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Taylora Schlosser made history Thursday, July 11, when she was hired to become the first female superintendent for Marion County Public Schools.
And while that distinction definitely puts a smile on her face, she said it’s not about her gender, it’s about what she can accomplish.
“It’s not about being a male or female… It’s about getting the job done,” Schlosser said.
The Marion County Board of Education held a special called meeting at 4:45 p.m., Thursday, July 11, to officially appoint Schlosser as superintendent. At the conclusion of the meeting, the room, filled with school district staff and Schlosser’s family, erupted in applause.
Schlosser’s contract is for a four-year term at the beginning salary of $120,000 per year. She will also be required to move to Marion County within the next year, which she said is important to her.
“I want to be a part of the community,” she said.
Schlosser currently lives in Springfield, and just recently bought a new house, but she said she met with a realtor last week.
All of her children, except for her oldest son, will be attending Marion County schools. Schlosser and her husband, Keith, have four children amongst the two of them, including Colton, 17, Will, 16, Taylor, 14 and nine-year-old Clay.
Being a working mom has its challenges, but Schlosser said it allows her to bring a different perspective to the superintendent’s seat.
“I look at things through lots of different lenses,” she said.
By becoming the first female superintendent in Marion County, Schlosser hopes young women will be encouraged to dream big.
“I want young girls to understand that with an education you can do anything,” she said. “And my education has allowed me to achieve a dream that otherwise would have never happened.”
Schlosser’s career in education has run the gamut. She has been a high school math teacher, a principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels (including St. Charles Middle School, Washington County High School and Marion County High School), and most recently, she’s been the assistant superintendent for Marion County Public Schools. She’s been working in Marion County for nine years, and becoming a superintendent has always been one of her goals.
“I love education. I understand the value of it and appreciate it,” Schlosser said. “I want to be a part of ensuring that all students in the entire school system get an education. I want to provide the support that is needed district-wide for the teachers so the kids get what they need.”
Putting the best people in the right positions is key, according to Schlosser, which is something she plans to do.
“I have to hire the best people possible because that’s what our kids deserve,” she said. “We can’t control the type of funding we get or the type of testing we’re under, but we can control how we spend our time and what personnel looks like.”
Schlosser said it’s also extremely important for a superintendent to be visionary and to dream for the district and for the community. “Dream, believe and achieve” is a motto Schlosser plans to put into action.
“I really believe that Marion County has all the potential in the world,” Schlosser said. “I want to put Marion County on the map because that is what our kids deserve. They deserve the best. And I want them to have the best education possible.”
Three things Schlosser said she plans to really focus on is learning, high expectations and communication. She said she wants the district to have a specific, detailed plan to address instruction.
“I want everybody to know this is where we are, this is where we’re going and this is how we’re going to get there. I want that to happen right away,” she said.
Schlosser also said she believes the district needs to have a strategic plan, which needs to specifically address how the district spends its funding.
And, while there has been a revolving superintendent’s seat during the past several years, Schlosser said she plans to see it through.
“Our district has lacked some stability because of the change of leadership,” she said. “I have a child that is in the fourth grade. I want to see this through not only for my child, but for all the children.”
Board Chairman Michael Mullins said he is confident that Schlosser will provide the strong leadership that Marion County schools need.
“What the district has been lacking in is very strong leadership,” Mullins said. “And I think Taylora is going to be the person that will provide that leadership. She’s going to be the superintendent that will be able to make those tough decisions. She’s going to make decisions based on what’s best for the children of the Marion County school system.”
Mullins said Schlosser’s experience as assistant superintendent and her record at the high school when she served as principal is evidence that she is more than capable to serve as superintendent.
“When she was at the high school, it was in excellent shape,” he said. “We feel that if she did that with the high school, she has the ability to do that with the rest of the district.”
Superintendent search timeline
Two days prior to Schlosser’s official appointment as superintendent the school board met in executive session for more than an hour on July 9, at which time they held a brief interview with Schlosser. They reconvened to accept the resignation of acting superintendent Steve Burkich and appoint Assistant Superintendent Schlosser as acting superintendent until a permanent superintendent could be chosen. The board had just hired Burkich June 25, to serve as interim until a superintendent was hired. He was only “on duty” for six days, which has puzzled some community members who question if an interim was really needed, or if it was wasted expense. According to Chairman Mullins, the board was following the advice of its attorney, Joe Mattingly, and that during his time here Burkich actually fixed some problems and saved the district money.
“To the general public it looks like a waste of money but during his time he discovered issues within the district that needed to be taken care of and needed to be taken care of immediately,” Mullins said. “It’s not always as it appears. If counsel advises us to do something, we do it.”
The board received recommendations of possible candidates from the superintendent search committee during a special-called meeting July 3, but they only interviewed Schlosser. Mullins said conducting additional interviews was unnecessary.
“There were nine applicants total,” Mullins said. “We asked the committee to narrow those down to three, and they did an excellent job. Out of the three names, the board looked at those three applicants and the information that was given to us and we decided that interviewing all three would be a waste of time and a waste of money because we felt like we had one applicant much more outstanding than the others. There was just no comparison as far as experience and as far as knowledge of the position.”
Mullins said the board remained open-minded throughout the entire process.
“The board didn’t have their mind made up, but people can think what they want,” Mullins said. “The board was open-minded during the process.”
Board Vice Chairman resigns
After the special called meeting Thursday, July 11, Board Vice Chairman Ed Hacker submitted his resignation from the Marion County Board of Education.
At the time of his resignation, Hacker said his daughter, Tammy Newcome, had applied for the position of instructional supervisor. For his daughter to have an opportunity to possibly be hired for that position, Hacker can’t be on the school board per state law.
The board held a special called meeting Friday, July 12, to eliminate the position of Assistant Superintendent of Learning Services/Food Service Director, which was formerly held by Schlosser. The board also approved an amendment to include the salary scale for the currently unfilled position of Instructional Supervisor, which is the position Newcome was seeking to fill. As of 10:19 p.m., Monday evening, Superintendent Schlosser sent an email to school district staff and the media informing them that Newcome had been hired as the new instructional supervisor. Newcome began her new position Tuesday, July 16.
“Mrs. Newcome brings a wealth of experience, skills, and results,” Schlosser wrote in her email. “Her experience ranges from the classroom to principalship at the elementary , middle and high school. I believe that her experience will support the direction of our district – student achievement and making dreams come true for all students.”