Spampinato expects better
If we are to believe her words, new Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lynn Spampinato is on a mission to push, cajole, coach – and flat out direct, if she has to – the Summit School District to academic excellence.
At this point, we are believers. Spampinato won her job via her reputation for creating excellence, or in the case of Philadelphia public schools, at least good out of bad.
She called her Philadelphia stint “living the revolution” of school reform.
Now she presides over Summit schools, which by most accounts are good, but she has pockets of concern.
Chief among the worries is the test-score gaps between white and Hispanic students and a belief that Summit High School is too easy for those who should be expected to do better.
Spampinato thinks Summit Schools are ripe for an “evolution” toward excellence. She’s saving the revolution, at least for now.
Still, her presence might feel a bit revolutionary to teachers, students and parents. Spampinato promises complete accessibility and an approach to decision-making that brings in staff, administrators and parents.
Former superintendent Wes Smith, by his own admission, said people likely thought of him as dictating policy rather than taking the time for consensus-building.
Smith helped build school finances to the point where the focus can be less on the business of education and more on the art of education.
The school board picked Spampinato in a unanimous decision to make the transition.
The new superintendent holds a number of beliefs.
She believes all children can learn, not just some of them. She believes all children are gifted. She believes that no one has the right way or the right answers, “and we will have to role up our sleeves and create those together.”
And get this: She believes that “conflict is inevitable and it fosters change that can take us to a higher level.”
Also, she believes that “school reform is a long and messy process. But as our world so rapidly changes, so must we if we are to meet the challenges and prepare our children for the future.”
Furthermore, she believes in accountability – “to parents, students, the organization and to ourselves.”
This will be a fascinating year. Parents will be key. Spampinato will learn that parents, in some cases, are nonplayers. She also will learn that some parents want the easy way out for their children.
And still, many parents are begging for the excellence Spampinato holds before them and the system.
And ultimately, it will be parents who vote in November 2004 on continuing special mill levies that make excellence financially possible.
Opinions published in this space are formulated by members of the Summit Daily News editorial board: Michael Bennett, Jim Pokrandt, Jason Starr, Rachel Toth, Reid Williams, Aidan Leonard and Martha Lunsky.
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