The next superintendent for Springfield Public Schools is in charge, on an interim basis, of the nation’s seventh-largest district.
Grenita Lathan is interim superintendent of Houston Independent School District, which has 276 schools, 27,000 employees and 196,000 students.
Lathan was the Springfield school board’s unanimous choice to replace the retiring John Jungmann. Her first day will be July 1.
“I model my expectations,” Lathan said in an interview following the announcement Monday. “They can expect to see me out in the schools, see me in the community. They can expect me to be very transparent and honest with them about the things that are working and the areas in need of improvement.”
She will be the first woman and first person of color to serve in the district’s top job.
“I care about children,” she said. “And I want all children to be successful.”
Board President Alina Lehnert said Lathan’s experience won over the board.
“Dr. Lathan’s 30-year career in education demonstrates a proven track record of enhancing public education with an unwavering commitment to all students and educators,” Lehnert said in a news release.
Lathan emerged as the top choice from among 40 applicants. Seven were interviewed in the first round and she was one of two finalists.
“The nationwide search generated a high level of interest from many strong candidates, and the board used the feedback from more than 6,000 SPS constituents to evaluate each applicant,” Lehnert said in the release. “We are in unanimous agreement that Dr. Lathan is the most qualified to lead our district. We look forward to welcoming her to SPS and providing our full support.”
Lathan’s salary for the 2021-22 year will be $300,000.
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In a video message to staff Monday, Lathan introduced herself and said she was excited to move to Springfield in a few months.
“What motivates me as a leader is having the opportunity to serve with other like-minded people that want to make a difference in the lives of the children we’ve been called to serve,” she said.
She told district employees she is “hands-on” and wants to build relationships with school staff.
“Everyone plays an important role in ensuring that children receive a quality education,” Lathan said in the video. “I’ve been in a different part of the country this past year but it has been a difficult year for us all. I’d like to thank teachers and support staff members for just giving it your all and doing what you needed to do to support children.”
Lathan, who was born in Georgia, started her career as a high school teacher in North Carolina, where she later served as a principal.
She spent two years as the chief elementary school improvement officer and the interim superintendent with the San Diego United School District.
For five years, she was superintendent of Peoria Public Schools in Illinois.
Lathan joined the Houston Independent School District in 2015 as chief school officer for elementary transformation. Later, she transition to chief academic officer before serving as the interim superintendent.
“I am honored to join Springfield Public Schools and work with the incredible SPS team to build upon the success of Missouri’s largest school district,” Lathan said in the district release. “During my career, I have focused on improving academic outcomes for all students and I believe great things are ahead for SPS.”
After spring break, Lathan will participate in a series of virtual meetings. Later, in-person events will be scheduled.
“I will be visiting Springfield this spring to introduce myself and meet the wonderful people who call this special place home,” she said. “I look forward to being an active part of this community.”
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Lathan has a bachelor’s degree in business education from North Carolina A&T State University, a master’s in business education at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and a doctorate in workforce education and development from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
Jungmann, who she is replacing, in September announced plans to retire from public education this year, after seven years at the helm in Springfield. His final day will be Aug. 31.
Jungmann’s base salary for this year is $279,876.
He spent the bulk of his 23-year career in southwest Missouri, starting in his hometown of Lamar. He also worked in Monett and Liberty.
Timeline of the search for Springfield’s superintendent
A look at the process the Springfield school board used to recruit and hire the district’s next leader:
- September — Jungmann notified board of retirement plan
- October — Board met with national search firm
- November — Input sought from community through survey and mix of in person and virtual forums
- December — Applications accepted
- February — Board identified candidates to interview
- March — In series of closed-door meetings, permitted by the Sunshine Law, board identified new superintendent
Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to [email protected]