Commentary: Community support leads to student success

Superintendent Steve TriplettAs I work through my final days as superintendent of Sedalia School District 200, I have been focused on what is ahead and how our community can help forge a positive path for our students, staff and schools.

During my tenure as superintendent, “unprecedented times” became a well-worn phrase, but that does not mean it was inaccurate. The COVID-19 pandemic forced all of us to adapt and make some hard decisions. When the impact arrived in Pettis County in March 2020, our community showed great levels of appreciation to teachers and everyone involved in public education as we did our best to engage in remote learning and ensure that students were fed daily. That appreciation quickly turned to doubt and disputes as critics began questioning everything involved with education. District leadership endured constant criticism over decisions we made even though the decisions were focused on what was best for students. Keeping them in seated education proved to be the best place for them from both academic and mental health perspectives.

Across the nation and here in Pettis County, the weight of the work and the barrage of public criticism became too much for many public school employees to bear and they opted to leave the education field; this is a significant challenge as we move forward. There is no way to replace the years of experience and institutional knowledge that teachers, custodians, food service workers and others take with them as they leave.

In the best of times, when our staff is appreciated and given the tools and resources needed to do their jobs effectively, public education is among the most rewarding professions that one can imagine. In the best interests of this community, we need a return to the mindset of appreciation and support for all that goes into a public education. This will help the district retain valuable employees, which in turn will enhance the educational opportunities for all students.

It is a given that people will not agree with every decision that is made, but it needs to be understood that decisions made across the district are based on what is best for students, their education and their future. That requires a level of trust; the community must trust the people put in charge at the district, who were vetted and selected based on their commitment to your children. That is the only reason we are here: We care about your children and your children’s future.

As I depart, Dr. Todd Fraley takes the reins as superintendent of Sedalia School District 200 and I can assure you he is the best person possible to carry the district forward. As the Board of Education confirmed through the interview process, Dr. Fraley is educationally dedicated, highly intelligent, understands school finance and truly cares about students and staff members. He has years of experience in our district and therefore understands the climate and culture of our community. You can trust that his decisions are rooted in what is best for our students and their success.

I believe we are blessed to have the right people in the right places throughout the Sedalia 200 district. We have school board members with years of experience and knowledge, along with a commitment to serve with purpose and professionalism. We have administrators and teachers whose mission is to connect students to meaningful content and foster understanding. Our support staff members ensure buildings are clean and in working order, that meals are tasty and nutritious, and that students in need have access to the support networks necessary to lead a fulfilling life.

My challenge to the Sedalia 200 community is to reconnect with and trust the school district, to value what we are responsible for and recognize our shared focus on creating the best environment possible for our children to learn and grow. Your support is the fuel that will help the district reach the destination of student success. 

Steve Triplett is superintendent of Sedalia School District 200.