You've heard of William J. Burkholder, superintendent of Fairfax County's massive public school system -- the largest in the metropolitan area, the 10th largest in the country, with 124,000 students and 7,000 classroom teachers.

But have you heard of Robert C. Russell, the other Fairfax school superintendent? He's a grandfather and a bagpipe player, with a crew cut so bushy and distinctive that he uses it as a logo on his calling card.

He's also part-time superintendent of the smallest school district in the state, with no students, no teachers and only a secretary on his Fairfax City schools staff.

"If he just has himself and a secretary, there wouldn't be anything smaller than that, that's for sure," said Harry Smith, a spokesman for the state Department of Education.

The Fairfax City school system that Russell, 55, oversees, doesn't exist in the traditional sense because the city contracts with the county to educate its 3,691 public schoolchildren.

This means that the county -- not Russell -- is responsible for hiring French and chemistry teachers, offering English and math programs, scheduling school buses and dishing up cafeteria food.

"I don't think that people ought to have the impression that his [Russell's] job is one that has no right to exist," Burkholder said. "Because, surely, there are things that he is responsible for in the city system that do take a great deal of his time and effort."

Russell took the $28,000-a-year job last spring after retiring with 29 years as a county school teacher and administrator, including 11 years as principal of Robinson Secondary School, which has more than 4,000 students. Russell gets about $40,000 a year in retirement pay for his years as a teacher and principal.

"Sure, I miss being with the kids," he said. "But this is an absolutely wonderful part-time position. I was about to retire, and I realized I didn't just want to disappear from the school business. So when this opportunity came up, I jumped at it."

Now, he works in a Fairfax City office that looks more like a home, with big trees in the yard, a fireplace behind the desk and a box of gingersnaps stashed in the second drawer.

"I have lived in this city for 30 years," he said. "It's really the best of both worlds. We have the intimacy of a small town and the sophistication of one of the largest school systems in the country."

With his five-member School Board, he oversees the city's $10.8 million annual school budget, nearly $10 million of which goes directly to Fairfax County for its contractual services.

He also supervises major capital improvements to the four elementary schools, one intermediate school and one high school within the city limits and which the city owns.

This year, for example, the Layton Hall Elementary School will get a $500,000 addition and the Westmore Elementary School a $200,000 addition.

A big part of his superintendency, Russell said, is public relations -- working as a liaison between the city and county, answering parents' questions and helping to solve problems.

"There's a good measure of communication, whether we're trying to close a school, as we had to do a while back, or work on boundary adjustments, or work on renovations to our schools," said George T. Snyder Jr., mayor of Fairfax City and former chairman of the city School Board.

"If [parents in Fairfax City] have a textbook concern, or a concern about an employe -- we work with them on those things," agreed Fairfax County School Board Chairman Mary E. Collier.

Russell's job dates to 1961, when the town of Fairfax acquired city status and became a separate school division under Virginia law.

Although the city decided to have the county educate its children, the state required the city to have a superintendent and a School Board, said Smith, of the state Department of Education.

A similar situation exists in Bedford, Va., where Superintendent Earl Savage has no teachers or students, either, because Bedford contracts with Bedford County to educate its children.

Said Savage of Russell: "We'll probably run into each other at a meeting down the road, and then we can commiserate."

Russell said he still misses his Robinson students -- "It's like your whole family grew up and left home the same day," he said -- but he doesn't want Savage's sympathy.

Among other things, the part-time superintendency gives him time to play his bagpipes and his fiddle.

"He's always looking for a way to improve something, rather than tear something down," said Janice M. Miller, Fairfax City School Board chairman. "So he's just a delight to work with."