Harrison School District 2 superintendent Andre Spencer tenders immediate resignation
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Following an eight-minute, closed-door executive session during a special board meeting Monday, Harrison School District 2's Board of Education unanimously voted to accept the immediate resignation of Superintendent Andre Spencer.

Spencer was not present at the meeting, said D-2 spokeswoman Christine O'Brien.

No reason was given for Spencer's departure, which comes less than three weeks before graduation.

Spencer tendered his resignation Friday, and the board held a special board meeting Friday night. The meeting primarily consisted of a closed-door session citing a personnel matter, as did another special meeting on May 1.

"All we know is what he included in his letter that was forwarded to us," O'Brien said.

The announcement came shortly after Monday's board meeting.

Spencer did not return calls to The Gazette requesting comment.

In his letter of resignation, Spencer said he believes "it is the best time for me to transition as superintendent," adding, "I plan to spend more time with my family and work on longstanding educational equity projects, which truly advance teaching and learning opportunities for all scholars, especially learners of color."

Spencer, an Army veteran, had led D-2 for five years.

D-2 is the Pikes Peak region's most socio-economically diverse public school district, with three-quarters of its 11,770 students coming from low-income households, as defined by the federal government's free meals program.

Spencer has had a "very good relationship" with the board, said President Steve Seibert, who's been on the Harrison board for four years.

"We've always gotten along well," he said.

Seibert said he doesn't recall the board hearing any complaints about Spencer in that time.

"He's been very diligent and dedicated," Seibert said. "We've had many successes and made great improvement over his tenure."

Nevertheless, Spencer had been looking for another job for a while. He was named in March as one of three finalists for superintendent of Washington's largest school district in Seattle but was not selected for the position.

Last year, he was one of two finalists for the position of superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools in Ohio.

It is unclear whether Spencer has taken another job.

A special meeting prior to the May 17 board meeting will determine how the board will proceed in naming an interim superintendent, Seibert said.

Two of the five members of D-2's Board of Education resigned this year. Both moved out of the district and therefore were no longer eligible to serve on the board.

Eileen Gonzalez announced she was leaving on Feb. 13 and was replaced by Josh Hitchcock. Yesenia Torres resigned on April 3, and the seat has yet to be filled.

Sierra High School parent Mary Gonzales said Monday she was surprised to hear about Spencer stepping down, particularly so close to the end of the school year.

She said she changed her mind about him - at first not caring for him because of an issue that had come up with one of her children, but after Spencer responded to her concerns, she came to like him.

"He went above and beyond to help us," she said.

Recently released results of a school culture survey showed that of the 6,303 students parents and employees in grades 4-12 who responded, 89 percent said students are expected to succeed at school academically, 79 percent feel safe at school and 63 percent believe the district culture creates a supportive work environment.

All groups identified bullying as a concern, 72 percent of students and 68 percent of teachers said disruptive behavior is a problem in classrooms, and nearly half of students said their classmates do not respect diversity.

Spencer pioneered "Coffee with the Superintendent" sessions for anyone in the community to talk with him regularly about issues. He also met with parents following a rash of shootings in Colorado Springs last year to address their concerns about safety.

Spencer graduated last year from The Broad Academy, a fellowship training program for current and aspiring superintendents. The program has been criticized nationally for the education reform measures it teaches.

During his tenure at D-2, Spencer helped improve academic performance and close the racial achievement gap, in part by expanding the number of Advanced Placement classes for high school students and access to students of color.

Spencer in his resignation letter cited a long list of accomplishments under his leadership, including three schools being recognized as National Blue-Ribbon Schools of Excellence and two schools honored as National Distinguished Title I Schools.

Two schools were identified as National Center for Urban School Transformation Schools - the only two in Colorado - and the entire district received accolades from the Colorado Department of Education for high academic growth on state English assessments.

D-2 also has been honored as a Culturally Linguistically Diverse Education Model for English Language Learners, and was recognized by A+ Colorado for closing the graduation gap between ethnic groups.

Districtwide, the dropout rate has decreased from 4.1 percent to 1 percent, and the district has the eighth highest state graduation rate for Hispanic students.

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