The Blaine school board will honor Ron Spanjer at its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, August 26. Parents, students and community members are invited to join the board at the beginning of the meeting to recognize Spanjer for his 13 years of service to the district as superintendent.
Spanjer retires at the end of August; the school board just hired Christopher Granger, previously an assistant superintendent at Bisbee Unified School District in Bisbee, Arizona, to take over.
Spanjer’s career spanned some interesting times for the district, including the great recession, a multi-year process of passing a bond that ultimately included $38 million for a new high school and an ever-changing state formula for funding basic education.
School board directors and district staff say they’ll remember Spanjer as a superintendent who wasn’t afraid to tackle problems, put students first and took time to listen and see all sides of an issue.
“One of the things I appreciated about Ron immediately was that he was unwilling to let problems persist,” said school board director Charles Gibson, who was elected the year after Spanjer took over as superintendent. “He went ahead and opened up some difficult circumstances within the district that needed to be dealt with – pulled them right out in the open and dealt with them.”
Spanjer’s willingness to deal with problems early on may have saved the district from costly litigation – something that seems to be increasingly possible for school districts, Gibson said.
Gibson called Spanjer’s leadership style one of “compassionate competence:” he always treated people with a calm fairness, Gibson said.
“I don’t think anyone who ever dealt with Ron felt like he was being authoritarian,” Gibson said. “I think he always had the ability to listen carefully and give dignity to whoever was speaking to him about anything. I think they always felt valued and not just pushed aside.”
That style came through in negotiations with the Blaine Educator’s Union, said union president Dan Persse, who also teaches health and P.E. at Blaine High School. During Spanjer’s career, teachers have never gone on strike. Persse said that’s because the union always felt like the administration listened to teachers’ concerns.
“It feels like we’re on the same side, because we both know that ultimately it’s going to affect kids,” Persse said. “We both have the same goal in mind.”
In retirement, Spanjer plans to spend more time with family. He has three kids and several other family members in Washington and Oregon. With the three-year construction project at the high school wrapping up and a new superintendent starting work, Spanjer feels good about his timing.
“It’s great to see that the board has identified a qualified, really skilled individual to step in, and with enthusiasm,” Spanjer said. “I think the district is going to manage this transition just fine. There are a lot of great people here.”