Every worker wishes their boss spoke of them the way Deidre Esquivel describes Paula Schupp.
“We couldn’t do what we do without Paula in our office. … Paula has been a jewel for the Sedalia School District Foundation,” Esquivel, SSDF president, said of the organization’s administrative assistant.
Schupp has a lifelong connection to the district – especially Horace Mann Elementary – and a decade of experience working on behalf of students, teachers and administrators.
“My daughters are third generation Horace Mann students,” she said with pride. Her husband Russell’s grandfather built the house on the southeast corner of Stewart Avenue and 16th Street, catty-corner from the school.
Bill Betteridge was principal of Horace Mann when Schupp’s older daughter, Arden, started kindergarten in 2009. Schupp connected with him from the start.
“Pretty early, I was impressed with his ability to memorize the name of every child in the school,” Schupp said. “We would drop (Arden) off at the door by the gym and he would greet every child by name.”
When she attended her first PTA meeting, Betteridge pointed at Schupp and said, “Let’s make her the secretary.” Schupp accepted the role without hesitation because of how much she respected Betteridge. At the time, the PTA was raising funds for a new playground; Horace Mann’s centennial celebration was just a couple of years away, as well, so Schupp started working on ways to tie together fundraisers for both causes. Teri Paul, a SSDF board member, became involved in the effort, and that was Schupp’s introduction to the foundation and all it does.
“Paula had worked extensively on the Horace Mann birthday celebration and I don’t think she was really looking for a job, just a way to stay active in the school system,” Esquivel said. “But we spoke to her about coming to work for us, and the rest is history.”
Schupp became the foundation’s administrative assistant, its sole paid employee, in January 2014. In that role, she maintains a database of Smith-Cotton alumni and creates the foundation’s Connections newsletter. She also manages the scholarship program for S-C and Whittier seniors; the mini grant program for district teachers and staff members; and dual credit scholarships, a partnership with State Fair Community College.
Homecoming activities for S-C alumni is another foundation mission. Planning starts almost a year in advance, as soon as the next school year’s Homecoming date is released. Schupp assists with class reunions, the SSDF pre-game tailgate party and the Saturday morning pancake and sausage breakfast fundraiser at Smith-Cotton Junior High, which features a performance by elementary, middle school and junior high vocal music students.
“That’s a big deal. It’s the one time when all of the elementary kids get to perform together on that Saturday morning in the all-elementary choir,” she said. “It’s also a chance for alumni to meet together in what many still consider their high school.”
Those alumni dedicate the dollars for the scholarship program, and Esquivel appreciates how Schupp interacts with the S-C graduates.
“Paula loves connecting with alumni, visiting with them and hearing their stories. Her attention to every detail means the board never misses an opportunity or event to connect with students, teachers or alumni or hear a special story,” Esquivel said. “However, no matter how hectic it gets, at the foundation office or in her own personal life, Paula always has a smile and a kind word for the next visitor or caller to the foundation.”
Schupp looks forward to Senior Awards Night, when she and Esquivel get to hand those scholarships over to deserving seniors.
“Deidre and I always say that the scholarship night is our biggest night of the year. That is probably my favorite thing that we do,” Schupp said. “All of those students sitting on that stage are getting some kind of award or recognition. … There’s just a lot of promise in the auditorium at that moment and to imagine what they all are going to accomplish. It’s very exciting and it’s very humbling to get to be a small part of that.”
Schupp’s admiration for the school district and its educators gives purpose to her work at the foundation.
“I think the Sedalia school district is phenomenal. I think they do a wonderful job. From when my children were in kindergarten until now – I have a sophomore at the high school – I’ve always seen teachers and educators who are passionate about the kids,” she said. “From the teachers to the administrators, I see people who care about kids and want to see them succeed.”