Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Will this man be the Joplin R-8 interim superintendent?
The previous superintendent, a well known and highly visible administrator, had spent the district into millions of dollars of debt. Ridder had to come in, speak some hard truths to people about cuts that needed to be made, and find a way to rally the school district around him.
By all accounts, Ridder's year in Mehlville was a rousing success.
Will the former Springfield superintendent have the opportunity to work his magic on a school district with even deeper problems?
An article in The Call, a St. Louis county newspaper, in June indicated Ridder was applying for this type of position, though it also noted that he was applying for positions in state education departments. Sources indicate that Mehlville officials have talked with people from Joplin about Ridder. His tenure in Mehlville was described in the article:
When Ridder came to the district last year, things weren't looking up for Mehlville, former board President Ron Fedorchak noted in his parting remarks in April.
The school board had two new members, Samantha Stormer and Jean Pretto, and immediately faced decisions on $5 million and $8 million budget deficits with the imminent departure of former Superintendent Eric Knost. But then-Springfield Superintendent Ridder — known nationwide for his work in education — chose Mehlville over a larger urban district and turned around a situation that seemed hopeless, Fedorchak said.
"After one interview, I knew we needed him here to help pave a new direction for us," Stormer said. "Working with Dr. Ridder over the past year has inspired me to look deeper within myself, listen more to our community and make the best possible decisions for our district. I'm going to miss him not being here and being able to call him any time I have doubts about my decisions.
"While he has never said what to do, he has always made me think harder and figure it out for myself. That is what an excellent leader does."
Ridder, like the man he may be called on to replace, C. J. Huff, was a finalist for the Missouri Commissioner of Education position that eventually went to Margatet Vandeven.
While the Mehlville board was fully behind Ridder when he had the opportunity to get the state's top job, it did not want him to leave when his year as interim superintendent came to a close. Board President Ron Fedorchak said the superintendent position was left open for a time on the chance that Ridder might decide to stay.
The Joplin R-8 Board of Education is scheduled to meet in closed session 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Memorial Administration Building to discuss the interim superintendent position and possibly to interview candidates.
The stories of C. J. Huff, Mark Rohr, David Wallace, Mike Woolston, and more are featured in Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado. Available in paperback and e-book editions.