Superintendent Looks to Graduate to a New Life
After 35 years with Ferguson-Florissant School District, Jeff Spiegel prepares for his retirement.
When Spiegel stepped into the role of high school math teacher in 1975, he never thought he'd one day become a superintendent.
"Thirty-five years ago, I thought I would be a teacher and would be teaching in the district for my entire career," Spiegel said.
As he prepares to retire on June 30, 2011 from the Ferguson-Florissant School District, Spiegel is reflecting upon a career that spanned more than three decades with the same school district.
"I've just been really blessed to be able to serve this community," Spiegel said. "And it's been fun being in one place for so long because I've been able to not only to teach children, but I've been able to serve their children after they've graduated and had children themselves and even some grandchildren."
The Ferguson-Florissant School Board is working with executive search firm Ray and Associates to find Spiegel's successor. Spiegel expects the school board to make an announcement about the next superintendent before the district's winter break begins on.
After teaching mathematics for 12 years at the Caroline Student Support Center (now called the Mark Twain Student Support Center), the alternative high school for Ferguson-Florissant school district, Spiegel became assistant principal at McCluer North High School. Other opportunities brought him closer to head of the class: He was promoted to director of alternative education and then superintendent of secondary education. The district tapped Spiegel for the superintendent job in 2004.
Transitioning from assistant superintendent to superintendent came with an important lesson for Spiegel.
"Always in my career, there was someone else that I could ask questions to – you know, my boss," he said. "But when you're superintendent your boss is the board of education."
Spiegel can point to a number of accomplishments as superintendent, including retaining fully accredited status for the school district over his entire tenure and seeing 85 percent of the district's graduates going to college, an increase of six percent over Spiegel's tenure.
Les Lentz, Ferguson-Florissant school board president called Spiegel an outstanding leader.
"Because of Mr. Spiegel's leadership the district remains fully accredited, we have grown as a 'college prep' school district," Lentz said. "He has raised awareness about the need for equity and treating 'Each Child as My Own' by being a champion for our district-wide initiative, 'High Achievement for All. '"
High Achievement for All is a district-wide task force between parents, teachers and administrators started in 2002. The task force seeks to help bridge the achievement gap between white and black students in the Ferguson-Florissant school district.
Scott Ebert sits on the task force with Spiegel and has three children in elementary school within the district. His eldest son, Jarod, has special needs after being declared legally blind and sought out the Ferguson-Florissant school district to give his son the extra help he needed.
After seeing the benefits of a Special School District teacher working with his kindergarten teacher, he hoped the program would continue into the first grade, which was unavailable at the time.
Once he spoke to Spiegel about the program, Spiegel decided to continue the help into the first grade.
"He was really interested in my input," Ebert said. "I thought I was just a guy talking. He's always treated everyone with respect, and that's half the battle."
Today, Ebert's eldest son continues to grow and learn and has almost reached his appropriate grade level of the fourth grade.
So what's next for Spiegel? After more than three decades of formulas and forming young minds, he's not exactly sure.
"I've been working so hard, I haven't really thought about what next year will be like," Spiegel said. "Ferguson-Florissant is a place where people develop really strong bonds and great relationships that endure over time. Some of the parents I've known since they were in school, and I know their kids, their families, their parents.
So, it is very sentimental for me, and I'll be leaving as superintendent, but those relationships will stay for the rest of my life."
Lentz said the district will miss its "home-grown" superintendent.
"He's been a valued part of this district for 34 years, so while it is difficult to see him retire, we are grateful for the many years of service he has given us."
Check out what else Superintendent Jeff Spiegel had to say about his time at the district in a video interview later today. Florissant Patch will continue to follow the Ferguson-Florissant search for superintendent, so make sure to check back often as we learn of new developments.