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School board selects next superintendent

SUMMIT COUNTY – A woman who resigned from her job as a Denver elementary school principal in protest of Colorado Student Assessment Program testing and is an advocate for gender-

separate education was offered a job Wednesday as Summit School District’s next superintendent.

Of the two superintendent finalists, Dr. Lynn Spampinato had the edge over her competitor, Wayne Johnson of Wisconsin, said school board President Bill Pelham.



Spampinato was offered a three-year contract calling for $140,000 in annual compensation. Pelham said Spampinato indicated earlier she would accept the job if offered.

“Probably her biggest strength is her passion for students and moving a district forward, which is exactly what we want,” said board member Kristy Johnson. “We think Summit School District is a good district, but what we’re looking for is someone who can take it to the next level – (excellence).”



“I think her style felt like it would be a fit for Summit County,” said Dr. Garrett Sullivan, also a board member. “She’s approachable. She’s open. And she was able to convey that in an hour-and-a-half interview in a formal setting. I think we were rather impressed by that.”

Spampinato will succeed Superintendent Wes Smith, who is retiring at the end of July.

Contract work had yet to be finalized Wednesday, Pelham said. She likely will begin the position in mid- to late July, so she can work with Smith a week or so before he leaves the district.

The school district received 47 applications, from 37 states and Canada, for the superintendent’s position. The board interviewed five candidates at the beginning of the month and chose as its finalists Spampinato, regional director and superintendent of five Victory Schools in Philadelphia, and Johnson, superintendent of Manitowoc Public School District in Wisconsin.

Victory Schools is one of two private companies hired to bring reform to Philadelphia schools, which had been taken over by the state of Pennsylvania.

Over the past two weeks, board members have visited each candidate’s school district, spoken with administrators and checked the candidates’ references.

Sullivan volunteered to travel to Philadelphia to visit Spampinato’s schools, staff, employees and finance director.

“I was given ample opportunity to speak privately behind closed doors with every individual … and felt there was nothing being held back,” Sullivan said of his interviews in Philadelphia. “In fact, if these folks could have kept her, they would have. They were sad to see her go.”

Johnson received similar feedback from teachers who worked under Spampinato when she was a principal at Mitchell Elementary in Denver in the late 1990s. Those teachers described Spampinato as “an inspirational leader,” “excellent with budgetary issues,” “worked well with the community,” and that “she’s really great at developing people and building leaders in her staff.”

Spampinato resigned from her position as principal of Mitchell in protest of the Gov. Bill Owens and the state Legislature’s report card rating of schools, based on CSAP testing.

“As a true believer in public education, I cannot be a participant in its demise,” she said at the time.

Spampinato spent 21 years in the Denver Public School district. In 2002, she became an area superintendent within the Philadelphia school district, working for Victory Schools.

She has overseen five of the city’s worst performing schools for the past year and has been active in their reform. One of her reforms in a middle school was to separate boys and girls into same-sex classes. She also did that at Mitchell Elementary in Denver.

Sullivan said the inner-city school district has “the needs the likes of which we can hardly conceive of” but the progress Spampinato and her administrators has accomplished in the past year was “truly astounding.”

“It was very inspiring to see what she has accomplished and what might be accomplished following some of the examples she’s laid out,” Sullivan said.

“She’s very knowledgeable, she’s extremely energetic,” Johnson said. “She just felt right, pretty much from the beginning.”

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or lsnyder@summitdaily.com.


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