Virginia Beach schools superintendent chosen to lead Loudoun Co. schools

Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia has hired Aaron Spence, superintendent of Virginia Beach Public Schools, to be the school system’s next superintendent.

The school board voted 6-2, with at-large board member Denise Corbo absent for the vote, to approve Spence’s candidacy.

Spence takes over for Daniel Smith, who was appointed interim superintendent in December. Smith had previously served as the school system’s chief of staff.

Spence has led Virginia Beach schools since 2014. School board chairman Ian Serotkin said Spence is expected to relocate and start the new role in the coming months, and that Smith will continue to serve as superintendent until that time.

“It will be my goal from day one to ensure we are leading together to build trust, create even greater transparency for our community around the outstanding work of our school division, recruit and retain a world-class team of educators, and leverage the power of relationships with families and stakeholders to strengthen us,” Spence said in a statement.

During a brief board meeting Friday night, Serotkin touted Spence’s accomplishments in Virginia Beach, including ensuring all schools remained fully accredited, implementing full-day kindergarten and leading the school system at a time it reported its highest graduation rates on record.

Spence was the superintendent of Moore County Schools in North Carolina for two years, and has also worked in other Virginia school districts, such as Henrico and Stafford counties.

Loudoun County Public Schools, a Northern Virginia division with about 83,000 students, has been mired in controversy and scrutinized for the way it handled two in-school sexual assaults by the same student on different school campuses in 2021, which led to the firing of its superintendent.

Broad Run school board member Tiffany Polifko voted against hiring Spence, saying there’s a “gaping wound” in the school system and that she doesn’t believe the current school board will fix that wound.

“I will work respectfully with anyone,” Polifko said Friday. “But it is my sincere belief that in order to choose the proper leader for this school division, we need to have the proper leaders in place on the school board to execute that decision. And in my opinion, we do not have that right now.”

After getting elected, Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order calling for a review of how Loudoun County handled the assaults. Attorney General Jason Miyares then impaneled a special grand jury.

Former Superintendent Scott Ziegler was fired in December, a day after a special grand jury criticized the school system’s response to the assaults. He was then indicted, and is facing charges of misdemeanor false publication, misdemeanor prohibited conduct and misdemeanor penalizing an employee for a court appearance.

School spokesman Wayde Byard was indicted on a count of felony perjury.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled that the school system has to release its investigation into the sexual assaults. The school board previously declined to do so, citing attorney-client privilege.

Loudoun County hired a firm to lead its search for a new superintendent in February. A survey of parents, students and community members resulted in more than 4,000 responses, indicating that many viewed school safety, staff retention and a focus on academics as among the most critical issues.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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