Summit School District superintendent Heidi Pace to retire | SummitDaily.com

Summit School District superintendent Heidi Pace to retire

After 31 years in public education and five years as superintendent of the Summit School District, Heidi Pace announced her retirement at tonight's school board meeting. She will step down from the post at the end of the school year.

Pace, 55, arrived to Summit County in July 2011 following 26 years in Colorado Springs at Academy District 20, last serving as deputy superintendent. Originally from the Chicago area, Pace, who lives in Frisco, earned her bachelor's in history and a master's in elementary education, both at Colorado College. She later acquired a Ph.D. in leadership and public policy from the University of Denver.

"It'll be a bittersweet departure," Pace told the Summit Daily, "but in the next six months there's a lot to do still. It's not like I'm going to be bored. It's been a wonderful five years here, and it's been a good fit for me, and I hope it's been a good fit for the school district in terms of the things that we've done together."

Since 2011, the district has won numerous awards and recognition. Perhaps the most notable highlight was that it garnered accreditation with distinction for the very first time last year, in addition to increasing graduation rates that exceed the state's guidelines, with just one dropout at the high school level.

Also during Pace's tenure the district garnered the state's English Language Proficiency Act (EPLA) Excellence Award — one of only 10 districts to do so — for exhibiting the highest level of language and academic growth among English learners transitioning out of the proficiency program. Under Pace's guidance, Summit also became one of only a handful of districts nationwide to offer International Baccalaureate at every school.

"We set out to accomplish a number of things and we kind of got to that point," she said. "For such a small district, we've really been successful in receiving recognition at the state and national level. And it's really because of the caliber of people who are here."

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Before leaving Pace will continue to oversee the implementation of the district's new strategic plan, billed Vision 2020. Some of its biggest components include moving toward a 1:1 ratio of technology devices to students, as well as completing the master plan process by the end of the semester to assess future district needs, on top of further employing various STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives.

Still, obstacles for the district lie ahead. Pace foresees her successor having to deal with the challenges associated with continued growth — Summit has grown by approximately 500 students in the last four and a half years — and how the state's new assessment program and accountability system will be applied at the local level. School funding will persist as another difficulty, too.

"Figuring out how to do more with less will continue to be a challenge for the next leader," said Pace.

The district remains in arguably its most prosperous position historically, however, which should bode well for whomever succeeds her.

"Our growth and achievement have really improved tremendously," said Margaret Carlson, school board president. "She came in at a time when we had a lot of big ideas on the table, and came in and provided some much needed structure to put those plans into action. And we've been successful with those big ideas.

"She's leaving us in a good place," she continued, "so I'm not concerned. Every transition is also an opportunity."

Next up, the school board will choose the breadth of the process it will undertake to locate Pace's replacement. Details about that decision should be announced in the coming days, with Carlson saying ideally someone would be selected before the end of the semester, though the extent of that process could extend the search.

"I can't say enough about what a great place this is to work, and whoever comes in next will love it," said Pace. "I am sad to go. My focus is here until the end of June, and then I'll see where things land."