School District Hires Community Outreach Director Amid Security, Communication Concerns

During the Loudoun County School Board meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent Eric Williams announced the hiring of Rob Doolittle to the newly created position of director of communications and community outreach for the school district.

The school board signed off on Doolittle’s hiring during a closed session Tuesday afternoon prior to its regular meeting. Doolittle “has more than 20 years of experience working in the area of public affairs and communications for Fortune 500 public corporations,” said Williams. His experience includes serving as director of communications and media relations for CSX and vice president of communications for General Dynamics.

Doolittle joins the school system with experience responding to emergencies and crisis situations, including major transportation incidents, community evacuations and reputational risks.

In addition to crisis response, Doolittle has spoken with national and international media on issues ranging from major corporate acquisitions to transportation safety, federal rulemakings to corporate-governance issues, and has directed community relations campaigns around major infrastructure projects.

His skills may be put to test quickly in response to security and communication concerns at schools around the county, including recent incidents at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville and Tuscarora High School in Leesburg that sparked parent outrage.

Richard Lambert, a Loudoun Valley parent who spoke to during Tuesday’s board meeting, expressed his “extreme concern” about things he’s heard about what’s going on at the high school, including little to no structure, teachers coming and going and “virtual chaos.” At first, he thought his son might be exaggerating, but “as I talked to other parents, they have indicated similar experiences,” Lambert said. “What can we do?” he asked board members.

Mike Taylor, another Loudoun Valley parent, said that the school is “chaotic at best,” and said automated phone calls that tell parents their child didn’t show up in the morning don’t go out until the afternoon. “It always starts at the top,” he said. “A fish rots from the head down. You’ve got a fridge that desperately needs cleaning.”

Meanwhile, Tuscarora High School parent Ryan Benton, one of the parents who have raised concerns following an incident in March in which a man entered the school with a firearm, expressed his relief to get an official response on security. Last week, the school system announced a full review of its visitor management protocol and three-year project to install and update secure vestibules across all 92 elementary, middle and high schools in the county. Parent concerns have “largely been addressed” by the school system’s renewed commitment, he said, adding that the parents “look forward to positive outcomes.”

A resident of Northern Virginia for more than 30 years, Doolittle is married with two grown children. He is a certified sailing instructor, a triathlete and an avid traveler. His father was a career foreign service officer and U.S. Navy veteran before settling in the Washington, DC area. Doolittle earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from George Washington University and a master’s of business administration from Virginia Tech.

Williams also reported two promotions. Starting July 1, Neil Slevin, director of middle school education, will transition to a new role as director of teaching and learning. Slevin has been working for Loudoun schools since 2002. On the same day, Harper Park Middle School in Leesburg is getting a new principal, Chris O’Rourke, who is principal of Briar Woods High School in Brambleton.

aparker@loudounnow.com

7 thoughts on “School District Hires Community Outreach Director Amid Security, Communication Concerns

  • 2019-05-30 at 2:00 pm
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    Typical Education Industrial Complex problem solving: 1) Hire more expensive people to the payroll to solve said problem. 2) Do nothing about dead wood problem laying around. 3) When problem gets worse, blame parents and students. 4) Repeat.

    • 2019-05-30 at 2:32 pm
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      Except he’s not here to actually solve problems… He’s here to spin whatever narrative LCPS tries to feed parents but fails miserably.

      That LCPS lacks the competency to do basic PR is shocking.

      That it spends a few hundred thousand dollars a year of our tax dollars to hire a PR specialist is appaling.

  • 2019-06-01 at 8:41 am
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    Have to agree with all three prior posters and add two items. Chris O’Rourke is a VERY competent and experience high school principal. I knew him and greatly respected him when he was Assistant Principal at Broad Run and then principal at Briar Woods. Why does a high school principal “voluntarily” go from a high school to a middle school? Second, If LCPS and the school board was sincere about wanting better communications and actual outreach all they have to do is welcome parental input. This is purely crisis management from a public relation perspective and in my opinion after 8 years on the school board violative of the state statute REQUIRING school boards act with the utmost efficiency.

    • 2019-06-05 at 4:44 pm
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      Bob, now you are making up stuff about Mr. O’Rourke? Shame on you. I hope everyone understands that you continue to stoop so low in your attempt to make everything a campaign add.

      • 2019-06-16 at 8:29 am
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        ^You really like to just assume the worst of everyone when it comes LCPS. Mr O’Rourke voluntarily transferred to Harper Park on good terms with his current job, for reasons that are, frankly, none of your damn business. He is allowed to change positions as he pleases and will do an exceptional job at Harper Park like has done at Briar.

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