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March 12, 2013
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Eagle County School District's Smyser to lead Poudre schools

EAGLE, Colorado - Colorado's superintendent of the year is headed to a new school district.

Dr. Sandra Smyser was selected from among three finalists to head the Poudre School District in northern Colorado.

"I have to say I have mixed feelings. I'm excited and enthusiastic about the new opportunity, but I'll miss the Eagle County School District. It's an amazing place," Smyser said.

She'll finish the school year and be here through the end of June when her current contract expires.

Smyser was recruited to lead Eagle County schools in 2008.

"The five years I have served as your superintendent have been the best of my career," Smyser said. "I've had a steady stream of emails from people wishing me the best."

The school board meets today. By 3:45 p.m. during their afternoon work session, they're scheduled to begin interviewing consultants to help in a nationwide search for Smyser's replacement.

The board is going to stay the course, said Jeanne McQueeney, school board president.

"The path that the board has chosen of the strategic plan is one that they will continue down," McQueeney said. "The staff and public should not be concerned that the board is interested in changing directions."

Closing the achievement gap

Smyser grew up in Maryland, outside Washington, D.C.

She attended high school before special education was the law of the land, and signed up to help special education students.

When she finished her class work, and she was usually first, the teacher would ask her to help some of the kids who were struggling.

She left Maryland for Indiana State University because it was one of the only special education programs at that time. She finished at the University of Maryland, earned her master's in Spanish and education at University of South Carolina, and her Ph.D. in special education from the University of California at Riverside.

Before taking over Eagle County schools in 2008, Smyser was the interim superintendent in Steamboat Springs School District, superintendent of Las Virgenes Unified School District in California, superintendent of Carpinteria Unified School District in California and superintendent/chief business official for Solvang Elementary School District in California.

Smyser has been in education for more years than some of her teachers are old. This is her 15th year as a superintendent. She was a teacher and administrator for at least 10 years before that.

She started as a bilingual special education teacher.

"I was always fascinated by the difference in the way different students learned, how something that worked for one didn't work for another," Smyser said after she was named superintendent of the year. "That has always been my focus - how can we meet the needs of different kids."

That's at the core of the school district's new curriculum, she said.

High achieving students are still performing at top levels, and the lower achieving students are scoring better than ever on standardized tests, according to the school district's data.

At a special board meeting Monday, the Poudre school board voted 4-2 to hire Smyser, then unanimously approved a motion expressing support for their new superintendent.

The Poudre School District is home to 55 schools and includes Fort Collins.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Mar 12, 2013 09:07PM Published Mar 12, 2013 08:44PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.