The interim superintendent is out in Hickman Mills and an acting superintendent is in as the school district in south Kansas City strives to turn around its academic fortunes.
The school board decided Thursday night to hire recently retired Grandview Assistant Superintendent Barbara Tate to lead the district while the board continues its search for a permanent leader.
Tate steps in for Everlyn Williams, who former Superintendent Marge Williams had put in position to be her chosen successor.
“We decided we were not moving in the right direction in regards to student achievement,” Hickman Mills school board President Breman Anderson said Friday. “We needed someone with experience with inner-city, low-income youth.”
Tate had been the top academic administrator in Grandview, where she was an assistant superintendent for 17 years.
Grandview is not as stressed by populations of low-income children as Hickman Mills, but Grandview has coped with similar pressure and succeeded in raising its standing in Missouri’s accreditation process.
This fall, Hickman Mills was downgraded to provisional accreditation after the district slipped on its annual performance report to meeting seven of the state’s 14 standards, down from nine in 2011. Grandview reached 13 standards and has maintained full accreditation.
Tate, in an interview Friday, said she hopes to re-create some of the instructional support Grandview has given its principals and teachers, though she’ll want it to be specific to Hickman Mills’ needs.
She spent her first day Friday meeting individually with cabinet members and administrators.
“I’m asking, ‘What kind of assistance do you need?’ ” Tate said. “I know they have a difficult task before them.”
Marge Williams had led the district for more than a decade when she announced in 2011 that she would retire at the end of the school year in June 2012.
She had Everlyn Williams, no relation, shadow her in the top role her final year, choosing her to be interim superintendent and a candidate for the permanent post.
With the selection of Tate as acting superintendent, Everlyn Williams remains employed by the district, Anderson said, but her specific role was unclear. She will be reassigned, Anderson said.
Meanwhile, the board is working on narrowing the list of candidates for the permanent post, Anderson said. The board has not revealed the names on its short list, but it intends to present two or three finalists to the public within the next couple of weeks.
“Having the right person in that position is vital,” Anderson said. In a district under pressure to improve performance, he said, “Everyone from the classrooms down through the administration has to be following in line so everyone is learning.”
Tate will be working under a part-time contract that keeps her retirement benefits intact but limits her to 550 hours of work this school year. Tate said she expects she will put in most of those hours in the next several months, then draw it down as the board’s choice for the next superintendent gears up to start July 1.
Tate’s mission, she said, is to help move the district forward on its road back to full accreditation — a journey that will have to be completed under the next superintendent.
The state is transitioning to a new school improvement plan in 2013 that is expected to raise the bar for all school districts, making Hickman Mills’ climb steeper.
“It’s going to be a process,” Tate said. “But we hope to see progress this year.”