Alleghany County Wins Prestigious Award for AHPS Merger

Alleghany County Wins Prestigious Award for AHPS Merger
Posted on 08/07/2023

LOW MOOR — Alleghany County is being awarded the prestigious Virginia Association of Counties’ Best Achievement Award for its role in creating Alleghany Highlands Public Schools, representing the association's highest honor for 2023.

AHPS was created on July 1, 2022, through the merger of Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center. The merger followed decades of discussion between Alleghany County and the City of Covington on creating a joint school division.

“What Alleghany County achieved is historic —  a feat that has been accomplished only three times in the Commonwealth since 1982,” said Dr. Sheryl Bailey, a visiting professor of practice at Virginia Tech.

Dr. Bailey, a former Chesterfield County administrator, served as one of the judges in this year’s VaCo’s statewide Achievement Awards program. The VaCo Achievement Awards is a competitive program open to local government members of the association. 

“It took Alleghany County more than 50 years of conversation to complete the merger of the new Alleghany Highlands Public Schools. But Alleghany County got it done, and in its first year of operations saved more than $450,000 in personnel costs without any involuntary layoffs. The consolidation assisted county leaders to navigate the nationwide teacher shortage. This Best Achievement Award program deserves a ‘Go Alleghany Cougars!’” Dr. Bailey said.

The application was submitted to the VaCo awards program in cooperation with Alleghany Highlands Public Schools. The application materials also recognize the pivotal role of the City of Covington. The award recognizes Alleghany County as the recipient of the award because it is a program administered by the Virginia Association of Counties. 

“So many local leaders deserve credit for this award. There has been much hard work and many sleepless nights for everyone associated with this project.  There was so much to do before the first bell ever rang in a consolidated school system, ”said Matt Garten, chair of the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors.

Garten, who served on a joint committee that created the school consolidation plan, expressed his appreciation of the many citizens, AHPS employees, elected officials, appointed officials, and others involved in the project.  

“To be awarded the top award out of 135 submissions made from counties throughout the Commonwealth speaks volumes as to what we have achieved by working together in the Alleghany Highlands.  Locally, I don’t think we fully grasp that we are now the standard bearers for cooperation amongst localities.  What a fantastic thing to be known for!” said Jacob Wright, chair of the Alleghany Highlands School Board. 

Wright, one of four Alleghany County representatives on the AHPS Board, also served on the joint committee that created the merger plan. 

Alleghany County’s application to VaCo cited several successes of the school division, including additional career-technical education opportunities, additional work-based learning resources, expanded athletic opportunities in certain sports, enhanced music programs, and extended resources for gifted and English language learning students.  

In 2023-2024, the school division is adding additional resources to support students, including dedicated school nursing leadership. The school division’s recent honors also include a recognition from the National School Public Relations Association regarding its communication efforts, a special project supported by the Alleghany Foundation.

“I want to thank all who participated in the 21st year of the Achievement Awards,” VACo Executive Director Dean Lynch said. “I’m encouraged to see that we received 135 submissions, our highest total ever. This tells me that the VaCo Achievement Awards’ mission of identifying and celebrating the innovative work by local government officials continues to resonate with our counties. We thank all who participated and give special recognition to those who won an award.”  The VaCo website includes a library of entries received, providing examples of best practice programs around the Commonwealth.  

Alleghany Highlands Public Schools is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington. The school division serves approximately 2,700 students.

AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools and the division website The first day of school for students is Aug. 23.
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2024 SchoolMessenger Corporation. All rights reserved.