Spray to depart, Clark-Pleasant school board launches supt. search

After a decade leading the school district, Clark-Pleasant’s superintendent will leave this summer to take a job as Perry Township Schools’ new superintendent.

Patrick Spray’s departure from Clark-Pleasant and hire at Perry Township was announced Monday evening after the Perry Township School Board voted unanimously at a special meeting to approve him as the southside school’s next superintendent.

Spray has been the superintendent of Clark-Pleasant Community School Corp. since July 2013. He is expected to complete the rest of the current 2022-23 school year in Johnson County before he moves to Marion County to start his new job on July 1.

Spray has 15 years total of experience leading schools as superintendent and four additional years as an assistant superintendent. He’s earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Teaching from the University of Indianapolis, and he’s earned a Master of Arts in Elementary and Middle School Administration-Principalship from Butler University. He also holds a doctorate from Indiana State University in School Administration and Supervision.

Spray’s decision to move on from Clark-Pleasant stems from wanting a new opportunity to grow professionally, he told the Daily Journal.

“I’ve been in this corporation for 10 years. I’ve done some good work here, grown a great team,” Spray said. “I’m ready for that next challenge in my career. And I feel like that’s what keeps me fresh and motivated to do good work.”

Spray in the last three years received backlash from some parents at Clark-Pleasant over various issues from requiring masks at school during the pandemic to accusations he was pushing “social agendas” onto students with critical race theory. A few parents have also been critical of Spray and the school board for passing a transgender student policy in late 2021.

That same year, a group of parents started a petition to get Spray fired as superintendent, but it never went anywhere.

Spray said those criticisms were not a factor in his decision to leave.

“I’ve always felt very supported at Clark-Pleasant, by the board, by the community, and have had a great working relationship with our teachers association and with the staff here,” he said.

During his time at Clark-Pleasant, Spray has led the district through its growing pains. In 2013, Clark-Pleasant had just over 6,000 students, and it now has over 6,800, according to enrollment numbers presented this month.

When he took the helm in 2013, Clark-Pleasant was dealing with some of its elementary schools bursting at the seams with new students, according to various articles that year in the Daily Journal. In the last few years, Spray oversaw the creation of two new elementary schools — Grassy Creek Elementary and Ray Crowe Elementary — and he led the beginning of the massive Whiteland Community High School expansion, which is set to be underway this summer.

The district also started its preschool program, and Spray helped oversee the success of the Clark-Pleasant Education Foundation, which was just starting when he came in in 2013.

Spray noted some of his biggest accomplishments include overseeing the various building projects, the education foundation and also expanding different STEM opportunities for students.

Overall, he is most proud of the relationships he’s built over the last decade, he said.

“Those relationships are kind of what you leave. I’ve always been one that has felt like, you should invest in people and you help grow people as much as you can, whether those are, you know, three-year-olds in your preschool program, high school seniors or teachers or whomever,” Spray said. “… that culture of all of us are in it together and working together has been something that I’ve been proud of.”

One of the biggest challenges he faced was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, which no educator could have prepared for, he said. Another challenge he mentioned was balancing providing adequate facilities and space for the growing number of students while also remaining fiscally responsible.

With Spray’s announced departure, the Clark-Pleasant School Board has launched the search for a new superintendent.

In a letter sent to staff and parents on Monday, the school board members said the search is now underway, and they are accepting applications through April 23. The first round of interviews are set to start on May 9, with the second round starting May 24, according to the superintendent search profile. The plan is to have a new superintendent selected to start on July 1 immediately after Spray leaves.

Spray intends to help the new superintendent with transitioning to the job before he leaves on July 1, he said.

In the letter, the five school board members in a joint statement commended Spray for his dedication and commitment to the school district over the years.

“Dr. Spray has led our district, for the past 10 years, through great times and through the challenges of COVID-19 and has never wavered from his enthusiasm for our students, our employees and the entire school community. He has met challenges head-on and made Clark-Pleasant Schools a better place to work and go to school,” the letter says. “He is dedicated in his commitment to prepare young people for successful, productive lives and it is that dedication and commitment that has prepared him for his next professional challenge, Superintendent of Perry Township Schools.”

Spray is excited to hit the ground running in Perry Township, he said in a statement on Monday after Perry school board approved his hire.

“Perry Township Schools has a great reputation as a premier school district and I am honored to have been selected as the next superintendent,” Spray said. “As I have told many of my kindergarten friends when I read to them, the superintendent’s job is to be the ‘helper’ so that the most important people, our teachers, can do their jobs to teach students and help them grow as learners. I am excited to get to know the Perry team and serve this community of learners.”

Spray will replace current Superintendent Pat Mapes, who has led Perry Township schools since 2016. Spray will have an annual base salary of $215,000 through June 30, 2024, according to the superintendent’s contract the board approved. He can also be reimbursed for up to $10,000 in moving expenses if he chooses to move to Perry Township.

Mapes is expected to continue to work with Perry Township Schools and Spray in order to “ensure a seamless transition.” At Perry Township, Mapes has led several large projects, including the establishment of a school police department, increasing teacher base salaries by nearly $17,000 and the passage of a referendum renewal.