District names new superintendent

Andy Kimball
Junior Editor

School board president David Addison named assistant superintendent, John Simpson as Sarah Riss’ successor as Superintendent on Feb. 8.

John Simpson will take over as superintendent on July 1. (Photo from Cathy Vespereny)
New superintendent John Simpson, replacing Sarah Riss, will take over on July 1. Photo from Cathy Vespereny

Simpson was picked from 29 applicants from nine different states.

Simpson has worked for the Webster Groves School District for 11 years as principal of Hudson Elementary and then as an assistant superintendent. Simpson was hired at Hudson in 2005 and hired as an assistant superintendent in 2009.

Simpson has loved working with children his entire life. Simpson babysat as a teenager, worked with children who had special needs through Westminster Presbyterian Church and coached swimming in high school.

In college at the University of Missouri, Simpson worked at the Ronald McDonald House and tutored children after school. At the University of Missouri, Simpson majored in education. Simpson went to Chaminade High School in Saint Louis, went to UMSL for masters degrees in education and administration and received a doctorate from Maryville University.

Simpson has been an elementary teacher at Riverbend Elementary and an assistant principal at Ross elementary in the Parkway School District.

Three finalists were selected on Jan 20. They were Gregory Batenhorst, the assistant superintendent of student services at Clayton School District, Chris Kilbride, Ritenour School District Superintendent, and Simpson.

The school board chose finalists with the help of the consulting team McPherson and Jacobson LLC and consulting agents Dr. Chris Christman and Dr. Judy Sclair-Stein.

Simpson said, “I worked in the school district, and I really believe in the work the School District is doing, and I felt that the opportunity to support the school district from the superintendent position was interesting and a good fit for my skill set.”

Finalists were interviewed by the school board during the week of Jan. 25.

Simpson said, “The application process was very challenging, a very lengthy application included six short essays.  After being named finalists, all three finalists interviewed for over 12 hours on one day in a very challenging interview process, meeting students and staff, parents and community members, and the board of education. After that I was brought back for another interview.”

About things he would change, Simpson said, “I think that the district has a nice long-standing tradition and also a commitment to change in the betterment of all the students in our school system.”

Simpson added that unless Missouri changes funding for public education then the school district will ultimately need to go back to taxpayers for another proposition calling it “inevitable.” The school district’s latest bond issue failed last year.

Simpson will earn $174,000 in his first year. In 2014-2015 Riss received $208,000 but returned $4,000 to the district earning a net of $204,000.

Riss announced her retirement on April 13, 2015, and will step down at the end of the ’15-’16 school year. Simpson will take over as superintendent on July 1.

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