Dr. Aaron C. Spence, Superintendent of Virginia Beach City Schools, was named Virginia’s Superintendent of the Year at the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) Annual Awards Luncheon on Tuesday in Roanoke. The leaders of seven Virginia education organizations and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction selected him from among eight regional finalists.
SOY 2018 As the leader of the fourth largest school division in Virginia serving over 67,000 students, Dr. Spence was faced with the challenge of reducing inequities in achievement and discipline particularly among his high poverty and male African American students. His systemic approach to addressing this problem is a textbook example of leadership necessary to make large-scale changes in an organization that produce significant changes and positive results.
Through his development of stakeholder ownership in the division’s strategic plan, Compass to 2020, his pervasive communication of the plan’s goals and expectations for his employees, and his development of partnerships and marshalling of community resources, Dr. Spence changed the trajectory of his most challenged students and improved the status of Virginia Beach students overall. As a result his school division has seen: a dramatic rise in pass rates among students on standardized tests; improvement in the division’s graduation rate; a historic low in the drop-out rate; and 20% decrease in the number of suspensions.
In presenting Dr. Spence with the Virginia Superintendent of the Year Award, VASS President Jennifer Parish said, “As a result of Aaron Spence’s leadership, Virginia Beach schools have been able to address achievement and discipline gaps. His work exemplifies the work that is occurring throughout Virginia.” She continued, “Additionally, his communication and community engagement strategies continue to ensure the success of his school division.”
Dr. Spence started his administrative career in public education as an assistant principal in Henrico County Schools, Virginia in 1998. During his career, he worked as a principal at Deep Run High School in Henrico County, a Director of Curriculum in Chesterfield County Schools, a Chief High Schools Officer in Houston, Texas, and the Superintendent of Moore County Schools in North Carolina. He was appointed as the Superintendent of Virginia Beach City Schools on June 14, 2014.
The Virginia Superintendent of the Year Selection Committee included the State Superintendent for Public Instruction and the Presidents of the: Virginia Education Association; Virginia Parent and Teacher Association; Virginia Association of School Superintendents; Virginia School Boards Association; Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals; and Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals. Dr. Spence was selected as the state winner from eight regional Superintendents of the Year who were chosen from the entire field of 133 superintendents in the state.
Regional Winners As Virginia's Superintendent of the Year Dr. Spence will be eligible for the National Superintendent of the Year Award, which will be presented in Nashville, Tennessee next February by the American Association of School Administrators.