Dr. Aaron C. Spence, Superintendent - Virginia Beach City Public Schools

A passionate and visionary leader in public education for nearly three decades, Dr. Aaron Spence is committed to ensuring that all students have access to the rigorous coursework, innovative learning opportunities and resources they need to prepare them for success in college, the military or the workforce. Dr. Spence has served as Superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) since June 2014, responsible for the instructional leadership and administrative operation of 86 schools and centers that serve more than 67,000 students. He is credited with creating and fostering a work culture where differences are celebrated, and the input and opinions of more than 10,000 employees are welcomed and valued.

During his time in Virginia Beach, Dr. Spence has led division efforts to systematically address equity and poverty issues and their resulting impact on academic achievement, student engagement and discipline. In selecting Dr. Spence as the 2018 Virginia Superintendent of the Year, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents cited his strategies as a "textbook example of leadership necessary to make large-scale changes in an organization that produce significant changes and positive results."

Examples of that strategic work include an intentional focus on equity at both the division and school level; an analysis of high poverty areas in relation to location of schools struggling to meet accreditation benchmarks; and, the development of a new tiered school improvement support model. Additionally, Dr. Spence took a detailed review of disproportionalities in discipline data (specifically for African American students and students with special needs) and established a Student Discipline Task Force made up of teachers, administrators, parents and community members. This task force was charged with reducing the number of suspensions administered throughout the division; closing the disproportionate gaps that existed in the number of suspensions and/or expulsions; and maximizing instructional time for all students in the classroom.

As a result of these and other ongoing efforts, VBCPS has been 100 percent accredited for four consecutive years, discipline reports showcase a decline in referrals and suspensions; and more students are enrolled in and achieving at higher levels in honors and advanced classes than ever before.

As superintendent, Dr. Spence leads the implementation of the division's strategic framework, Compass to 2025, a five-year plan focused on six goals: educational excellence; student well-being; student ownership of learning; an exemplary, diversified workforce; mutually supportive partnerships; and organizational effectiveness and efficiency. Developed with significant stakeholder input, Compass to 2025 is more than a shelved document; it is a true roadmap for teaching and learning in the division. Dr. Spence has been a staunch advocate of equity, emphasizing that every student – regardless of economic status, race or zip code – should be provided the learning experiences and the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to succeed. Equity is therefore embedded across all six goal of Compass to 2025 as the division strives to help achieve student, workforce and organizational success over the next five years.

Since joining the school division, Dr. Spence launched the division's digital 1:1 technology program; directed the creation of an Entrepreneurship and Business Academy and the first-in-the nation a first-in-the-nation Environmental Studies program at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center; and led the development of a profile of a graduate and robust K-12 academic and career planning tool. He has initiated and expanded partnerships with leading community and faith-based organizations, businesses and the military, including working with the United States Navy to engage all 5,000-plus VBCPS fifth-grade students in an interactive STEM learning experience at the annual Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show. In 2020, VBCPS was one of 15 school divisions recognized by the state Board of Education as “School Divisions of Innovation” for designing and implementing alternatives to traditional instructional practices and school structures that improve student learning and promote college and career readiness, and good citizenship.

In this same spirit of engagement and collaboration, Dr. Spence has taken on leadership roles in the community, joining the boards of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce (Virginia Beach division), United Way of South Hampton Roads, Opportunity, Inc., the Access College Foundation, WHRO Public Media, the Board of the American Heart Association of Hampton Roads and the Virginia Beach Education Foundation.

Dr. Spence came to VBCPS after serving as superintendent of Moore County Public Schools in North Carolina. During his tenure there, he launched a divisionwide digital learning initiative designed to put a digital device, such as a laptop or tablet, in the hands of every student and teacher. He and his staff also worked strategically to improve the school district's End of Grade Proficiency Scores. They were successful on that front, moving up Moore County Public Schools 20 places in state rankings.

Before his service in Moore County, Spence was Chief High School Officer of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the nation's seventh largest school district. He also served as Chief Academic Officer and Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Chesterfield County, Virginia, as well as principal of Deep Run High School in Henrico County, Virginia. Spence began his career in 1994 as a French and photojournalism teacher in Stafford County Public Schools.

He attended the University of Virginia, where he received a bachelor's degree in French studies, a master's degree in secondary education and a doctorate in educational administration and supervision. Spence is a proud graduate of Green Run High School in Virginia Beach. He often says that it is his greatest professional joy to lead the school division where he grew up, and he appreciates and marvels at the fact that several of his colleagues are his former teachers who supported his academic and emotional growth.

Spence and his wife, Krista, have six children; Bella (Isabella), Mattingly, Christopher, Kristianna, Ian and Aaron. In his free time, he enjoys reading, traveling, playing sports and participating in outdoor activities with his family.

Follow Dr. Spence on Twitter @BeachSupe.