Oggle Enterprise New Bloomfield

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NEW BLOOMFIELD – “Leading lifelong learners.”

That’s the motto of the New Bloomfield R-III district. The school’s newest leader is a direct result of that phrase.

Sarah Wisdom started learning at New Bloomfield Elementary and is now finishing her first year as the district’s newest superintendent.

“This is home,” Wisdom said. “I have a great pride for this school and the community.”

Her colleagues go even farther than that.

“She has spent her entire life here in New Bloomfield,” second grade teacher Kathy Howell said. “The school is everything to her, and now her children go to school here.”

Howell met Wisdom when Wisdom was just in the fifth grade, and watched her “blossom” from special education paraprofessional to teacher to director and now, superintendent.

“I think that Sarah is completely vested in this community for the long term,” Howell said, “and it’s not just the school, it’s the entire community.”

Junior high and high school principal Jeremy Davidson said Wisdom’s community outreach has impressed him.

“She’s a homegrown girl, where she has the ability to make some connections in the community that prior superintendents haven’t had the ability to do,” Davidson said.

Life Skills teacher Malinda Cline said she worried she would never see Wisdom after she took a higher rank in the school, but Wisdom proved her wrong.

“She stops by and says hi and she’s still concerned about my students,” Cline said.

Wisdom got her undergraduate degree in Pre-Law from William Woods University. She did not expect to become a teacher, but said she had a passion for helping people.

“So that’s still, today, what I drive every day, to make an impact,” Wisdom said. “And what other job do you get to impact 700 kids a day?”

She may be even more inspiring than she realizes. Wisdom is not only the new superintendent, she is the first-ever female leader for the district. At state-wide administrative meetings, she has noticed she is one of few.

“You go to meetings and we’re definitely a minority. I hope that changes. I hope that we can have our young people, our young females to realize you can be anything,” Wisdom said. “So if you want to be superintendent, then that’s a dream you can reach.”

The Missouri Association of School Administrators does not track genders of superintendents, but executive director Doug Hayter said at MASA’s recent conference, there was a noticeable discrepancy.

“There were a good number of females in the room, but certainly not at the demographic level of 50/50, which, obviously in society, we’re 50 percent male and 50 percent female,” Dr. Hayter said. “So we need to continue to work hard to make that happen more and more for our female administrators.”

So why are there not more female administrators? Wisdom thinks it is a matter of where the candidates come from in the school system.

“A lot of the females are [teaching] in the elementary, we have a lot more males [teaching] in the high school, middle school level, and generally, you see a lot of people move up in administration when they’re at that level more than elementary,” Wisdom said.

Hayter said that could be a factor, but he thinks there is a larger societal issue keeping women out.

“Just from a perspective in history and who’s been in leadership roles. Sometimes that can be difficult to overcome,” Hayter said. “We’ve not had a female president, why is that the case? Same type of scenario. I think these types of things take time.”

Hayter hopes MASA can counter this idea by encouraging both men and women to apply for superintendent openings.

“It’s not a right or wrong issue, but it’s simply making sure we’re providing opportunities for females as well as we do for males and realize that they can be just as good a leader as any man can be,” Hayter said.

Howell believes women like Wisdom are setting the stage for others.

“I think we still have a certain part of society that feels like the men should be in power,” Howell said, “and I think women are eventually going to show that we can run the show, too.”

Hayter has seen the effects of female leaders inspiring young people.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that it sends a strong message to young girls that, ‘hey I can do this too,’” Hayter said.