Chesapeake Supt. Has Three ODU Degrees

By Steve Daniel

It’s probably safe to say that JAMES T. ROBERTS ’69 enjoys school - whether as a student, teacher or administrator. Roberts, who became superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools July 1, earned three Old Dominion degrees and has worked continuously in Hampton Roads public schools since signing on as a social studies teacher at Portsmouth’s I.C. Norcom High School.

After 10 years of teaching – at Norcom, Manor and Wilson high schools – he became an assistant principal at Manor. A series of management positions later, he was named Chesapeake Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for personnel and support services in 2004.

Roberts said he sought the superintendent position because Chesapeake has “a great school division with a strong staff,” noting that his predecessor, W. Randolph Nichols, is a hard act follow.

Roberts, who characterizes his leadership style as “facilitative,” has been meeting with administrators, attending faculty meetings and working with the school board since becoming superintendent. “I want to hear from all affected parties prior to making decisions,” he said. “I know the buck stops here and sometimes the decisions will not please all, but I do believe that fostering a leadership style that invites persons to participate empowers the entire system.”

As for challenges, the budget situation tops the list. “We face major problems next year as the stimulus funding goes away and the economy comes back slower than expected,” he said.

Roberts has fond memories of professors from the education college. Professor Emeritus Mark Fravel served as adviser for his master’s program and later stepped in to chair his doctoral dissertation committee.

As an undergraduate, Roberts was a “drag-on” with the Monarch golf team. “I had never played competitive golf, but the team was missing a sixth player, and a couple of the team members knew I played.”

He eventually rose to as high as No. 2 for some matches. “With such players as J.P. Leigh and Rusty Charlton, we usually won the conference title.”