Lonedell R-XIV students, faculty and staff will continue to see Jenny Ulrich and Sue Emmons walking the hallways of the school when the 2013-14 academic year gets under way in August. The change will be in the titles appearing before their names.
The R-XIV board of education earlier this week unanimously voted to put Ulrich in the superintendent’s chair and Emmons in the principal’s seat after current boss Fred VanBibber announced last month that he was retiring at the end of the current year. The board made its decision during the March meeting on Monday.
Currently, Ulrich is the principal of the kindergarten through eighth-grade school while Emmons serves as the special education coordinator and federal programs administrator.
“The board is 100 percent behind both of these women,” board of education President Kathy Reed told The Missourian. “Both of them are extremely competent and knowledgeable. We have no concerns that this won’t be a successful decision.
“We know the capabilities of both Jenny and Sue. We’re extremely fortunate to have both of them here. Doing this makes good sense to all of us.”
Ulrich has been at Lonedell for four years and actually came on board as principal at the same time that VanBibber did as superintendent. Emmons is in her second year as special education coordinator at the school after being a special education teacher for five years.
“When Mr. VanBibber announced his retirement, we knew it would be a great loss to our district,” the 38-year-old Ulrich told The Missourian. “Then the wheels started spinning as far as the future of our district. We’re making so much forward progress, and I wanted to make sure we kept that progress moving in that right direction.
“So, I thought putting my name in the hat (for superintendent) made sense.”
Emmons, 55, had similar thoughts.
“I want to make sure this district continues moving forward,” she said. “Our train is moving in the direction we want it to go, and I very much look forward to working to keep us on this positive journey.”
Both Ulrich and Emmons said the school district has made great strides in recent years because of the teamwork involved, both with each other and with the faculty and staff.
“Sue and I work so well together,” Ulrich said. “And I have 100 percent confidence that we will continue to do so. Sure, we will have a transition period, especially in this first year coming up, but I’m confident that we will continue to be successful.
“We have such a great group of teachers,” she said. “Honestly, they’re phenomenal. We truly have all the people in all the right places.”
Again, Emmons agreed.
“Jenny and I are just a good team,” Emmons said. “She has her areas of expertise, and I think I do, too. I really think we’re on the cutting edge of where we need to be as a district because of all the hard work we’ve all put it. And that hard work includes all the teachers and staff. It’s a total team effort here, and I’m confident we all will continue to give 100 percent.”
After conducting regular business during their March meeting, board members went into an executive session on Monday night to discuss options regarding how to fill the superintendent position. Then, the open meeting resumed and the board voted to offer contracts to Ulrich and Emmons.
Reed said both contracts are for one year. Ulrich will be paid $95,000 for the upcoming academic year while Emmons will earn $72,000.
The board also decided not to hire an additional person.
“We are shifting some responsibilities,” Reed said. “We will have two people now doing the job of what three did before.”
Reed said as superintendent, Ulrich will handle the financial aspect and the day-to-day operations of the overall district as well as keep her hands in many of the educational aspects at the school. Emmons will be in charge of the daily school operations, including special education and federal programs, and manage discipline within the school.
“Jen still will continue some things she has been working on as principal,” Reed said. “She will help keep some things on target while she mentors Sue.
“They’re a good team. They already work well together. We’re sure there will be a few bumps during this transition, but I’m very excited with how things have turned out for us.”
Reed also said that even though it was not a factor in the decision-making process, the administrative plan of attack will save the district money.
“It is a win-win for this district,” she said. “We really believe we’re set for the long term with the decisions we just made.”
In February, the school board accepted VanBibber’s letter of resignation during a special meeting.
“I’m going to retire and pursue other interests,” VanBibber told The Missourian at the time. “The school district is in a good place. It’s just a good time for me to bow out.”
VanBibber is earning $97,850 as superintendent this year. When he started during the 2009-2010 academic year, his salary was $92,500.
“Jenny and Sue are very capable, and both of them will do an excellent job,” VanBibber said. “The board made the correct choices. They will do what’s right for the students of Lonedell and will keep our district moving forward.”
Before coming to Lonedell, Ulrich was employed by the Sullivan school district, first as a first-grade teacher and Title I coordinator at the elementary school and then as assistant principal at the primary school for one year. Before that, she taught kindergarten at St. Clair Elementary School for four years.
The 1993 St. Clair High School graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Methodist University with an emphasis in early childhood education. She received a master’s degree in education administration from Lindenwood University in 2003.
Currently, she is working on obtaining her specialists degree. She will have her certificate by the end of the year.
Emmons earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Missouri at St. Louis. She then received her master’s degree in special education administration and education administration from Missouri Baptist University.
She was a substitute teacher for one year before being hired by Lonedell R-XIV as its special education teacher. She now is in her seventh year at R-XIV overall.