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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Jungmann: Looking to "Build the Culture of Continuous Improvement"

Dr. John Jungmann, top finalist for Springfield Public Schools superintendent, speaks with reporters Monday morning before a

Community members on Monday met the top finalist for superintendent of Springfield Public Schools. As KSMU’s Scott Harvey reports, the meetings are a part of a broader listening tour that Dr. John Jungmann says he’ll conduct if selected to lead the district.

Dr. Jungmann was in town to address students, parents and community stakeholders, which came a day before the board considers a contract agreement. The new superintendent will succeed Dr. Norm Ridder, who is retiring.

See Dr. Jungmann’s full community session from noon Monday, which was live streamed by Springfield Public Schools (Note: Part of the stream did experience technical interruptions).

Jungmann says nothing is more beneficial than watching kids succeed, and looks forward to assessing the learning environment within the district. He says critical conversation is necessary to understand how Springfield Public Schools can evolve to the changing educational landscape and properly prepare students.

“And I think what I’ve brought to both Liberty and will bring to Springfield is the ability to have a conversation about what’s that 21st century skill set, what are the things that my daughter, who’s in sixth grade – who’s going to graduate in 2020, who will be still working in 2060 – needs to be doing right now so that she’ll be successful at that time,” Jungmann says.

A graduate of Lamar High School, Jungmann spent four years as superintendent in Monett. He currently heads the Liberty School district northeast of Kansas City.  

There, he says students and teachers have grown through the integration of new technology, and touts the implementation of a facility master plan that is allowing officials to think of ways to manage space that is sustainable for the future.

At Liberty, Jungmann enjoys a hands-on approach, through daily communication with students, teachers and staff. At Springfield, a district comprised of 25,000 students, he hopes to do the same.

“That’s where you get the pulse of the system. The teachers are the most impactful people in our system on a daily basis, and if you’re not listening to them, seeing what’s going on in the classroom on a regular basis, then it’s hard for you to have a perspective at a leadership level of what needs to be done,” Jungmann said.

Jungmann said school safety is the “number one thing we have to do,” and while he’s not familiar with the strategy in place at Springfield, he looks forward to having the conversation on if it meets teacher and community expectations.

He stressed the importance of childhood education, noting its influence on a student well beyond their youth. Acknowledging the funding challenges not only at the youth level but across K-12, Jungmann expressed excitement for the recently-established Every Child Promise initiative, which aims to better prepare youth for the classroom.

“Springfield [Public Schools] is going to have to be a partner and a leader in that conversation, whether that be with private partnerships, whether that be with actual expansion of our footprint; Parents as Teachers or early childhood,” he said.

“One of my real concerns I came to hear is his philosophy on diversity and sensitivity training and inclusion in the curriculum and in the entire school system. And his answers, I thought, were right on.”

Jack Hembree is a representative of the local NAACP chapter who attended the noon session. He was referring to Jungmann’s comments on embracing diversity, which the superintendent finalist said is critical in finding success.

“While we need everyone to hold their heritage because the values and the traditions that are a part of that are incredibly important, we also need them to come together to make a stronger Springfield,” Jungmann said.

Jungmann added that building that atmosphere starts with communicating the message throughout the community, and also building cultural competence among the staff and leadership. And then directing resources where the biggest needs are.

“Because we can misdiagnose some of their behaviors and some of their struggles of learning as behavioral issues, and they’re really just heritage issues or background issues that we have to be ready to address.”

Julie Germann was the assistant superintendent under Dr. Jungmann for three years at Monett, who she calls a “visionary leader,” who can take Springfield to the next level.

“I think he demonstrated that with his conversations about not asking for more money but reallocating and repurposing the programs and funds that currently exist and trying to look for ways to do different and better with what we already have in the community,” Germann said.

In previous community discussions, Jungmann notes, in addition to fielding questions on school safety and early childhood education, he added that the public has encouraged a strong commitment to relationship-building.

“I would say they highly encourage me to engage at a significant level with the community partners and the leaders that are in place because they feel so confident in the work that’s been going on as a collective community.”

Jungmann, in his words, will bring bold and courageous leadership to Springfield, which he characterizes as a vision for growth that is not content with the status quo and is not afraid to take risks.

“What are we doing today that’s great and what are we gonna do tomorrow that’s even better? And if we’re not willing to have those questions asked and answer them, then we’re not gonna grow.”

Longtime school board member Bruce Renner says that

A second community forum is planned from 5:45-6:30 p.m. Monday inside Meeting Room A of the Kraft Administration Center at 1359 E. St. Louis St. The school board is expected to consider a contract for Jungmann during executive session of its Tuesday night meeting. If selected, Jungmann’s first day as superintendent for Springfield Public Schools will be July 1.