Nancy E. Sprengelmeyer, vice-chairwoman of the Coventry School Committee known for her dedication to Coventry students and her genuinely caring demeanor, passed away on Sunday, March 3 at Rhode Island Hospital while surrounded by her loving family. She was 67.
After graduating from Salve Regina College in 1967 with a degree in Secondary Education for English, Sprengelmeyer spent several years teaching at Middletown High School before beginning what would become a very significant relationship with Coventry Public Schools on May 12, 1970 when she became an English and reading teacher at Coventry High.
During her 29 years as a Coventry educator, Sprengelmeyer played many roles, both in and out of CHS. She spent several years as the Assistant to the Director and Educational Consultant at the former West Bay Career and Technical Center where she helped model teaching strategies and integrated English, math and science standards into the curricula. From 2001 to 2002, despite retiring in 1999, she worked as the Interim Director of the new Regional Career Center at Coventry High School and in this role, she planned, staffed and equipped the center while implementing work placements, internships and job shadowing experiences for students which are still utilized today.
Between 2003 and 2008, Sprengelmeyer channeled both her knack for designing efficient learning programs and her fervent desire to help students succeed, while working as the Interim Cooperative Education Coordinator at Chariho's Career and Tech Center and as a High School Diploma Teacher at Exeter Job Corps Academy, respectively.
Sprengelmeyer began her tenure on the School Committee on Nov. 18, 2002 as the representative for Dist. 3 and served as Chairperson until 2006. She held the position of Vice-Chairperson from 2008 until the present. In 2005, she was one of five school officials in the state to be recognized by the RI Association of School Committees (RIASC) for completing its required professional development hours and was also honored by the RI Board of Regents for the accomplishment.
During her time on the Committee, Sprengelmeyer worked tirelessly with her colleagues to enact policies ensuring that each student and staff member had a safe and beneficial experience each day at any Coventry public school. She supported modern education initiatives like the district's new Virtual High School program and played a valuable role in educating Coventry voters about the school improvement bonds passed last November that will ultimately result in many positive updates within the district.
In addition, Sprengelmeyer was a member of the Coventry Juvenile Hearing Board from 1989 to 2003, where she developed a community service program for offenders. Throughout the years she also served on the Local Advisory Committee for Special Education, RIASC’s Professional Development Committee, Pawtuxet Valley Rotary Club and Coventry Friendship Link as president, all while earning a Masters of Education degree for English from URI and an Advanced Graduate Studies degree for Administration from Providence College.
One of her biggest career goals, which she undeniably accomplished, was to encourage and help students succeed, even when they themselves didn't believe it was possible. When speaking with Sprengelmeyer's former students, one of the most common remembrances is that she truly, from the bottom of her heart, believed in them.
"Nancy’s main priority was the students of Coventry Schools. She didn’t just say it; she meant it," said Donna McDonald, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent and School Committee Secretary. "She took the time to listen and was always there to help a student or an employee in any way she could."
McDonald recalled an instance when a parent and student came by her office to discuss the student's desire to drop out of school and instead take on-line courses. Sprengelmeyer happened to stop in and heard the conversation.
"Nancy encouraged the girl to stay in school to be with her peers and told her that she was young and might regret the decision one day," McDonald said. "She told the girl that she could not get a better education anywhere like she could in Coventry schools."
Her care and concern for those around her are sentiments echoed by many of her friends, former students and colleagues.
"Nancy was truly unique," said fellow School Committee member Judi Liner. "I will miss her warmth, hugs, red lipstick stamp of love via her kisses, along with her 'I love you, Honey' manner that she always ended her conversations with."
"Nancy had a huge heart for kids and always wanted to do the right thing. When a parent called or a student had a problem, she was very tenacious about getting something done and wouldn't let it go until there was a solution," said Asst. Superintendent Michael Convery. "Apart from that, she was also a very kind person who did a lot for others. At holiday times Nancy was always bringing in snacks and treats for everyone."
"Nancy helped so many students who would have never stayed in school if it wasn't for her," said Kathy Patenaude, School Committee Chairperson and close friend.
Patenaude, who will be delivering the eulogy at Friday's memorial service, recalled that on more than one occasion, Sprengelmeyer even went as far as providing clothing, advice and support to several students to keep them on track and in school.
"She was so generous and cared about everyone," she continued. "And then there was the red lipstick, you can't forget her hugs and kisses and the red lipstick marks that she left behind."
"Nancy truly loved her job as a teacher and since retirement, spent all of her time still trying to help out every kid she could through her work on the School Committee," said former student and longtime friend Ernie Nardolillo, whose son, Joseph, is Sprengelmeyer's godson. "I don't think there is one person in the town that has dedicated more of their life to the children of Coventry."
Along with her school and community involvement, Nancy has been a devoted wife, stepmother and friend to all.
A memorial service will be celebrated on Friday, March 8 at 10 a.m. at Iannotti Funeral Home (415 Washington St., Coventry). Interment will take place in St. Patrick Cemetery, East Greenwich. Visiting hours will be held on Thursday, March 7, 2013 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., also at Iannotti Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Nancy’s memory to the Coventry Teachers' Alliance (CTA) Scholarship Fund using the attached donation form.