After 30 years of service to the children and citizens in the City of Salem, School Division Superintendent, Dr. Alan Seibert, is retiring, effective September 30. Seibert’s retirement request was accepted by the School Board at its monthly meeting on Tuesday night.
“It would be impossible to appropriately thank all of the people who made my 30-year career in Salem City Schools possible,” says Seibert. “This community embraced a transplanted Yankee from New Jersey, nurtured him and gave him opportunities to lead in both the classroom and in administration. My family and I are eternally grateful for the trust that was placed in me for three decades.”
Seibert, whose grandfather was a sharecropper, began his Salem journey as a college student in 1990 when he spent time at Salem High School as a student teacher. After completing that graduation requirement and becoming the first male in his family to earn a college degree, the division hired him to teach earth science straight out of Virginia Tech. During the five years he taught at the high school, he also acquired his master’s degree from Radford University. That accomplishment enabled him to move into his first administrative role in 1996, when he was named an assistant principal at Andrew Lewis Middle School.
“At each step of my leadership journey, I was mentored and encouraged by colleagues, principals, division leaders and board members who supported innovation and were truly student-centered in their decision making,” he says.
During the 1999-2000 school year, Seibert secured his doctorate degree from Virginia Tech and transitioned to Salem High School, where he served for five years as an assistant principal under John Hall. In 2004, he was named the principal of South Salem Elementary and less than three years later, the school board selected him to replace the retiring Wayne Tripp as the division’s superintendent. Seibert was appointed to the school division’s top leadership post in August of 2006, and he was sworn-in on December 1, 2006.
“To serve in an organization that purposefully seeks to grow leaders and to have the opportunity to represent our great teachers and students along the way has been the ultimate honor,” he says. “The Salem School Division is revered and envied around the state because the city council and the school board members have always worked together for the betterment of Salem and not for any individual gain or glory. It has been a great privilege to represent the city throughout the state and nationally.”
Seibert and his wife, Michele, have three boys. All three were born in Salem and educated from K-12 in the city’s schools. Their youngest son will begin his senior year of high school later this month.
“As my career unfolded and I was occasionally recruited for positions in larger districts, I never applied or interviewed for any of them,” he says. “Michele and I put our own children first to ensure that all three could attend Salem schools and experience what it is like to be ‘Salem Born and Salem Bred.’”
Seibert, who is an Eagle Scout, was inspired to teach and lead through his many varied experiences in scouting.
“In scouting, you learn that in order to lead, you must be able to teach,” he says.
He has steered the division through several peaks and valleys during his 15-year tenure and, perhaps, nothing embodies both ends of that spectrum more the South Salem Elementary School construction project. The first new school built since Salem became an independent city in 1968, was designed and constructed from the ground-up during the height of the great recession. It opened under budget and to rave reviews in 2012.
“Alan has been the driving force for excellence in our schools,” says David Preston, Salem School Board Chairman. “He totally restructured how we do things, and he always did so with a passion and a humble spirit. That combination is rare in any leader.”
Along with his leadership in Salem, Seibert has served in a variety of key positions with both Region VI and statewide superintendents. The relationships he has built over the years with legislators in Richmond and Washington have allowed Salem to be on the cutting edge of numerous instructional initiatives and practices.
“I am not retiring from work, and I have no plans to retire from a leadership role of some type in education,” says Seibert. “I am only 53-years-old, and I anticipate many more years of service to children and their families. I am not closing that book, rather I am just starting a new chapter.”