Fredericktown R-I Superintendent Brett Reutzel will have his final day with the district on June 30.
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.
When discussing his retirement plans back in December, Reutzel had no idea his final year would end in such an odd way.
"There is no way to even imagine that or even plan for it," Reutzel said. "Everyone keeps using unprecedented times or uncharted waters and you hate to be cliche and say the same thing but I would have never imagined that in the middle of March we would close school and be thrown into such a conundrum of uncertainty."
Reutzel said it has been a very interesting exit, to say the least.
"I never thought I would even be a building administrator let alone the superintendent," Reutzel said. "I've probably learned more moving over here about the whole picture of the educational process. I was just a secondary guy and was always stuck in this corner."
Reutzel said working in the district office allowed him to understand the different challenges each building was facing.
"I remember for the first few years, the first day of school, I was going to the elementary because I had never seen that," Reutzel said. "It was kind of an eye-opening experience. Just understanding kindergarten, first grade, second grade teachers. The challenges they face are so different. It takes all kinds to educate students."
Reutzel said he thinks it takes a special type of teacher to educate the kindergartner just like it takes one to educate seniors.
"You have different strengths, because I will say, I don't know if there is any way in the world I would have been a successful kindergarten teacher," Reutzel said. "It's just a completely different situation all together."
Reutzel said experiencing the other buildings and seeing teachers and students was his favorite part.
"Trying to learn something new that I had never seen or experienced before," Reutzel said. "I think that was probably my favorite part of the job to get out in the other buildings as much as I could."
Reutzel said the community and even staff members do not know about the operations side of the district and it is like a little city in some respects. He said it is a difficult but rewarding job.
"It is important in whatever you do, you always have to consider (whether) what you are doing is in the best interest of the students," Reutzel said. "That has to be the primary focus of any decision that you make. Sometimes those things can be really challenging and really tough so the only way to really understand why you are putting yourself through some of the things is to go out and walk the hallways and look at those little kids and say 'that's why I'm doing it right there.'"
Reutzel said, in the education field it important to be flexible and realize every student has a different story.
"They (students) have something that they are interested in, and they have issues that you may or may not know about, so you can't always just look at things strictly as right or wrong," Reutzel said "You have to know and understand what their stories are and try to see it from their perspective."
Reutzel said it is important to realize it is bigger than just one classroom and there are other groups and other activities which play an important role, no one more important than the other.
"You stop being better, you stop being good and the only way you can get better is to continue being a student of what it is that you do," Reutzel said.
Once Reutzel officially retires June 30, he will return to his childhood home in Advance where he said he will spend his days piddling on the farm and spending time with his wife, parents, children and grandchildren. Reutzel currently has grandchildren in the Fredericktown School District and plans to return frequently for all of their events.
Beginning July 1, the district will be left in the hands of Superintendent Chadd Starkey and Assistant Superintendents Shannon Henson and Melanie Allen.
Reutzel said it will be a very smooth transition.
"Brett has always been a true professional," Starkey said. "He always put the needs of students first before making any decision. He is willing to go the extra mile such as riding a bus and/or using his personal vehicle to deliver meals to students during our COVID 19 shut down."
"Brett and I have worked together as administrators for 13 years, long enough that we always know what the other is thinking when it comes to dealing with conflict and crisis," Henson said. "People have commented that we seem to communicate by only looking at each other. Brett has always brought common sense to education. His priority was always people first. He has taught me that sometimes it is best to sleep on a decision. Sometimes the morning brings wisdom. I hope he doesn't cut his hair. I'm jealous of the hair."
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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