Dr. J. David Martin is coming home to Patrick County when he takes over the helm of Patrick County Schools next month. Martin will serve as Acting Superintendent from October 1 until December 31.By Taylor Boyd
When Dr. J. David Martin reprises his role as Acting Superintendent on October 1, it will be a homecoming of sorts.
“It’s like I’ve been away to college, and now I’m coming home for a while, and in December I’m going away again,” he said, chuckling.
Patrick County Schools Superintendent Dean Gilbert will retire, effective September 30.
Martin said he agreed to serve in the post from October 1 until December 31 because of his great love of Patrick County. He previously held the role during the 2019-2020 school year.
“I like the smallness of Patrick. I like the fact that the kids have a name and not a number, and I can’t wait to come into the classrooms and see the magic again,” said Martin, who has close relationships with many in the county.
One of his primary goals during the three-month tenure is to find ways to address learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While he has some ideas in mind already, Martin said he wants to talk to the educators and get their perspectives before taking action.
“I’m going to go around to all of the schools. I’m going to talk to all of the faculty at faculty meetings because I need to know from them what they think, and then we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Martin also plans on asking educators to share their frustrations. He said he needs that input to understand how to address them. Martin said he also wants to hear about other issues teachers and staff are facing because of the pandemic and the COVID-19 regulations and mandates.
Another primary goal is ensuring the school facilitates providing a safe environment for students and staff to learn and work.
“That’s critical right now with the pandemic. I want to make sure everybody’s safe and they feel comfortable learning,” he said.
Martin began his career as a special education teacher in the late 1970’s.
“When I walked into my classroom, there were no desks. My kids were made to eat on a separate lunch shift, and I was told my kids would never graduate,” he said.
After making numerous changes to the way his students had been taught, Martin said by December of that school year his students were in homerooms, eating with the rest of the kids, and being mentored by football players.
“They were just kids, and I found out that children are remarkable when given the chance,” he added.
“I made sure they were going to something when they aged out at 21 or 22. They went somewhere. Back in the day, Driver’s Ed teachers wouldn’t teach my kids to drive, so I taught them in my car. For those that could drive, it made sense,” he said.
Martin said his motto as an educator is when you expect the best from kids, you’re going to get it.
“But if you don’t expect them because they have a history, then they’re just going to repeat it. So, I like kids who will give me a chance to help them and do something,” he said.
While he does not know for certain, Martin believes he will be part of the decision-making process to find the full-time superintendent to take over after his tenure ends.
Martin served as a superintendent for 20 years, and has served in about five different school system. “For me and my career, I wanted to be sure I was in urban, university town, rural, and suburban areas. What I found was teaching and learning is all the same, teachers are the same, and kids are same,” he said.
He’s served on the Henry County Board of Supervisors for four years, and previously served as the superintendent for the Henry County School division. He also works part-time in real estate.
Martin graduated from Madison College (now James Madison University), the previous major teaching college of Virginia. He obtained a degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from West Virginia University, and received his PhD in Education Administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
In his free time, Martin enjoys doing yardwork, traveling throughout the United States in his RV, and binge-watching television.