New superintendent Graham lands dream job

Robert Graham (left) uses “Freddie the Frog” to interview Pierson Prioleau, a former football player for Virginia Tech and the NFL, when Graham was principal at McHarg Elementary School. (Photo courtesy of the Graham family)

RADFORD — After more than two decades in education, Robert Graham has landed his dream job, being named Superintendent of Radford City Schools.

Graham, who has served as assistant superintendent for the past five years, was unanimously voted in as superintendent by the school board on July 1 following a Virginia School Board Association-led search that yielded 24 candidates, with six finalists interviewed by the board.

A vote on Graham’s starting salary of $117,000 and a two-year contract passed 3-2 with Board Chairman Ken Alderman, Vice Chairman Lynn Burris and Board Member Adam DeVries voting in favor of the motion. Board Members Jessie Critterton and Carl Mitchell voted against the motion.

Following the vote, Graham received a standing ovation from most of the approximately 50 people on-hand for the meeting, which was held at McHarg Elementary School.

“We had very good candidates, but Rob fit the bill,” said Alderman following the meeting. “Mr. Graham will move the school system forward.”

It is a desire to impact the lives of children that Graham says led him down his career path.

“I became a teacher because I’ve always wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of children,” he said. “Ever since my first teaching job, I felt like I could make the greatest positive impact on children as as school superintendent. It has been my goal for the longest time to become a school superintendent and to be selected as the next superintendent of this outstanding school system is an honor.”

3_hoops: Rob Graham (52) played basketball for Radford High School before graduating in 1987.
Rob Graham (52) played basketball for Radford High School before graduating in 1987.

Throughout the superintendent search process, community members, school faculty and staff members and parents addressed the school board in support of Graham. A running theme to those words of support was Graham’s absolute care for individual students, for sensing what a child needed and trying to help, through guidance, a ride home, a meal or words of encouragement. Some staffers were moved to tears when describing ways they have seen Graham reach out to students.

Graham began his career in 1992 in Lynchburg at Brookville Middle School, where he was a computer science teacher, as well as head junior varsity basketball coach and assistant varsity basketball coach. He moved on to Dogwood Elementary School in Reston, teaching health and physical education. At Dogwood he saw students in need, financially and otherwise, and he developed and supervised a student mentor/volunteer program providing help for those students. Graham also developed a wellness program to help faculty, staff and parents to improve their physical fitness on mornings before school. Graham also worked at Navy Elementary School and Westbriar Elementary School, both in the City of Fairfax, where he taught physical education and was an administrative intern during his work on his Ed.S. in School Administration and Supervision from the University of Virginia.

A 1987 graduate of Radford High School, Graham returned to his roots in 2003, making his home in Radford and working for Pulaski County Schools, where he served as assistant principal of Dublin Middle School, principal of the Pulaski County Pre-K program and then Coordinator of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for Pulaski County Schools. Graham said it was the Radford City School system that led him back home.

“In 2003, my wife, Kris, and I moved from Fairfax County to Radford so our children could be a part of this wonderful school division,” Graham said in remarks released by the school division regarding his appointment.

Graham became principal of McHarg School in Radford in 2006, serving in that role for four years before heading to the central office to serve as assistant superintendent for five years, with stints as acting superintendent. Graham said he is looking forward to the newest chapter in his career.

“Words cannot describe how excited and thrilled I am to be the new superintendent of schools in Radford,” he said. “I am grateful for the support I have received from the Board, faculty and staff, Radford community and my family. I look forward to working with everyone to reach our vision of ‘Excellence in Education, Every Student, Every Day’.”

Graham takes over the job of superintendent from Dr. Becky Greer, who retired June 30 after five years with Radford City Schools. Graham is currently earning his doctoral degree in Education Leadership from East Tennessee University. He has a bachelor’s degree in education from Emory and Henry College, where he also served as captain of the basketball and tennis teams. He has a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from George Mason University. He and his wife have three children: Logan, Madison and Sophie.