It was a rainy Monday when former Fairfax County school superintendent William J. Burkholder first drove to his new job in Richmond, and he found out there was one feature of Northern Virginia he could not leave behind.
The roads from the Richmond suburbs were jammed. His commute to his new post as deputy state school superintendent for administration, assessment and field services took an hour.
"Traffic can be a problem here," said "Jack" Burkholder, who said he has since reduced the drive time to 40 or 45 minutes. "Nothing like Northern Virginia, though."
Burkholder, 56, retired July 1 after 29 years with the Fairfax County schools, the last three as superintendent. He began work full time in November at his $60,981-a-year state post, for which he was selected over 11 applicants.
He is responsible for the state's required-testing program for students, its management information service, its review of local compliance with state standards, and the two state schools for the deaf and blind.
He took on an unexpected responsibility: testifying before the General Assembly last week on a proposed "no pass/no play" bill that would require high school students to attain minimum grades to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities. Burkholder said at a hearing on the bill that the state Board of Education favored local option on the issue.
Another issue facing him is a plan to revamp the state's required testing program for students. Virginia is considering developing an examination that combines the required achievement tests with a minimum competency exam that students must pass to graduate from high school.
One of his missions will be to encourage more business and industry support for the schools, but Burkholder said he has not had time to work on that because of the press of General Assembly business.
He frequently sees Fairfax school officials; three of them attended the no pass/no play hearing at which he testified last week.
So far, there is no conflict between his job's statewide focus and the positions he took on issues in Fairfax County, he said.
The Burkholders sold their house in Fairfax County and built a new one in Chesterfield County, about 15 miles outside Richmond. They moved in Jan. 10.
They return to Northern Virginia often to visit their daughter, and they go back two Saturday nights a month to their bridge clubs.
"I really do miss Northern Virginia," Burkholder said. "We have a host of friends there."
One aspect of Northern Virginia life Burkholder does not miss: the hours. "The days are not that different as far as being in the office . . . busy every minute," he said. "But the major difference is that when I leave the office I go home and I'm home. I don't have to swallow a sandwich and rush off to a meeting, come home, work two or three hours and go to bed."
Burkholder keeps up with county school news; he knows the School Board is in the middle of its contentious budget deliberations.
"I just sit back," he said, "and say, 'Good luck.' "