dr. Hairston has kept us focused on this mission. He has always placed students first as a way to ensure they maximize their skills,” Haas added.

Hairston received his undergraduate degree from Norfolk State University, and through a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, he earned his master's degree from Virginia State University. He later developed curriculum resources that integrated space technology and industrial arts curricula in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education and Virginia State University. Hairston was recognized as Virginia’s Industrial Arts Teacher of the Year within his first four years as a teacher, and he completed his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) from Virginia Tech while working as an academic advisor and financial aid administrator.

Prior to his service as an ACPS administrator, Hairston was an administrator for the Roanoke City and Spotsylvania County public school systems. He was also an adjunct instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College, where he taught a number of students who later became teachers in the county.

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