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Pettis County Early Childhood Cooperative student Jazmine Vera-Hernandez waves to family members after receiving her graduation certificate from co-op Principal Grace Kendrick in May 2018. Kendrick has announced her retirement, effective at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

The steady hand that has led the Pettis County Early Childhood Cooperative since the day it opened its doors is letting go.

Co-op Principal Grace Kendrick has announced she is retiring at the end of the current school year; her retirement was accepted by the Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education on Monday, March 25. Kendrick helped open the co-op at the start of the 1991-92 school year.

The co-op provides free services to parents of children prenatal to age 5 and for children ages 3 and 4 who have a developmental delay or meet the criteria for special education; a select group of students who are typically developing also are enrolled. It is a cooperative effort among the six public school districts of Pettis County: Sedalia 200, Green Ridge R-VIII, La Monte R-IV, Pettis County R-V (Northwest), Smithton R-VI and Pettis County R-XII (Dresden).

Kendrick earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary and special education from the University of Central Missouri in 1985. She also holds a master’s degree in Elementary Education Learning Disabilities; an education specialist degree in Elementary Administration and Special Education Administration; as well as certification in Early Childhood Education, all from UCM.

She joined the Sedalia 200 district in August 1985 as a special education teacher at Heber Hunt Elementary and served as a special education teacher at Sedalia Middle School for the 1989-90 school year. She was promoted to special education process coordinator at SMS and Smith-Cotton High School in August 1990 and then at the co-op in 1991. Kendrick was named the Early Childhood principal at the co-op in July 2002.

Kendrick said she will miss everything about the co-op since she truly loves all aspects of her job.

“However, if I had to pick a couple, it would be the students and staff,” she said. “The co-op is a wonderful place to be, with caring staff working closely together in meeting the unique needs of all our students.”

The co-op’s motto is “Together We Can, Hand In Hand,” and Kendrick said that is how she and staff approach each day.

“Our early childhood staff members work as a family and share responsibilities. We truly care and respect each other and the students and families we serve,” she said.

The district has begun a search for a new Early Childhood principal, but Superintendent Steve Triplett said it will be a challenge to find someone as caring, dedicated and knowledgeable as Kendrick.

“It is so fitting that Mrs. Kendrick’s first name is Grace, because she exhibits that quality consistently with our district’s youngest and sometimes most challenged learners,” Triplett said. “Our entire community – not just Sedalia, but all of the communities that the co-op serves – owes a debt of gratitude to Grace for the way she has helped so many children start on the right track to educational success. To say she will be missed is a significant understatement.”

The district has started preliminary work on building a new Early Childhood center on the campus of Smith-Cotton High School. Kendrick has consulted with district leaders and with architects and the construction manager to ensure the new facility will meet those students’ needs.

“The co-op has steadily grown over the past 28 years in identifying students who qualify for special services. With the new industry coming to town, the projection of continued growth is expected,” Kendrick said. “With additional space in a new facility, we will be able to serve more students and have fewer students in each classroom. In addition, the new space will allow for more large-motor activities and family events due to having a larger gym. The new facility will have more than one restroom that is not shared among staff, students and patrons, which will be a bonus for all.”

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