Board terminates superintendent’s contract
SUMMIT COUNTY – In a 5-1 vote, the Summit School Board terminated superintendent Lynn Spampinato’s contract Friday morning.
Spampinato, who began her work for the district in June, had come under increasing fire in recent months for an “uncollaborative” management style.
On Tuesday, the Summit County Education Association (SCEA), the teachers’ union, gave Spampinato a vote of “no confidence,” saying Spampinato made “quick changes without reflective dialogue.”
Spampinato was not present at the board meeting, but in an interview on Friday afternoon, she said, “This is just not a good fit.”
During her nine-month tenure in Summit County, Spampinato maintained that Summit County has the resources to create the best school district in the state, and that her changes supported that vision.
The district will pay Spampinato the amount of her regular salary through June 30, 2005, as well as accrued vacation pay and sick leave, as outlined in her contract, which was signed in June, 2003. Originally, the $140,000-per-year contract was to run through July, 2006.
“After much consideration, the Board of Education has decided to unilaterally terminate its employment contract with superintendent of schools, Dr. Lynn Spampinato,” read the statement approved by the board Friday morning. “The decision is not ‘for cause’ and does not reflect any failure on the part of Dr. Spampinato to perform her duties as superintendent.
“The board simply feels that the employment relationship is not a ‘good fit,’ and that everyone’s interests will be best served by severing the relationship and moving forward.
“The board thanks Dr. Spampinato for her service to the school district and wishes her the best in all future endeavors,” the statement concluded.
A tough decision
Moments prior to the vote, interim school board president Kristy Johnson said that the board’s decision was a difficult one.
“Regardless of what decision we make here today, there are going to be people who are unhappy,” Johnson said. “We have discussed this issue over the past many months. I hope that we as a community and we as a board pull together and do not make this a more divisive issue than it has already become.
“I believe this board to be, and to have been, very thoughtful on what the implications of this decision are and whether this is salvageable. The bottom line for me was that this situation wasn’t able to be worked out without hurting children, in my opinion.”
Board member Stuart Adams was the lone dissenter in the decision.
“I intend to go on the record and say this is a bad idea,” Adams said. “There are people in the community who would agree that this is a bad idea. I think we could resolve this issue, and I’m not going to support (Spampinato’s termination).”
About 50 teachers, community members, district staff and parents gathered for the morning meeting. Several commented on the board’s decision and the events surrounding it.
“Up until now, I’ve been trying to be really nice. I am angry right now,” said Summit Cove parent TJ Dufresne. “If you had seen (Spampinato’s) record, you would have known she was a change agent. We expected a mover, a do-er.
“I am worried about who we will get to fill those shoes,” Dufresne added.
“I think the issue here is management style,” said one community member. “If you don’t have communication, this will not work. You don’t ram things through without listening to everyone.”
Bob Cottrell, another Summit Cove parent, worried about “the appearance of a board who has made a decision at the behest of SCEA.”
Johnson said that the board’s decision was independent of the SCEA no-confidence vote.
“This has been going on for months. It is unfortunate that the timing of our decision had to come so soon after the SCEA vote of no confidence, but I think we would have made this decision regardless,” Johnson said.
“I really feel good about the direction, the refocus and the energy dedicated to moving forward,” Johnson said. “It could have felt really ugly and sad, but it has felt very invigorating.”
Johnson and other board members spent much of Friday’s meeting regrouping with administrators and other staff.
Assistant superintendent Millie Hamner assumed the duties of superintendent immediately after the board’s decision to terminate Spampinato’s contract. On Monday at 7 a.m., the board will formally fill the position of interim superintendent in a public meeting at the district’s central office.
“The Board of Education and the Summit School District Administration are unwavering in our dedication and commitment to working toward excellence in our schools and we look forward to seeking positive change,” Hamner said in a statement issued by the school district.
Hamner said that plans for new literacy and math programs in the district’s elementary schools will proceed.
Representatives from Houghton Mifflin, the publisher for the new literacy program, met with district staff Friday morning.
“The group left the meeting so excited and reassured that we made the right choice,” Hamner said.
Students will begin to use the program this fall.
Hamner said that district staff will soon re-examine some changes proposed for Summit Middle School, including a revamped schedule that contains reductions in elective time.
“We will continue to put our time and energy into our students, learn from the current situation, finish this school year strong, move forward with the changes adopted by the Board of Education and continue plans for this year,” said Peg Kastberg, the district’s director of special programs.
SCEA co-president Carrieanne Pitts said she feels relief and excitement as she looks ahead.
“I feel like the community needs to know that we still want to raise the academic bar, and we’re already involved in that process,” Pitts said. “But in a small town, you don’t eliminate (staff) positions without dialogue first.
“I’m excited to move forward and have a really positive attitude. It’s been a learning experience for everybody involved. We need to make sure everyone is on the same page and working as a team. That will impact our students the most,” Pitts added.
During Monday’s board meeting, board members will lay out a plan for a superintendent search. The district has a two-year warranty from the headhunter through which it hired Spampinato.
“Even if we use the same firm, my personal feeling is that we would require that they conduct the process very differently,” Johnson said. “I’d want it to be more inclusive with more community and staff input.”
Beginning Monday, the board will have applications available for those interested in filling the seat of former board president Marshall Denkinger, who resigned earlier this month. The board will accept applications through April 21 and will conduct interviews and make an appointment on April 27.
Once the board fills the vacancy, it will elect officers from among its ranks.
“We have a lot of follow-up to do that’s intraboard related,” Johnson said. “We’ll spend at least a day in a retreat open to the public to discuss board relations, how we govern, how we interact with the superintendent, how we seek and share public input.”
Board members also will host morning coffees and evening meetings to solicit input, answer questions from the community and discuss the upcoming November elections.
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 203 or email@example.com.
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