New Schools Superintendent Starts Job Monday
On Monday, Aaron Spence will start his new job as superintendent of the Moore County school system.
Spence will have little time to get fully settled in on his first day. He is scheduled to take an oath of office at 8:30 a.m. at the central office before heading out to visit schools in the county.
Later that afternoon, he will meet with school board Chairwoman Kathy Farren and Vice Chairwoman Enola Lineberger to go over the agenda for next Monday’s board meeting.
The rest of his week, and the next three months, will be just as busy as Spence launches a listening tour of the county to introduce himself and see what residents have to say about the school system.
He also plans to attend a staff meeting at each school in the system over the next three months.
Besides getting to know the community, Spence must also jump into the budget process for the next school year. The Board of Education will meet Tuesday to discuss the 2012-2013 budget during a work session.
Spence was unavailable for an interview for this story.
Mike Griffin, the system’s chief finance officer, has served as the interim superintendent since former Superintendent Susan Purs-er’s retirement and has spent the last month working to keep Spence updated.
Spence comes to Moore County from the Houston Independent School District (HISD), where he spent two years overseeing high schools, magnet schools and charter schools as the system’s chief high school officer.
He comes from a system where innovative policies have been implemented by Superintendent Terry Grier (a former Guilford County superintendent) to shake up the status quo and create a stronger support system for low-income, inner-city students.
One program, the Apollo 20 initiative, was implemented in a partnership with Harvard University’s Educa-tion Innovation Laboratory last year in four high schools and five middle schools. HISD has been recognized nationally for its participation in the program, which has cultivated academic improvement in low-performing schools.
The program increases instructional time, uses data to drive instruction and relies heavily on tutors, most hired through the Teach for America program, in efforts to “create a culture of high expectations for all.”
Spence’s former colleague, Dallas Dance, HISD’s chief middle school officer, worked with him to implement Apollo, while also overseeing the operation of 130 campuses and working together to align the district’s secondary education program.
The two have worked together since they were principals in Henrico County, Va., and HISD is the third district they have worked in together. Though Dance is sad to see his colleague move on, he said he is happy to see Spence join a school system that shares his approach to education.
“In a job like ours, you truly are a superintendent in your area because it is so large,” Dance said. “He was totally ready to become a superintendent. It was a great fit for Moore County, for him and his family.”
‘Passionate’ About Job
Dance remembers Spence calling him after his interviews with the Board of Education.
“He was just jumping up and down from the good vibes he got from the board and being in the community,” Dance said. “He was like a kid in the candy store the day he got announced. He’s looking forward to Monday. To be honest, I see him staying in Moore for a very long time.”
Spence’s lasting mark on HISD will go into effect next year — the Houston Innovative Learning Zone, a dual-enrollment course program that will allow 11th-graders to take specialized career courses to earn an associate degree from a local community college as well as a high school diploma.
Spence spearheaded the initiative so that students could begin training for careers in specialized fields such as pharmaceutical technology.
Dance expects Spence to leave a bigger mark in Moore County.
“[Moore County is] going to find someone who is very passionate about what he does,” he said. “He’s very passionate about student learning.
“They’re going to find someone who listens, who knows when to push and when to make sure that the work is occurring the right way and not in a rushed way, and someone who will be invested deeply in the community.”
Spence first heard about the position from Grier and Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District in Mooresville, whom Spence worked for when he was superintendent in Henrico County.
Coincidentally, former Moore County Superintendent Pat Russo succeeded Edwards and is the current superintendent in Henrico County.
Edwards knew Spence was looking for an opportunity to move his family to North Carolina and learned about the position after talking to Susan Purser about her impending retirement at a conference. He thought Spence would be perfect for the job.
“He and I talked several times about Moore County,” Edwards said. “I told Aaron at the time that he’d be a great fit. He’s got a young family and has a keen interest in living in a community that is family-friendly.”
In Henrico County, Edwards hired Spence, then a 28-year-old assistant principal in the district, to be the principal of Deep Run High School, a brand new high school, in 2002 after a nationwide search.
Edwards said the hire was controversial because Spence was a younger candidate in a large, qualified field of applicants, but he said Spence stood out.
“We had a lot of outstanding candidates, but we saw such promise in his leadership and he had distinguished himself as an assistant principal,” he said. “It was noted that he was a young guy, but he immediately rose to the occasion.
“He opened a new school and that school became a school of excellence in really a short amount of time.”
Within a few years of opening, the school was named one of Virginia’s top performing high schools and was recognized nationally for its technology-based instruction methods.
He added that Spence was always engaging both teachers and students as a principal.
“When he was a principal, he made it a practice to visit classrooms every day,” he said. “He had a strong commitment to every student reaching their full potential. He was an outstanding leader there. [The staff was] very fond of him as an individual who cared about people.”
Edwards was one of Spence’s references during his hiring process. He remembers telling the N.C. School Boards Association, which helped the school system conduct the search, that “Moore County would be hard pressed to find a better candidate or a better match” for the job.
“I think that his strength is in working with people, so I anticipate that teachers and principals will get to know him well,” Edwards said. “They’ll see him out in schools. He’ll be engaged with community leaders. He’s a people person, so he has a natural affinity to be out in the community, and he will do that well.”
Spence and his family officially moved to the area last week. He and his wife, Krista, have six children. Their youngest son was born in late December.
Edwards thinks Spence and his family will fit right in as newcomers to the community.
“He’s a very strong instructional leader, who’s very committed to serving every student,” he said. “I think he will be a great fit for Moore County.”
Contact Hannah Sharpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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