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A Feature Interview With Marsha Chappelow, Superintendent of the Ladue School District, Part 2

Dr. Chappelow talks about professional development, reducing the size of classrooms and hopes for curing Cancer.

Yesterday, Dr. Chappelow addressed the tax levy; reaching for excellence as a district and other issues as well. This is part 2 of a two part series, interviewing heads of schools. Next is Sister Lucie Nordmann, President of Villa Duchesne Oak Hill.

Patch: Would you ask for staff members to pay for some professional development opportunities out of their own pocket?

And they have already. We’ve had a couple of people go to important conferences, and for different reasons tied to the strategic plan. They paid their airfare and we’d pay the conference fees, overnight arrangements. We’ve done that for our staff.

Patch: The role of technology in education. How big, how important is it to Ladue?

I think we are getting to the point--how do we do without it? In school districts, both learning and administration are hooked to technology. Technology can make us more efficient. It gives students information right at their finger tips and resources also right at their finger tips.  It engages a learner in a different way, but also, can be very efficient. If a student can get information more quickly, they can use that other time better spent.

Patch: Does technology require more things, bigger facilities, IT support, etc?

Sometimes its a frustration for any organization. You need that core structure to support that. Its not like just buying a typewriter and putting it out there. If you hook it into your systems to get it to actually work for you, there’s a lot more to the support. Technology is only as good as its users.

Patch: With the purchase of the Westminster property, do you envision all the sports teams and activities moving there eventually?

It all depends upon the facilities management committee’s recommendations to the board. I just know they are looking at that right now. The board is looking at expanding science facilities at the high school, and if you do that, obviously you are going to take up parking and some of the land.

Patch: Would the board consider public/private partnerships to pay for say athletic expansions like a football facility?

I think they would. We recently had  a board report on revenue enhancements and that came up in the report. Right now, we are like any other public school organizations. We should look at any possibilities. And if they fit our needs, then that might be the direction we would take.

Patch: Are you making headway in reducing the size of classrooms?

Not in our current financial situation. If we are successful in passing the 49 cent levy, then we can start reducing class sizes again. We are continuing to grow. We stayed steady this year which was a good thing for the district.

In our current situation, we need to get a fifth grade center open. Only two of our elementary schools have an additional classroom where we could add another class. Otherwise, we are back to purchasing mobiles and there are a lot of other factors when reducing the size of the classrooms.

Patch: What are the main challenges of leading a district with some 4,000 students?

Well, I am going to give you a combination of answers.

First, its a big responsibility, that I take very seriously. But, I have to tell you as an educator, its a pleasure to work with such a talented staff and parents who want the best for their kids, and when you put all that together, hopefully we are making a difference in a student’s life, and I feel very much a part of that. We think that will pay off for all students in the long run.

But its a big responsibility and every decision you make is not always popular.

Patch: Ever long for the days where the superintendent drove the bus and knew everyone’s name including the cafeteria workers in the district?

I don’t think I ever drove a bus.  Nor would you want me to do that.

I’m a relationship builder. I like to get out in the buildings and talk to kids. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem like a lot of time to do that lately. That’s probably the best part of the job. I love attending the student’s activities.

One of my goals is to get out into the classrooms and see how teachers are using technology.

Patch: If you had but one wish, what would you wish for that has not yet been accomplished by a Ladue High School graduate?

That’s a great question. I’d like for one of our graduates to find a cure for Cancer. That would be wonderful. Think of the effect that would have on people’s lives. Ever family in our district and one way or another is effected by Cancer. That would be a great accomplishment, and I’d love for that person to be from Ladue.

The interviews with heads of schools will conclude after the Thanksgiving holiday break.

flyoverland November 20, 2011 at 12:22 AM
I'm confused. The district's enrollment this year is less than the previous year and she's talking about adding classrooms? Now, they want to expand the high school? Taxpayers better get ready for the next bomb which will be free laptop computers from the children of millionaires, billionaires and corporate plane owners. If kids need a laptop, it should be considered just like any other school supply item and the parents should pay for it.

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