Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder announced yesterday that Joseph A. Spagnolo Jr., school superintendent in Lynchburg since 1973, will succeed S. John Davis as the state's superintendent of public instruction.
The details of when Spagnolo, 47, will assume the $100,000 post will be worked out next week, according to Education Secretary James W. Dyke Jr., who said he hoped Spagnolo would be on the job full time by the beginning of July.
Davis, a former Fairfax school superintendent, announced his retirement last year, effective last January, but agreed to stay until a successor was found.
Dyke said yesterday that Spagnolo's record in Lynchburg "is very similar to the kinds of things we're interested in."
Spagnolo has emphasized curbing the number of dropouts, educating high-risk students and raising the achievement of minority students, who constitute 40 percent of Lynchburg's 10,000 public school students.
Other innovations Spagnolo has been credited with include two programs for at-risk 4-year-olds and a governor's high school for students talented in math and science, similar to Thomas Jefferson High School in Annandale.
Recently, the Lynchburg school system entered into a partnership with Lynchburg College's education department, whose students will work in city schools with at-risk children.
Dyke praised Spagnolo, who has a doctorate in education from the University of Virginia, for having "a real grasp on budget issues." As the state faces tightening revenue, as well as questions about the disparity in education financing between rich and poor localities, budget issues are likely to be paramount for the Department of Education.
"I plan to make some real changes in education," Spagnolo said yesterday in a telephone interview. "I'm not going to be a caretaker."
He praised the state's newly instituted Family Life Education program, which was adopted in Lynchburg schools with little opposition. However, he said he is skeptical about the usefulness of a plan developed in the Baliles administration to measure a school system's performance using student test scores.
"We need to be accountable for what we do, mainly because we spend a lot of money," Spagnolo said. But "the wall-chart approach is very superficial."
A former biology teacher who served as assistant superintendent for budget and finance in Henrico County near Richmond for two years before going to Lynchburg, Spagnolo is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. He is married and has four children.
Spagnolo will be paid $99,425 initially, and $101,413 annually as of Dec. 1.