If change is good, the local education scene is primed for a great year.
New faces — one known, one not yet known — will move into the leadership positions at Sedalia’s largest educational institutions, Sedalia School District 200 and State Fair Community College. Both Sedalia 200 Superintendent Harriet Wolfe and SFCC President Marsha Drennon announced their retirements last year.
Wolfe actually announced her retirement in August 2011 to take effect at the end of the 2011-12 school year, but the school board talked her into staying on an additional year. Wolfe has led the district since June 2008, when she was hired to succeed Doug Ebersold; at the time, she was serving as assistant superintendent in charge of finance and buildings and grounds.
Bill Betteridge, principal at Heber Hunt Elementary School, worked with Wolfe for five years in the Pilot Grove district.
“She is the best all-around school person I have ever worked with,” Betteridge said.
At the time of her retirement announcement, then-Board of Education President Scott Gardner said Wolfe has been integral to “a great deal of our success” in the district. “The ability to manage financial resources of the district is something (in which) Dr. Wolfe has no equal.”
Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt called her “the top education financial manager in the state” and a “tremendous instructional leader.”
In September, the Sedalia 200 school board announced that Pollitt will succeed Wolfe at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Pollitt has 29 years of experience in education, 20 of them in the Sedalia district. Through his career, Pollitt has been a teacher, coach and administrator.
One of the key issues he will face is increasing enrollment. The district’s three smallest classes are at the sophomore, junior and senior levels. There are more than 1,000 students at Smith-Cotton High School, and more than 1,100 at the junior high. The first-grade class has more than 400 students, with kindergarten numbers exceeding 420 this year — and projections put next year’s kindergarten class at that size as well.
“Space is becoming an issue again, and we are going to have to keep our thumb on the pulse to make sure we monitor class sizes and give our students the best opportunities to be successful that we can,” Pollitt said.
In December, the school board voted on a boundary change for 2013-14 that shifts 21 current Horace Mann Elementary School students to Parkview Elementary. Horace Mann’s eastern boundary will move from Washington Avenue to Ohio Avenue between Broadway Boulevard and 20th Street.
During preliminary discussions, Pollitt told the board the boundary move would be “a Band-Aid. It’s not a fix. If our numbers continue to grow, this Band-Aid is not going to work very long before were going to have to make other decisions.”
Looking for a leader
At SFCC, Drennon will retire on June 30 after a decade at the helm. She announced her retirement plans on April 25, 2012.
A search committee under the guidance of co-chairs Gary Noland, president of the SFCC Board of Trustees, and fellow board member Ron Wineinger has narrowed the field of candidates to a pair of finalists: Joanna Anderson, vice president for Student Services for Casper College in Casper, Wyo.; and Steve Rook, vice president for Academic and Student Affairs for Rich Mountain Community College in Mena, Ark.
The board hopes to make a final decision and make an offer by mid-April.
Noland expressed hope that the next hire will be able to come to Sedalia in time to work with Drennon before her retirement, “to make the transition smooth.”
Drennon’s tenure has included the $8 million “Power to Transform” capital campaign, which enhanced the college’s allied health programs, provided more student scholarships and built the Heckart Science and Allied Health Center. Other SFCC accomplishments during Drennon’s watch include record enrollment, articulation agreements with the University of Central Missouri and other four-year institutions, SFCC being listed among the top 50 fastest-growing community colleges of its size nationally each of the past two years and, for the second year in a row, being among the top 15 percent of military-friendly colleges.
There also has been an expansion of online course offerings and enrollment.
Drennon plans to return to New Mexico and do consulting work with community colleges, assisting them with fundraising and resource development; she also plans to work with the Rural Community College Alliance, an advocacy group that helps build educational and economic opportunities in rural areas.