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Ridder Accepts Interim Leadership Role in St. Louis Area

KSMU archives
Dr. Norm Ridder will end his nine-year tenure as superintendent of Springfield Public Schools on June 30/Photo credit: SPS

Outgoing Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder says he’s accepted a temporary leadership position in the St. Louis area. Ridder had planned to step down as the top administrator at SPS at the end of June.

Ridder begins a one-year stint as interim superintendent in the 11,000-student Mehlville School District on July 1. His pay will be $195,000. He says the new post will allow him and his wife, Nadine, another year to look at other opportunities across the country, and also to feel out a temporary role.

“To go in and set the stage for a new superintendent to come in; if that works really well within a given year that is something that probably could be an exciting adventure for us in major districts in urban settings across the country,” Ridder said.

Ridder was offered the Mehlville position shortly before another offer from a larger school district down south, but says he needed more time to decide on a long-term appointment.

While Ridder says he and his wife are flexible with respect to picking up and moving for a new job, he likes the proximity Mehlville gives them to their grandchildren. Each city, Washington, D.C. and Denver, will take about the same time to fly to from St. Louis.

He was also considering and may still consider a role as an interventionist that would assist unaccredited school districts. Ridder told KSMU Friday that he is against current legislation (SB 493) that would allow public taxpayer dollars to be used to pay for private school tuition, noting that while he supports private school, the bill doesn’t hold these schools accountable for education of transfer students.

“How can we show that that Catholic school is as good, or even better, or maybe even worse than the public school but we have no proof and they’re gonna be allowed to spend public money in that situation moving them maybe into a worse situation. So to me, it’s all about the vouchers and the accountability tied to the vouchers.”

Democratic Governor Jay Nixon later Friday announced he would veto the student transfer bill, raising similar concerns to that of Ridder. The Senate, which passed the bill 28-3, has responded to the Governor’s announcement.

Since taking over at Springfield nine years ago, Ridder says he’s proud of the community’s growing love for its children, and the district’s ability to focus on the where the greatest needs are.

“Signs of that were of course the graduation rate has up down dramatically, the dropout rate has gone down dramatically, the attendance rate is at an all-time high over the last  three years, the satisfaction rate by the community for the schools is at an all-time high.”

Ridder also expressed his appreciation for the bonds and levies passed by citizens. He stresses the need to develop action plans related to facilities, and student achievement and engagement, adding that innovation will follow.

Last year, he asked to be released from his employment contract at the end of this school year. Ridder says it’s been hard to “take his foot off the pedal,” but called it an important move it helping Dr. John Jungmann, the newly announced superintendent, become the face of the district.

“My key responsibility right now is to make sure that he’s [Jungmann] all set and he’s going to be successful,” Ridder said.

Ridder’s advice for the new leader at Springfield Public Schools: “Stay focused on the children” and stay within the quality of system established “that’s really part of our DNA.”