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Interim head leading Independent School

Charles McClain has more than 50 years of experience as an educator.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:42 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Students returning to Columbia Independent School will have a new head of school this year. Charles McClain, 72, will act as interim head until the school’s board finds a permanent replacement for Dee Corn.

McClain has over 50 years of experience ranging from teaching grade school to university administration to serving as commissioner of higher education for Missouri. CIS parents are impressed.

“His credentials sound wonderful,” said Karen Gordon, a medical technologist with two children at CIS.

Parents hope McClain will compare favorably to Corn, who served as head since the school’s inception in 1997. Karen Ridgwell, whose daughter Nicole will be a sophomore this year, interacted often with Corn.

“Dee knew the kids,” Ridgwell said. “She would go out of her way to help.”

When Corn unexpectedly left her post one year early, some parents worried they had lost an important liaison with the school’s board. This spring, parent Stan Dorst raised the issue.

“We don’t have any options for direct contact with the board; they meet separately,” Dorst said in an interview at the time. Reached Tuesday, Dorst said he has a wait-and-see attitude.

But McClain wants the school to extend its tradition of parent involvement.

“The faculty will have the major part of interaction with parents,” McClain said. “But, of course, I’ll meet with anyone who has an issue to discuss.”

So far, overall enrollment is up by 17 students, from last year’s total of 185. But enrollment in grades six through 12 has decreased by 10 students, to 97.

McClain wants to increase student retention and continue to provide the advantages he sees in private education.

“We can focus almost exclusively on academic excellence without external issues,” McClain said.

CIS parents also want to see ongoing excellence. Ridgwell said she wouldn’t change a thing.

“I’d love to see it stay the same as last year,” Ridgwell said. “It was great.”

As interim head, McClain doesn’t want to disrupt the current formula. He plans to let the faculty set the pace for the school.

“I’m not here to tell people who should know more than I do how to do their jobs,” McClain said.

Sue Ann Moore, who teaches Latin and coordinates standardized testing at CIS, said she thinks the transition will be smooth.

“There will always be the mission statement and philosophy,” Moore said. “Each head will bring an individual style, but it’s still school as usual, with high expectations.”


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