The Fredericktown R-I School Board hired Chadd Starkey as the 2020-21 Fredericktown R-I Superintendent during closed session, Nov. 19.
Starkey will step into his new position July 1 as current Superintendent Brett Reutzel begins retirement.
“It feels good,” Starkey sad. “This is my hometown. I graduated from here, so it does feel good to come back. I had some family things that happened, so that just kind of opened the door to come back. It was just a natural transition.”
Starkey has been an educator for 28 years with 23 of those years as an administrator. He spent 9 years as the Fredericktown Middle School Principal before moving into the district office as assistant superintendent for 5 years and filled the superintendent role for one year after the passing of Dr. Kelly A. Burlison.
Starkey said he still asks himself why he left Fredericktown, but he said it was just a difficult time working with Burlison’s empty office sitting there.
“There were just a lot of weird emotions at that time,” Starkey said. “We (Burlison and himself) were really close. We worked together for many years.”
Starkey said he has a connection with a lot of the staff including Kelly A. Burlison Middle School Principal Ken Lunsford who he went to high school with and was a teacher when he was principal.
“What I like about it is we know each other well and we know we are all in it for the kids and we are not trying to make a political move on each other,” Starkey said. “It’s truly a team and that’s how we want to keep it.”
Starkey said he wants to continue to improve the facilities, improve teaching and learning and keep kids first in every decision.
“We’ve got some facility needs that are obvious and out there, so we will continue to work on those,” Starkey said. “Just trying to provide a solid education for our kids.”
Starkey said safety is always on the district’s mind, and he plans to continue to put safety first of all, so students feel comfortable enough to learn.
As Reutzel nears the end of the year, he said he is going to miss the people, both students and staff, most of all.
“This job is a little different, because you’re not involved with the students on a day to day basis and if there was something about the job that I have not enjoyed, it’s that,” Reutzel said. “I have lost touch with the students and that was probably the thing that gave me the most joy and was the most rewarding.”
Reutzel has worked in the Fredericktown R-I district for 19 years. He began in the fall of 2001 as A+ Coordinator and high school basketball coach, and he eventually became Fredericktown High School Principal before filling the position of superintendent the past six years.
Reutzel said his time in the district has been too rewarding to just pin point one favorite memory, from basketball games and proms to day to day tasks such as school lunch duty and bus drop offs, he said loved being a part of it all.
“I think it will be a really smooth transition,” Reutzel said. “When I came, (Starkey) was the middle school principal and I was assistant principal at the high school for four years. Then he made the transition over here at that time as assistant superintendent. I’ve worked with Chadd and I’ve worked for Chadd, so I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Reutzel said both Starkey and Fredericktown Assistant Superintendent Shannon Henson are both very familiar with the district and he has confidence and respect for the both of them.
“I’ve said multiple times, we have a very unique culture and climate here,” Reutzel said. “We are very family oriented, very supportive and we try to do things to help people. If there is a need to something better, we try to help them do just that. We try as much as we can to try and compliment and reward the same thing.”
Reutzel said he thinks this will be a very smooth transition because people are familiar with both Starkey and Henson. He said he hopes the community will be at ease knowing it is someone everyone recognizes.
“You can always get better and we are always looking for ways to get better, but at the same time, you don’t have to completely upset the apple cart to do that,” Reutzel said.
During regular session the school board voted to compensate staff members who have gone through MSBA Training to be compensated in the amount of $500 in the month of December.
Reutzel then discussed an email he received from a concerned parent and Henson offered a solution.
“I got an email from a parent that was concerned about student hydration and they were wanting to express how important that is and they believe there is not enough drinking water throughout the day,” Reutzel said. “They were curious about what we could do to provide water that would be more accessible than what it is. If you are like me my first thought was we have water fountains.”
Reutzel said he was not certain of the individual building policies on water bottles but agreed with others that it can be difficult for some of the younger students to refill their bottles at the water fountains.
Henson said he had been receiving emails from Tap Water Watch already and had looked into the subject before hearing this concern.
“Basically they handle donations and I checked on the legitimacy of them and there are other districts in Missouri that have utilized it,” Henson said. “They help you run the fundraising campaign to pay to purchase one of these water bottle refilling stations.”
Henson said each water bottle refill station would cost $1,750, and since he launched the fundraising campaign, he has raised $500. He said the hope is to raise enough funding to put one in each building.
During his superintendent report, Reutzel told the board about a memorial being placed at the base of the flag pole outside the JROTC building to honor Major Micheal Stearley. He said the memorial will be a concrete solider statue saluting the flag.
Reutzel then began discussing the 2020-21 school calendar and the progress towards completing it.
“Everyone knows school is going to be starting later, they know it will start on a Tuesday or Wednesday and not on a Thursday like it has been in the past,” Reutzel said. “Everyone seems to grasp and be in agreement that we are going to have to take same staff development days and put them probably before the start of school and they are okay with that.”
Reutzel said the Friday before Labor Day will probably not be a vacation day anymore and they may need to look at parent teacher conferences and staff development days.
“The calendars that are out now have some long breaks,” Reutzel said. “One would be you would come back after Labor Day on Sept. 8 and there would not be another break until Oct. 29, that’s a lot of days.”
Reutzel said the Spring semester would be even longer with students going from April 6 all the way to close of school around May 19 or 20 without a break.
“Calendars being discussed right now are, one is a calendar of 168 days adding 12 minutes to the day,” Reutzel said. “If you add 12 minutes to our day then 168 day calendar gives us 1,108.8 hours.”
Reutzel said the magic number regarding Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and state statute is 1,104 hours. He said, with this calendar, there would be no make up days regardless of if the district had one snow day or twenty.
“The other is a calendar that as I told them I kind of gave it a bad name at the beginning, I called it the 173 day calendar,” Reutzel said. “I would prefer to call it the 168 plus 5. On a calendar such as this you do not add any minutes to any day. You do the same thing you have always done you teach 168 days the same length of time.”
Reutzel said the calendar presented to DESE would consist of 173 days or 1,107.2 hours but would have 5 makeup days built in. He said only five snow days would have to be made up regardless of how many snow days are accumulated.
Filing for the Fredericktown R-I Board begins Dec. 17 and the next regularly scheduled monthly meeting is also Dec. 17 at 5 p.m. at the district offices.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org