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Falls Church School Board Split, 5-2, For Interim Superintendent

DR. ROBERT SCHILLER (standing) was introduced at Monday's Falls School School Board meeting as some of the board members seated before him included (left to right) Margaret Ward, Lawrence Webb, Erin Gill and Michael Ankuma. (Photo: News-Press)
DR. ROBERT SCHILLER (standing) was introduced at Monday’s Falls School School Board meeting as some of the board members seated before him included (left to right) Margaret Ward, Lawrence Webb, Erin Gill and Michael Ankuma. (Photo: News-Press)

A remarkably accomplished national education leader, Dr. Robert Schiller, has agreed to step away from retirement in Florida to accept the position as interim superintendent of Falls Church City Public Schools.

He was present Monday night when the F.C. School Board voted 5-2 to offer him the post.

Dr. Schiller has been the superintendent of four school districts and two state school districts in his storied career, which included being called in as CEO and CFO of the famous 1997 reorganization of the Baltimore School System and a period heading the City of Los Angeles School System with its 729,000 students.

Dr. Schiller will serve until the F.C. School Board finds a permanent replacement for Dr. Toni Jones, who is concluding her five-year stint here at the end of this month before heading to Connecticut to head a school system there.

School Board vice chair John Lawrence described Dr. Schiller as “a remarkable candidate” when he nominated him at a special School Board meeting in City Hall Monday. “He has said his goal coming here is not to fix, but to keep going our excellent school system.”

Dr. Schiller told the News-Press that he’s eager to help the system through the coming budget cycle and to ensure a smooth transition to a permanent replacement.

In the 5-2 vote, Board members Michael Ankuma and Lawrence Webb voted “no,” each stating that their votes were intended to have no negative reflection on Dr. Schiller, but simply to indicate they felt a better candidate was passed over for him. The News-Press had independently learned that the other candidate was former F.C. Schools superintendent Dr. Lois Berlin.

Webb said he was also particularly unhappy with the “process” the board adopted to make its selection, but said he thinks it will improve when the board hires an outside consultant to help it with the search for a permanent superintendent.

In sending off Dr. Jones at Monday night’s meeting, School Board member Philip Reitinger said that he was heartened that Dr. Jones “cared very deeply about the children in our system.”

At last week’s School Board meeting more extensive tributes to Dr. Jones were presented.