Next year will be Brad Pollitt’s 20th year in the Sedalia school district. It also will be his first as superintendent.
During a Wednesday morning news conference, Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education President Dr. Jeff Sharp announced that Pollitt will succeed Harriet Wolfe as superintendent when she retires at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Pollitt, 51, currently is assistant superintendent.
The school board focused solely on internal candidates, interviewing Pollitt and Nancy Scott, also a district superintendent, on Sept. 13 and gathering again Sunday to make their choice.
“We had two very strong internal candidates,” Sharp said. “There is a thought that you should grow your own, and we felt under the past several years under Dr. Wolfe’s instruction we have grown two very strong candidates. ... It was a very difficult call.”
Wolfe said she and other district personnel “are very pleased with the way it has turned out.” She also expects a “seamless transition.”
“This is a good time of year. Brad and I will have the whole rest of the year to turn things over ... that will make things run smoothly for the district,” Wolfe said.
In comments to school board members and district principals and their assistants who gathered at the central office for the announcement, Pollitt thanked the board “for the confidence they have shown in me.” He said in his 24 years living in the Sedalia community he has seen a lot of positive changes.
“The district continues to grow, we added about 285 students over the past five years,” he said. “That means Sedalia must be a good place to live, and the school district must be a good place to put your students. We’re proud of that.”
Pollitt was joined by his wife, Danette, and their daughters Whitney, 21, and Brianna, 13, for the announcement.
Sharp called Pollitt “the fire extinguisher for the district,” pointing out his experience dealing with student and parent issues and interacting with the public on matters ranging from discipline and personnel to construction of the new high school.
“He has been forged in the fire,” Sharp said. “He has been our go-to guy as far as solving problems for the day-to-day management of the district. ... He clearly knows how to motivate people and that is one of the reasons we wanted him to be superintendent.”
Pollitt has 29 years of experience in education, starting out teaching social studies in the North Shelby School District before coming to Sedalia to become the varsity girls basketball coach and a seventh and eighth grade history teacher at Sedalia Middle School for eight years.
He then served as assistant principal at the middle school for four years, followed by a two-year stint as principal of Smithton High School then a year as principal of Knob Noster High School. He was promoted to assistant superintendent at Knob Noster and served in that role for a year before Doug Ebersold, then Sedalia’s superintendent, lured him back to the district as assistant superintendent.
Pollitt heaped praise on both Ebersold and Wolfe, saying, “I have big shoes to fill, and I accept that challenge.”
The question of who will replace Pollitt remains unanswered. The past two years, as district administrators have left for higher-level jobs in other districts, their duties have been redistributed to remaining personnel to help control costs in the face of declining state and federal revenue. Wolfe said she and the board “are giving that careful consideration. ... We will look closely at all the job responsibilities.”
She added: “We have tightened down the central office about as tight as we can get it.”
“My job responsibilities are going to change immensely from managing the district to leading the district,” Pollitt said.
One of the issues that will require attention is the expanding 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.
During the news conference, Pollitt took time to praise district administrators and directors, including Scott, Carla Wheeler, Chris Pyle, Connie Miller, Richie Simons, Jim Allain and Rowena Nickell. He said he was “naming a lot of people because ... the biggest job anybody can do is hire the right people and put them in the right positions, and I think this district over the past number of years has done that.”
Noting the significant changes in the education landscape since he was last in the classroom, Pollitt said, “I appreciate what our teachers do on a day-to-day basis.” He added that community stakeholders should expect the district to continue its track of progress, pointing to the consecutive years of 14 out of 14 scores on the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Annual Performance Report.
Looking at the challenges on his road ahead, Pollitt said, “I’m blessed, I’m honored, and I can guarantee that I’ll do the best job that I can to lead this district.”