Director of Benefits and Retirement Services returns to his roots
Posted on 09/18/2019
Headshot of Joe Makolandra, PWCS director of benefits and retirement servicesJoe Makolandra has come home. Stepping into the role of director of benefits and retirement services for PWCS last spring, Makolandra considers himself right where he belongs.

A proud graduate of Gar-Field High School, Makolandra also attended Godwin Middle School, which is now named Hampton Middle School.

“I have come back to my roots,” he said. “I have always liked Prince William County. It is highly thought of throughout the state, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Makolandra’s journey back to PWCS didn’t take a direct path. Between active duty and reserves, he spent seven years with the U.S. Marine Corps. He earned an associate’s degree in education from NOVA, and a bachelor’s degree in history from Mary Washington College. He also has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Marymount University.

Prior to making his way back to Northern Virginia, Makolandra taught math and served as the director of human resources for Roanoke City Public Schools. He also worked for Infineon Technologies in Richmond, where he discovered his interest in human resources.

“I became interested in dealing with all of the different laws in HR,” he said. “Health insurance has always been a passion of mine. I am interested in looking at better ways to serve employees.”

In 2006, Pulaski County Public Schools hired Makolandra as director of human resources, a role he served for five years before serving as a high school principal for three years in Bland County Public Schools, where he said he wore multiple hats.

“You do everything in a smaller division,” he said. “That is where I got my CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). There was a student need not being met, so I stepped in and drove the bus while serving as principal. I got to know the kids, parents, everyone.”

He returned to HR as the director of human resources for Montgomery County Public Schools in Christiansburg, VA, serving there for three years before being named chief human resources officer in nearby Alexandria City Public Schools. After three years in Alexandria, he came home to Prince William County.

Makolandra is excited about the opportunities to support teachers and staff with benefits.

“A lot of time people don’t consider their benefits until they really need them,” he said. “I want to help teachers focus on teaching, and not worry about benefits. I hope this helps set them up for success.”

He added that the large size of the School Division is great leverage when negotiating benefits for employees.

“I am always trying to save money for the school division and employees without taking benefits away from our employees,” he said. “I am hoping to help improve the benefit enrollment process, moving to paperless. If your benefits employees are not shuffling papers, they can be out there talking to employees, becoming even more customer-focused.”