Meet the Judges: Larry Colton, Maria Ponzi, and Ken Richardson

Not only are we mixing up our Spelling Bee format this year, but we will have three amazing judges, instead of two.  Gracing our stage for our 19th annual Spelling Bee – a Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, a member of a pioneering wine family, and a super Superintendent of a school district served by Schoolhouse Supplies.

After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Larry Colton pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies. He taught English in Portland Public Schools, worked for Nike, wrote five books, including the Pulitzer Prize Nominated Counting Coup, along with hundreds of magazine articles.  Carlton founded Wordstock in 2005 – the largest celebration of literature and literacy in the Pacific Northwest, the Portland Book Festival, and Community of Writers, a professional development program for Portland area teachers to improve writing instruction.  He has two daughters, three grandsons, one dog and three cats.

Maria Ponzi is President, Director of Sales and Marketing, and second-generation vintner of Ponzi Vineyards. Founded in the Willamette Valley in 1970 by her parents, Maria and her sister –Winemaker Luisa Ponzi– have been operating the winery for the past 28 years.  A wine-industry leader, Ponzi Vineyards produces nearly 50,000 cases annually, experimenting with innovative agricultural methods and new wine varietals.

Maria is currently a commissioner on the Oregon Tourism Commission, a board member of Travel Portland, and has served extended terms on the Oregon Wine Board, Oregon Pinot Camp, and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association. Current President of ¡Salud!, an organization co-founded by her mother Nancy to provide healthcare services to Oregon vineyard workers. Along with that philanthropic work, she continues to support multiple charitable causes.

Native Oregonian Ken Richardson was appointed Superintendent of the David Douglas School District in July 2016; just the 7th Superintendent in District history. With the district since 2009, he served as the Human Resources Director, Assistant Superintendent, and then Deputy Superintendent.

Between 1996 and 2009, Ken was a coach, classroom teacher, school counselor, school administrator, and human resources administrator in the Reynolds School District. He’s won multiple conference coach of the year awards and is a National Collegiate Education Award winner.

Mr. Richardson has a Masters of Education from Lewis and Clark, and currently serves on the Oregon Department of Education workgroup helping to implement statewide the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. He is an active member of many education associations including COSA, ASCD, NASSP and OSPA.

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