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Energy, innovation make job of assistant superintendent exciting in Monett schools

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Monett R-1 Assistant Superintendent Julie Germann, standing, looks over components of the new school district Internet webpage with assistant Missy Caldwell. The new webpage should debut before the end of the current school year. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Julie Germann has completed over half of her first year as assistant superintendent for the Monett R-1 School District and remains very upbeat about her experience.

"I love it here," she said. "It's a good district; good folks, hardworking, willing to take new ideas to suit the needs of the various campuses."

Impressed with the senior educators in the district, Germann found it especially exciting to work with newer administrators like Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann. She observed Jungmann's energy, love for technology and eagerness to shape the district with his clear vision of where it should go is stimulating.

Jungmann's vision is "a fairly new mindset for the district," Germann said. Seeing that translated into day-to-day decisions and the addition of new people who Jungmann feels are aligned to the direction he sees the district headed is an interesting part of watching the district grow.

Susie Gasser, in her first year as principal at Monett Elementary School, and Dr. Jonathan Apostol, in his first year as Middle School principal, offer similar energy as they place their stamp on their operations. Germann felt it was an exciting time to be part of the process.

"The job is certainly a different kind of ‘busy'," Germann said. In her former role as building principal, days were unpredictable, depending on what student issues arose and the involvement of parents. Helping to guide the administrative ship is less stressful, she noted. As a confessed data geek, she can now spend time researching areas in which administrators want to go, or studying numbers on student achievement and figure out how to use that information to make possible changes.

That works well at this time on deck, as school districts face changes from the end of the No Child Left Behind Act and the cancellation of funding for the Reading First program. Germann's job now becomes instrumental in looking at the data, figuring out what was good and useful from those federally funded undertakings, and which way to go next.

Scores on state standardized tests for Monett are generally good, but achievement is still lagging at the lowest grades as a whole. Germann has found this perplexing, as a few years later, Monett's scores jump up far above average, to where the Middle School was recording some of the top achievement numbers in the state.

"The data geek in me says there's something we're not getting a grasp on," Germann said. "The challenge is to move the achievement we're seeing later down a grade or two."

Germann has been looking at performance by at risk population and students where English is a second language for better clues about what to do. She mentioned how impressed she was with Principal Gasser and Assistant Principal Sarah Garner for constantly looking for different programs and seeing how these different approaches could fit into Monett's approach.

Moving into the second half of the year, Germann mentioned efforts in several areas that could be building blocks for the future. She had observed that beyond the mentoring between veteran teachers and new hires, the professional development committee was not active in focusing on new teachers. The committee has taken on a much more active role in this area, and that may have a big dividend.

Instead of having to replace around 30 teachers, which is the typical number every spring, there will be a lot fewer teachers leaving this year.

Moreover, Germann has been impressed with the vision of former superintendent Charles Cudney and Germann's predecessor, Assistant Superintendent Deborah Swarens, in moving the third and fourth graders into their own campus at Central Park Elementary. The smaller group had enabled the administrators to get to know their staff better. They could also "focus on kids instead of instructional programs," which she felt had been a big plus this year.

Germann and her staff, Lonna Norman and Missy Caldwell, have been concentrating on updating the district's website. As a big technology fan, Jungmann has made the website a high priority, to turn it into a much more valuable tool that parents can use to get information and service. Norman and Caldwell have done the "yeoman's labor" in getting the revised version together.

"The website will put the face of the district on the Internet," Germann said. She hoped it would be ready to launch in another month or so.

The district has also been fortunate in finding experienced people for the administrative positions being filled for the coming year. Germann felt the district has made many positive moves through the seven months of school she has seen and was very optimistic about being a part of its future.

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