The Loudoun County (Va.) school board has appointed an interim superintendent after it fired Scott Ziegler in the wake of a grand jury report that called him a liar.
The Washington Post reports that Daniel Smith, the Loudoun district’s chief of staff, will assume the top job in the 81,000-student school system.
The board voted 6-1 to appoint Smith. Two members were absent.
Smith was appointed Loudoun’s chief of staff in April 2022. Before that, he served as a principal in several Virginia districts--Fairfax County, Virginia Beach and Page County.
The Loudoun district is facing widespread anger over its handling of a pair of 2021 sexual assaults that ignited a political firestorm. Loudoun officials transferred a student from one high school, where he committed an assault, to a second high school, where he committed a second assault.
A special grand jury was convened to investigate how the district dealt with the assaults. The jury’s final report was damning. It found that Loudoun officials across the board had demonstrated incompetence and a “lack of interest” in responding to the assaults, failing to take measures after repeated warnings that the student assailant was exhibiting concerning behavior.
The report further concluded that Ziegler lied at a June board meeting, saying he had no knowledge of sexual assaults occurring in Loudoun school bathrooms when he had known for weeks about the student assailant’s first assault.
Tiffany Polifko, the only board member to vote against Smith's appointment, said she wanted whoever takes the superintendency to hold other school staffers accountable for their involvement in responding to the two assaults.
“I realize that, while Dr. Daniel Smith was not involved in what occurred last year, he will be overseeing individuals who were,” Polifko said. “It is critical that a person who is assuming that role will take the necessary steps to display the leadership that is so needed in this school system right now.”
Board chair Jeff Morse Smith will serve as interim leader for roughly seven months while Loudoun conducts a search for a permanent superintendent.