The superintendent of Virginia’s fifth-largest school system is becoming the state’s public schools chief.
James Lane, who leads Chesterfield County’s schools, was appointed state superintendent of public instruction Thursday by Gov. Ralph Northam (D). Northam said Lane’s experience as a superintendent, school administrator and teacher have given him a “deep grounding” in education.
“I want Virginia to be a state where every child, every person, in every community, has access to opportunity, and that includes the opportunity for a great education,” Northam said in a news release. “I believe Dr. Lane is the person to carry out that commitment and ensure that Virginia’s students are getting the best education in the nation.”
Lane, who has been superintendent of the suburban school system outside Richmond since 2016, previously was superintendent in Goochland County and Middlesex County, according to the release.
Lane said in an email that he looks forward to helping bring high-quality opportunities to students across the state. He said he plans to emphasize early-childhood education and workforce preparation.
“Every student, no matter what Zip code they live in or what challenges they may face, should have a high-quality teacher, rigorous course work and a hands-on, engaging and safe learning environment,” he said.
During his time in Chesterfield, a system that educates nearly 61,000 students, Lane said, the district has focused on equity and on serving children’s emotional and social needs. More than 98 percent of the district’s schools were fully accredited by the state for the 2017-2018 school year.
John Erbach, chairman of the Chesterfield School Board, said Lane and the board have partnered to implement key initiatives, including a later start to the day for high school students.
During Lane’s tenure, Erbach said, the school system has focused less on standardized test scores and more on student growth and has created a committee focused on equity.
State Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, who provides guidance to Virginia’s Education Department, said in a statement that Lane has “the right experience and vision to open a new chapter of equity and success for Virginia students in every corner” of the state.
Lane received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in teaching from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s in school administration from North Carolina State University and a doctorate in education from the University of Virginia.
Steve Constantino, a former Williamsburg-James City County superintendent, has served as the interim state superintendent since Steven R. Staples retired in January. Constantino will continue as the state’s chief academic officer, a role he began in 2016, Northam said.