Another big loss

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

For the second time in just a few short weeks, we learn that another area elementary school is losing an effective, well liked and highly respected leader.

Don Spengeman, after 25 years at the helm as principal of Franklin’s S.P. Morton Elementary School, is retiring at the end of the school year. This revelation comes right on the heels of Capron Elementary School Principal Sandra Pettigrew’s announcing her own retirement from public education.

Spengeman leaves behind a legacy of professional excellence that spans more than 40 years in public education — and a difficult pair of shoes to fill as well. S.P. Morton is losing a tremendous leader and, like Southampton County’s Capron Elementary, faces a difficult task in finding a suitable replacement.

The role of principal in elementary education is a difficult one, a position requiring equal parts educator and administrator, shepherd and caretaker. A good elementary school principal must strike a fine balance between toughness and kindness with both students and teachers alike. Find a principal who is loved by their students and respected by teachers and staff, and chances are the right person is in the principal’s office. Don Spengeman was the right man for the job.

Most every credible study on the subject shows that children’s experience during their formative years of elementary school is a direct predictor of the success they can expect to have in later school years, as well as later in life. The elementary school principal has a direct impact on that early experience, and so the responsibility that falls on the superintendents of the two respective school systems to fill the void created by these retirements cannot be overstated.

We hope they make their decisions wisely.