Newport News Community Demands Change

Superintendent Fired in Wake of Richneck School Shooting


The shooting of teacher Abby Zwerner at Richneck Elementary School by one of her first grade students on Jan. 6 of this year has had the eyes of the world on the city of Newport News. As Newport News Public Schools reopened Richneck on Jan. 30, the issues of school safety, gun violence, and discipline have all come to the surface in the wake of this horrific incident. Many parents and concerned citizens are demanding a change in leadership. (WAVY)

Richneck was the third school shooting in Newport News in the past 16 months. In September 2021, two students were injured when a 15 year old student opened fire at Heritage High School. Three months later, 17 year old Justice Dunham was murdered in the Menchville High School parking lot after a basketball game. Parents, teachers, and local organizations called for Superintendent Dr. George Parker III to either step down or be removed from office. Many came to the meetings to call for Parker’s removal. 

The Newport News School Board convened the night of Jan. 25 and voted 5-1 to fire Parker. Parker will be replaced in the interim by Dr. Michelle Martin. While most citizens seemed to support removing Parker, this is only a temporary fix. 

Mike Dunham, father of Justice Dunham, told WAVY, “… it’s not just the school, it’s our whole city. Our whole city needs to move in a direction away from gun violence.” 

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones released a statement on his Instagram stating, “Over the last four years, Dr. George Parker led Newport News Public Schools with a dedication to educating our children, and we thank him for his service to this community. My colleagues on City Council and I support the Newport News School Board as they seek to hire a dynamic, new leader for our public school system… While the last few weeks have been extremely difficult, Newport News schools and communities remain strong.”

On the same day as the School Board meeting, Abby Zwener’s attorney, Dianne Toscano, told a press conference that she would be filing a lawsuit on Zwerner’s behalf. Toscano said that Zwerner and other school staff had reported concerns about the child having a gun to school administration three times on the day of the shooting, such reports were ignored or dismissed. 

“This should have never happened and it was preventable. Thank God Abby is alive. But had administrators acted Abby would not have sustained a gunshot wound to her chest,Toscano told WAVY. Zwerner is recovering but the bullet remains in her chest.

Many in the community are still trying to find a way to deal with the tragedy. Local activist group BLM 757 announced on their Instagram that they would hold a teddy bear drive between Jan. 24 and 29 in support of traumatized children. The GoFundMe for Abby Zwerner remains active and has exceeded $245,000. As far as the investigation goes, NNPD told WAVY that the investigation is ongoing and did not say if negligence charges would be pursued against the student’s parents or school staff. Richneck’s principal and assistant principal resigned over the past week according to WAVY.