Springfield Public Schools welcomes incoming superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan at meet-and-greet

Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 10:49 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield Public Schools started the process of welcoming its next superintendent Thursday night.

Dr. Grenita Lathan will officially take on the role next week on July 1. She comes to Springfield Public Schools with 30 years of experience in education.

In the meet-and-greet Thursday, Lathan was keen on interacting and engaging with parents as she answered their questions. Lathan said her interactive approach will be no different than her approach to the district as a whole.

She told families her first priority is getting to know the district from teachers, to bus drivers, to students.

“It’s important to build relationships, and in order to build relationships, I need to get to know the people that I’m working with,” Lathan said. “And in order to get to know them, I need to go out. I need to go out and meet bus drivers, and meet our custodians, and meet our teachers, meet our principals. But also meet with parents and community members. I need to know what’s working in the district, also what areas we need to improve in.”

As the district’s superintendent, she said her role mostly comes down to offering support.

”Our job as central office administrators, mine as superintendent and my entire team, our job is to provide the necessary resources and supports so our teachers and principals can be successful,” said Lathan.

Lathan addressed several topics on the minds of many within the district. This included the widely-debated use of Critical Race Theory, which is something not a part of the district’s curriculum.

”It’s important to talk about history. There’s a way to do that. But it’s important to respect individual differences and that’s the type of conversation that we should be holding as a school district and also as a community,” said Lathan. “Ensuring that when every child enters into our school buildings that they feel successful, that they feel they’re going to have a fair opportunity. We need to make sure that we’re holding the necessary conversations that we need to hold.”

As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Springfield, only months away from the start of school, Lathan also discussed the district’s response.

”As one of my first meetings, today I was meeting with the health department just to discuss the concerns of the rising number of cases now that we’re experiencing here in Springfield, but being prepared and ready to open our schools for our students in August. We will continue to look at and revisit our re-opening plan that addresses COVID,” said Lathan.

Her decades-long careers has not been without scrutiny.

In 2012, accusations of poor leadership surfaced at the district she was leading in Illinois. A few years later the board considered terminating her contract or placing her on leave due to a cheating scandal at a primary school involving other staff members.

More questions about her ability came up in Texas. The state agency of education issued a report about the Houston Independent School District’s problems with their special education services.

District officials said they are without a doubt confident in her abilities. Lathan said she believes there are always chances to learn and grow.

“There is this perception from some people that all these things need to change,” she said. “There’s a perception from others that it doesn’t. And so it’s about getting to know the community. Like I said, looking at the data, analyzing and reviewing what’s working and what areas we need to improve in. But it’s important first of all to get to know the community, get to know the school district.”

The next meet-and-greet event will be on June 28.

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