Spengeman to retire

Published 10:16 am Saturday, March 24, 2012

S.P. Morton Elementary Principal Donald Spengeman talks to pre-kindergartend students, from left, Jessica Warren, Braylen Harrell, Nathanial Story, Zavion Wellington, Cody Layre, Joshua Scalice and Kayla Bazemore. In front are Jabari Warren, left, and Daiveon Gayle-Woodley. -- Stephen H. Cowles | Tidewater Nwws


FRANKLIN—When students, staff and faculty at S.P. Morton Elementary return next school year, they’ll notice an absence. Principal Donald Spengeman will have retired.

During a Friday morning fire drill, Secretary Ann B. Duck shook her head slightly at the thought and said, “A great person to work for. Just one of the best. I’ve worked 21 years under his direction. How I’ll miss him.”

The feeling will be mutual.

“I’m going to miss this terribly,” Spengeman said while looking around his office and toward the rest of the school. “I have very mixed feelings about leaving. It’s part of my identity.”

He’s led the school 25 years at both the previous site, where J.P. King Middle School stands, and its Morton Street location. He’s been in education for 43 years.

“It’s never been just a job. I’m invested,” Spengeman said.

That commitment is reflected in comments from Assistant Principal Lisa Francis.

“I’ve always told people he’s the best mentor anyone can have,” Francis said. “I got very lucky to work with him these five years. He’s the hardest-working person I know. It’s going to be really different without him next year. With that said, I’m excited for him. I have nothing but admiration for him.”

Spengeman, who will be 65 in June, said his family is the big influence in the decision to step down.

He and wife, Sandy, also a teacher, have four children — Jeremy, who recently became a father; Justin; Sara; and Susan, an English teacher in Loudoun County.

“We want to be involved in their lives,” Spengeman said.

The path to becoming principal 25 silver years ago began when the New Jersey native was a science major at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.

“I couldn’t decide on a major. I was toying with pre-med, but didn’t really want to be a doctor,” he said.

A suggestion to consider education led to a summer internship, a test and a scholarship.

In 1969, “I got a job teaching in Franklin,” he said.

Spengeman taught special education for five years at the elementary level, then three more at the city’s high school.

He then went to being a part-time coordinator, then a supervisor, and then a director, and was offered a full-time spot in 1977.

School Board member Edna King remembers when Spengeman applied for the principal opening.

“I also applied, but I was just thrilled that he got it,” King said. “And he’s done an outstanding job. Such a loss to our school system. I wish him the very best.”

Spengeman shared thoughts on his successor.

“I hope whoever follows will make changes,” he said. “I make changes every year to make the school the best possible. I don’t want it to become stagnant. It needs new perspectives, new ideas.”