Superintendent's Retirement Leaves Board to Discuss Options

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Board of Education has set a time to talk about how to choose a new supertintendent. Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher announced Wednesday he will retire June 30.

The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13 to talk about how to select his replacement. The board members will sit down, formally accept Belcher's retirement letter, build a time line and discuss how to select a new candidate.

"We'll meet Monday to kind of figure out how we're going to find Dr. Belcher's replacement," CPS board president Christine King said. "Ya know, do we stay within the district or do we look externally?"

King said while it would be nice to have a familiar face take the seat, it is not the only option.

"If we do decide to do an external search, it may attract more interested people," King said. "It may bring people who might want to move to Columbia because of some of the great things we've done... and are currently doing."

King said Belcher has accomplished quite a bit within his five years of working with CPS.

CPS spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said it's actually good timing because most of the changes went into effect at the beginning of the school year.

"You know, while Belcher has been here, CPS has accomplished several of the goals he had when he arrived," Baumstark said. "We had a robust list of facilities planned which involved the opening of Battle [High School], restructuring our grade level configuration, looking at new boundaries, getting rid of the trailers in our district and getting new elementary schools. [Thanks to Belcher], we have a long range plan to maintain our facilities in Columbia."

Baumstark said the board has a lot of work to do, but it also has the option make sure there is a smooth transition for the new superintendent.

"Columbia has high expectations, so they want someone who comes seasoned and ready to go," Baumstark said. "That pool comes with people that are highly experienced. That's just the nature of it. We got a great one [in 2009], and thankfully he loves Columbia. So, that gives him a chance to work with his successor to carry on the knowledge he has."

Belcher has been working in education for 32 years, five of which were with CPS. Following his departure, Belcher will serve as a faculty member for the University of Missouri College of Education.

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