Superintendent's Report

It takes a Poplar Bluff (not just any village)
Posted on 04/15/2014

By Chris Hon

We are heartened by the confidence the public has instilled in our buildings plan. As a community, we feel this is our greatest achievement since the four laning of U.S. 67 (admittedly we may be a little biased re: the importance of education). We fully intend to deliver safer schools and a better learning environment for our students.

We can probably fill up the entire homepage thanking people for helping us achieve this landmark victory for our school system. In reflecting on this three plus-year process, it is our assessment that without any of the subsequent elements, we would not have succeeded. We would like to take a moment to thank some of the key players – please forgive us for inevitably leaving some folks out – it’s been a wide-reaching effort (and we realize some prefer to remain nameless).

First, thanks to the Board of Education and my administrative team for the determination to combat our space issues in order to complement the progress of the community. Thanks to the Long-Range Planning Committee for beginning this most worthwhile process in January 2011. Thanks to Business Information Services and Patron Insight for allowing us to make data-informed decisions. Thanks to Ittner and partners for the proven track record in the education business, and leading an engagement process that allowed our school plan to truly become the community’s plan. Thanks to the Citizens’ Advisory Council for helping us narrow down the soundest option. Thanks to our bonding agent for suggesting a levy measure over a bond issue, which are the two ways a school can finance such brick and mortar projects.

I appreciate everyone who invited me to speak before your group about our plan, and Media Technician Ira Melton for setting up the visual displays. Of the many events we had a presence at, the one that proved to be a real morale booster was the Mason-Dixon Chili Cook-Off. The First Midwest Bank Conference was a treat too. Thanks to former City Manager Tom Lawson for the insight into previous keys to victory. Thanks to the entire Committee for Our Kids’ Future. Steve Halter served as chairman, leading our meetings and getting the business community on board. Paula Hefner served as treasurer, raising money and keeping our books in order. Becky Brooks, who was our secretary, maintained our texting tree. We couldn’t have done this without a PR operation intact. Communications Director Tim Krakowiak volunteered to help communicate our message to the public and spearheaded a full-court advertising effort, including running our social networks (thanks to Matt Bedell for the social media 101 ad lesson). Mitch Davis’ involvement began with a simple inquiry asking if he wanted to serve as our youth leader. It was when this seasoned campaigner (at the young age of 22) came on board that we really got organized. Then came the door-knocking champion, Jeff Shawan, who led our get-out-the vote charge. Thanks to everyone who stepped outside of his or her comfort zone to go door-to-door and man the phone bank. Lorrie Busse, whose passion seemed to grow with each task that was asked of her, took on the voice of our parents and was as elated as anyone in the end. Special thanks to Heather Nagy for her cogent abilities, Amy Ethridge for allowing us to make her baby famous, Jerry Murphy for use of his facility during our fundraiser, Francisco Esquivel for supplying the nourishment and Dr. Mike Caldwell for bringing it home with his speech.

Thanks to all of the generous donors who allowed us to execute a strategy that left no stones unturned. Thanks to Don Schrieber and the rest of the Daily American Republic team—including Christy Pierce and Donna Farley—for the significant contribution and helping us disseminate information to the readers in a most notable way. Thanks to the Three Rivers Board of Realtors—including Lori Dunlap, Kurt Knodell and Lucas Edington—for the $9,900 grant, which paid for our mailers and other materials. Thanks to the River Radio crew for tailoring a plan that met our specific needs. Thanks to Steven and Shelly Fuchs at Fox Radio Network for letting us use their studio and offering their expertise. Thanks to all those who endorsed our plan publicly, including Sen. Doug Libla. Thanks to our yard sign team who lined the streets with signs then proceeded to replace signs every time the wind blew. Thanks to Chris Smith of the Early Childhood Center for volunteering to come through in the eleventh hour and essentially transform Facebook, which really became a watershed moment in terms of support from our students’ families. Thanks to our poll workers who endured the rain.

I would be remiss to not thank my entire R-I staff for bearing with us through this process—including Karmen Carson and Treena & Phil Murray—for keeping our team abreast internally, along with all of our principals and directors. Can’t forget Ann Smith, who does a world-class job of keeping my schedule in order. Last but certainly not least, we wish to thank each of the 5,076 district voters for producing the biggest April election turnout in 15 years. Poplar Bluff has a unique track record of coming together like no other community when it counts. Now the real work begins (this is what we like to tell ourselves at each milestone). Thank you ALL!

Born into a family of educators, R-I Superintendent Chris Hon has worked in public education for nearly three decades. He is currently serving his 14th year as an administrator at Poplar Bluff Schools. You can reach him by emailing chon@pb.k12.mo.us, or follow him on Twitter @pbsupt.

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