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Columbia Public Schools says goodbye to familiar faces, welcomes new changes

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:48 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 21, 2013

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Kelsey Morris' title.

COLUMBIA — When the year officially ends for Columbia Public Schools on Friday, schools are saying goodbye to some familiar faces. That includes *assistant principal Kelsey Morris of Fairview Elementary School and principal Kris Matthews of Grant Elementary School.

Leadership changes in public schools

  • Jill Edwards — moving from administrative assistant to assistant principal at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School.
  • Kelsey Morris — leaving as assistant principal of Fairview Elementary School. No successor yet. 
  • Kris Matthews — leaving as principal of Grant Elementary School. Successor is Jennifer Wingert, assistant principal at Mill Creek Elementary School. 
  • Laura Beeler — becoming assistant principal at Mill Creek Elementary.
  • Sarah Sicht — moving from assistant principal at Alpha Hart Lewis to assistant principal at Parkade Elementary School.
  • Ben Tilley — leaving as principal at Ridgeway Elementary School. Successor is Shari Lawson, a Ridgeway teacher.
  • Sandra Logan — retiring as principal of West Junior High School.
  • Connie Dewey — moving from assistant principal at Lange Middle School to principal at West Middle School
  • Matt Ross — moving from assistant principal at Jefferson Junior High School to assistant principal at Hickman High School.
  • Jacob Sirna — moving from assistant principal at Oakland Junior High School to be assistant principal at Battle High School.
  • Mark Maus — leaving as principal of Rock Bridge High School. Successor is Jennifer Mast, an assistant principal there.

 



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But when one person leaves, another is ready to carry on a school's legacy and take on its challenges. Among these are Connie Dewey, who will become the principal at West Middle School, and Jennifer Mast, who will lead Rock Bridge High School.

Mast: keep school culture

Jennifer Mast will succeed Mark Maus as principal of Rock Bridge High. Because she has been at the school, either as a teacher or an assistant principal, for 15 years, she is familiar with the culture there.

"This is a great fit for both the school and for me," Mast said.

Next year, Rock Bridge will have freshmen for the first time as part of a districtwide reorganization. Elementary schools will still have kindergarten through fifth grades, but middle schools will have sixth through eighth grades, and high schools will have ninth through 12th grades. Junior highs will be turned into middle schools.

Enrollment at Rock Bridge, which this year was 1,700, will increase to 2,000.

Maus will become principal of Oak Park High School in Kansas City. Mast said Maus has done a great job with the school, and now she needs to help everyone deal with a new reality. Her hope is to help the school navigate the big change while preserving the culture at Rock Bridge.

She said one of her best tools will be good communication.

"I want to keep people informed of any changes and decisions that are being made," Mast said.

Dewey: West as middle school

Dewey has been an assistant principal at Lange Middle School for five years. Next year, she will lead West Middle School in its first year as a middle school; it has been a junior high school, with only eighth- and ninth-graders.

Dewey said half of West Junior High's staff will be at West Middle, and new staff members are coming from Gentry, Lange and Smithton middle schools as well as outside the district.

Not only will Dewey have a new school to oversee, with many teachers and students entirely new to West, but she also will have a building under construction starting this summer. Air conditioning will be added as well as new windows and ceiling tiles.

Areas of the building will be closed in shifts throughout the first semester. Teachers will have to move classrooms and use trailers during parts of the construction.

Dewey said her goal is to include staff, students and parents in making decisions that will affect clubs and activities at West. She has been meeting with current principal Sandra Logan and other staff members to make more plans for next year.

"I am excited to welcome everyone to the new West Middle School family," Dewey said.

Morris: on way to Oregon

After eight years at Columbia Public Schools, two of them leading Fairview Elementary School, Kelsey Morris is saying goodbye to Missouri. He has taken a job at the University of Oregon in the Educational and Community Supports Department. 

At Fairview, Morris revised the buildingwide expectations of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, a social skills curriculum used to increase academic performance and school safety and establish a positive school culture while decreasing problem behaviors.

As part of that program, he helped establish a multitiered support system so that all students are better set up for academic and behavioral success.

Morris said he will miss the children the most. "I will miss all their smiling faces," he said.

Matthews: time with her teens

After two years as principal at Grant Elementary, Kris Matthews is leaving. She announced her resignation late last her after her sister-in-law won a $200 million Powerball lottery.

Jennifer Wingert, an assistant principal at Mill Creek Elementary School, will succeed Matthews.

Among her plans is helping her teenagers with their activities at Rock Bridge High School; she said she doesn't want to miss the time they have left together before the children leave home.

"Being principal is very rewarding, but it requires a lot of time away from your family," Matthews said.

Her career in Columbia Public Schools also included helping open Alpha Hart Elementary School.

Matthews acknowledged that saying goodbye to Grant is bittersweet. "Grant will always hold a special place for me," she said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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