School board picks Colo. Springs candidate for superintendent |

School board picks Colo. Springs candidate for superintendent

Dr. Heidi Pace

The search for a superintendent of Summit School District culminated Tuesday night with the selection of Dr. Heidi Pace, currently the deputy superintendent of Academy School District 20 in Colorado Springs.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership from that district,” said school board president Jon Kreamelmeyer.

The vote followed two site visits conducted for finalists Pace and Kerry Buhler, currently principal at Upper Blue Elementary School in Breckenridge.

“Both candidates are top-notch, talented administrators with a strong commitment to kids. I want to emphasize that Kerry Buhler is an amazing lady. This was a very difficult decision for all of us,” Kreamelmeyer said.

“This process has brought to light Kerry’s amazing accomplishments, dedication and leadership. Kerry Buhler is no longer the best-kept secret in this district,” said board member Margaret Carlson.

Contract negotiations are next, and Pace will start her new position in July.

“I’m very excited,” Pace said. “Summit County is a great match for my background and experiences, and everyone I’ve met there has been just wonderful. I can’t wait.”

Originally from Chicago, Pace holds a bachelor of arts in history and a master’s in elementary education from Colorado College. She earned her Ph.D. in leadership and public policy at the University of Denver.

Pace has worked in the Academy District 20 for 26 years, where she has held a broad range of positions. She started out as a teacher, and has since worked as director of human resources, assistant principal and principal. She said she has held a leadership role in virtually every department in District 20’s central office, and has worked on initiatives similar to those the Summit County School District is currently working toward – like the International Baccalaureate program. A few of her recent responsibilities have included oversight of district math and reading initiatives, the expansion of language immersion programs and development of a principal supervision program and Leadership Academy for principals, management of district and school strategic planning.

Pace said when she had the opportunity to tour Summit County schools, she was impressed not only by the leadership within the schools, but with the students.

“They were polite, they were articulate, they seemed happy to be there, and had genuinely good character,” she said. “It was very impressive to me, and I thought this would be a great team to join.”

Pace has three sons, the youngest of whom will be graduating from high school this year. One is in college, and the other lives in Washington, D.C. She said she loves to ski, bike and hike.

“I’m really looking forward to joining the Summit County School District and the whole community,” she said.

Pace said she applied for the position because she was ready for a new challenge, and believes Summit County is the right place. She said she will continue with initiatives the board has already set in place, and delve into them even deeper to close the achievement gap.

“I am looking forward to continuing the excellent culture and programs already established in the Summit County schools,” she said.

Karen Strakbein is currently acting as interim superintendent and will return to her post as superintendent of business services when Pace begins her new role. Strakbein, along with the board of education, will work with Pace during the transition.

Interim superintendent Strakbein was put in place to fill Millie Hamner’s shoes, who retired early in December to serve as House District 56 representative. She was originally slated to retire at the end of the school year.

Hamner was with the district for 10 years, seven of which were as the superintendent. She was appointed form the assistant superintendent role when Lynn Spaminato was terminated more than a year before her contract expired – a move Kreamelmeyer said cost the district about $200,000.

The superintendent search was conducted by Rick O’Connell and Ellen Bartlett of Hazard, Young and Attea, who looked nationwide for candidates. Applicants ranged from the East Coast to the Midwest to Colorado with current positions of superintendent, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent and principal.

The cost of the search was initially estimated to be $17,500 plus search firm associate expenses and the expense of flying candidates in for interviews.

With one final statement expected in the next week or so, the current running total for the search is $15,611.26, of which $2,486.26 was spent on advertising, including some national publications, superintendent and school board assistant Karen Mack said.

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