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Spampinato succeeds Smith as schools superintendent

Lu Snyder

SUMMIT COUNTY – It’s no small job to be a school superintendent. Nor is it easy to get to know a new school district. But Schools Superintendent Lynn Spampinato isn’t overwhelmed or intimidated.

“I like change,” said Spampinato, who took over for Wes Smith when he retired from the position July 31.

This is not the first time Spampinato has moved to a new school district. She worked 21 years in the Denver district before moving to inner-city Philadelphia – which Spampinato described as a “closed system” that doesn’t welcome outsiders.

“I had to learn that culture, and I had to fit in,” she said.

Now Spampinato is learning the Summit County culture, a process she finds exciting.

She’s reviewed the district’s history and its finances. She’s toured the schools, traced their boundaries and examined each building. She is meeting with principals, teachers and staff and is getting to know the community.

But most of all, Spampinato is asking a lot of questions.

Is the district’s organizational structure efficient? Is there a need for employee daycare? How many kids are in Advanced Placement classes? How can the district narrow the gap for minority students? Are the graduation requirements rigorous enough? Are the schools high-tech enough?

“I’m putting everything into a question format,” Spampinato said, adding that she’s depending on the community to answer those questions. “One of the things that is critical, is we need to have a lot of open communication with the community.”

Spampinato is setting the stage for open communication by making sure staff, parents and the community know she’s available.

“I’ve always tried to maintain a personal standard that you don’t leave work without returning every phone call,” she said. “I think it’s important that I’m approachable, that I’ll listen.”

Any time there is new leadership, there will be those who resist the change, Spampinato said. She plans to combat any opposition by building a team and trust among staff, faculty, students and parents.

One part of her team-building plan is to establish a “cabinet” approach for major decision-

making. She wants the principals of each school, along with the managers of each department – including food, maintenance and transportation – to know one another, respect one another and work together toward the mutual goal of building a better educational system.

The school district was in turmoil when Smith accepted the job as superintendent five years ago. It had suffered a financial cut of about $2.7 million and was facing about $4.5 million in lawsuits. Now that Spampinato is taking over as superintendent, the district is in good financial standing, and there are no crises, she said.

“I think Wes did an outstanding job in terms of bringing this district to solid financial ground,” Spampinato said.

Now it is her job to determine what the district needs to do to offer the best education possible to Summit’s students.

“I’d like to see us adopt a motto: “Good to Great,'” Spampinato said.

Spampinato plans to establish high standards for the district and work toward them. She expects the school board and the community to evaluate her success as a superintendent based on how well the district succeeds in its quest for excellence.

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


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