Hazelwood School District Interim Superintendent Writes Stakeholders

In a letter to parents and community members Thursday, Interim Superintendent Grayling Tobias laid out the focus and changes happening in the district.

Earlier this month, the Hazelwood School District announced a shake-up in its leadership and has spent the past few weeks getting readjusted. Thursday, parents and community members got a sense of the changes coming.

Grayling Tobias assumed the duties of interim superintendent earlier this month along with Ingrid Clark-Jackson taking on the role of interim assistant superintendent.

Thursday, Interim Superintendent Tobias sent a letter to parents and community members to clear up any discrepancies as well as briefly discuss the district’s focal points.

Here’s a copy of the letter in its entirety: 

Dear HSD Patrons, 

As you know, the Hazelwood School District Board of Education made a bold decision in changing the leadership for the District. I have been selected as the interim superintendent for the District during this important juncture.  I think it is important for you to know that the District has a commitment to reaffirm our relationship with several important HSD stakeholders, including our parents and community members.

As I complete my third week as interim superintendent, I would like to share an update on the Hazelwood School District. There has been some information reported by local media indicating that HSD is in financial trouble. This is not true. After reviewing the actual results from the 2011-12 fiscal year, the district’s fund balances were $9 million higher than budgeted.  Revenue was only slightly higher, but expenditures were about four percent under budget.  The District is usually fiscally conservative and we take great care to spend taxpayer dollars wisely.  Our principals and support department directors spent only what was needed, which resulted in this surplus.

I also want to share information on our student achievement. As we move forward, your support will become a critical piece in improving our schools and increasing student achievement. We are fully accredited, and have been for many years. However, we are not satisfied with our academic achievement as measured by the Missouri School Improvement Program. We recently learned that we met nine out of 14 standards.
Moving forward, our No. 1 priority is to improve student achievement. We have high expectations for our students and we know our students can perform at high levels. We also believe in the people who are closest to our students, and we have confidence in their abilities to improve student achievement. We must narrow our focus to teaching and learning and what is happening each day in our classrooms. We must also align our curriculum to the state model. In an attempt to narrow our focus, we are reviewing and re-examining all improvement plans to determine what is working and what is not working.

We have developed an Academic Improvement Plan and we are currently sharing details of this plan with all staff members.  I want to summarize our efforts to improve student achievement. Our assessment data is clear. Our primary goal is to improve in the area of English Language Arts.  A few actions we will take include:

  • The Learning Leadership Team, which includes the interim superintendent, interim associate superintendent and assistant superintendents, has committed to a stronger presence in our schools, walking through classrooms and monitoring curriculum and instruction. 
  • We are hiring nine additional elementary school teachers to help decrease class sizes and improve morale. We believe this will positively impact student achievement, as well.
  • We are hiring a reading specialist for each of the six middle schools to help teachers identify and develop a plan of action for students who struggle with reading.
  • Our kindergarten – 12th grade English Language Arts learning facilitator will work with teachers district-wide to ensure they are using the most effective, research-based instruction in their classrooms.
  • Based on the successful program in Joplin, we have initiated a Bright Futures program for HSD. The Bright Futures program provides a path for communities to engage everyone (school-based, community-based, business-based, faith-based, and service-based) in a collective movement to develop relationships and channel resources supporting education and enabling children to achieve success.
  • We will hire a School-to-Home Liaison who will work with the Bright Futures Coordinator, principals, counselors, teachers, and other staff to create a robust home visitation program designed to help improve home-school relations.

These are a few of the actions we have taken to improve student achievement. I plan to share more as we continue to move.
I am humbled by the many notes of encouragement I have received from members of our community. I am inspired by this confidence, and I appreciate your support.
In closing, I want to invite you to attend one of three “Meet-the-Interim Superintendent Nights” scheduled in October.  Please see below:

Date: Oct. 10, 2012
Time: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Hazelwood Central High School

Date: Oct. 17, 2012
Time: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Hazelwood East High School

Date: Oct. 22, 2012
Time: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Hazelwood West High School

I would like to hear from you regarding your thoughts on the direction of our school district. I hope to see you at one of these meetings.


Dr. Grayling Tobias
Interim Superintendent

What do you think of Tobias' letter? What have been your concerns about the district in the wake of transition? Let us know in the comments section below.

Linda Wilson September 28, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Thanks for the update. Keep me posted. Please do not micro-manage teachers. A micro-managed teacher becomes a stressed teacher which leads to being an ineffective teacher. Teachers who are qualified to teach, should know their craft. The place to evaluate them and their personal quirks is before you hire them. Once hired, trust them. The staff at McNair are doing a very good job. I am pleased with the education my 3 are receiving there.
Dino McDonnell October 01, 2012 at 02:30 PM
I would really like Dr. Tobias to explain why the school district spent millions on 4 new middle schools that his predecessor Dr. Chris (Wright) Nicastro had built stating that the school district attendance was going to explode and the schools would be needed when in fact the attendance has been decreasing steadily for the past 6 years by more than 2000 students. It is costing the Hazelwood school district millions of tax dollars every year until the bonds are paid and for what. We were sold a bill of goods then and now Dr. Tobias is trying to sell us that same bill of goods. Well folks I have a bridge in Florida I would love to sell to you.
Gerry Mac November 08, 2012 at 11:18 PM
I just now read this today, November 8th. What a great job the school board did on choosing this new leadership team. It seems to me Dr. Tobias and Dr. Clark-Jackson have hit the ground running with the new Academic Improvement Plan. There is much to be enthusiastic about and I hope all HSD patrons will support this leadership team and its agressive plan. It seems to me our students are in very capable hands.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »