The ink had hardly dried on the statement issued by Dr. Marsha Chappelow that she would retire as the Ladue School District Superintendent at the end of the school year. Patch wanted to know how she looked at the major hot-button issues:
Patch.com: What do you consider to be the highlights of your time as superintendent.
Dr. Marsha Chappelow: During my time as superintendent, I have had the opportunity of leading and being involved in the following initiatives. Clearly, I did none of these single handedly. However, the skills and experience I have, and for which I was selected as superintendent of Ladue Schools, have been useful in the success of these initiatives.
- System improvements in the areas of human resources, communications, administration, and for the Board of Education to create more efficient use of time and districts funds
- Increase in effective parent and community involvement
- Increase in proactive planning and follow through in the areas of facilities, strategic planning and bond issues
- Increase in communications, both internal and external
- Increase and updating of student opportunities at the high school
- Being part of a leadership team to pass an operating tax levy
- Building and opening a new Ladue Early Childhood Center
Patch: What are the biggest challenges ahead for the district.
Dr. Chappelow: The downturn in the economy caused an unprecedented decrease in property values which translated into decreased funding to the district at a time when our enrollment was increasing. The resulting financial challenges, budget reductions and eventual request for an increase in the operating tax levy were difficult for our district leaders, our staff, our students, our parents, and our entire community.
Financial issues will continue to be a challenge for the district as budget and educational priorities will have to be set and adhered to in the coming years as the economy slowly recovers.
Improving education for students with less funding is difficult for any public school district, but is especially challenging for districts like Ladue Schools where there are very high expectations for the services we provide.
A second, and related, challenge will be maintaining and upgrading aging facilities in order to meet the learning environment needs of current and future students.
Patch: What are the biggest changes you’ve had to deal with as an educator over 40 years.
Dr. Chappelow: I’d rather think of it in terms of accommodating changes, as opposed to “dealing with” them. Change is inevitable. Responding to it appropriately is what is most important. That being said, the biggest changes I’ve accommodated in my career are:
- Increase in the use of technology in learning, communications, and across every administrative department
- Increase in accountability and expectations from the public
- Advances in educational research about instructional strategies for student success
- Increase in the use of data for decision-making
- Lessening in the sense of community, creating more focus on “my child” rather than “our children”
- Fewer people in communities with school-age children
- Increased diversity in schools with more English Language Learners
None of these are “bad” changes. In fact, almost of all of them have brought tremendous opportunity to us as educators, and have translated into advantages for our students. However, a great deal of time and energy is involved in adjusting to new systems and higher expectations.