Mehlville in good hands with new superintendent

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

It’s no secret that the Mehlville School District faces some serious financial challenges.

In fact, Mehlville administrators on Wednesday night — after the Call went to press — planned to unveil $4 million in budget cuts they are recommending for the coming school year to address a projected $8 million deficit. Budget cuts are always agonizing, but we anticipate these will be particularly painful given the magnitude of the projected deficit.

However, we have confidence in interim Superintendent Norm Ridder, who has dealt with similarly difficult situations throughout his distinguished career as an educator. During his brief tenure here, Dr. Ridder has spearheaded the district’s new strategic plan that lays the foundation for Mehlville’s future success.

The Mehlville School District certainly has enjoyed its share of successes over the years, but the extremely poor long-term decisions made by past administrations and boards have negatively impacted the district’s ability to realize its true potential as a destination school district. We believe the new strategic plan, if followed, will eliminate the dysfunction that has permeated Mehlville’s decision-making process for years.

And though Dr. Ridder will depart Mehlville on June 30, we believe the district will be in good hands under the leadership of Dr. Chris Gaines, who takes Mehlville’s reins the next day.

Dr. Gaines comes to Mehlville from the 1,500-student Wright City School District, where he has served as superintendent for the past seven years. Before that, Dr. Gaines served for seven years as superintendent of the 1,400-student Crawford County School District in Cuba.

Fellow educators, including Lindbergh Superintendent Jim Simpson, have high praise for Dr. Gaines and his ability to move Mehlville forward. Of Gaines, Dr. Simpson said, “He’s an outstanding superintendent. He’s a very respected superintendent. He’s a state leader and actually a national leader …”

During his tenure in Wright City, Dr. Gaines has been instrumental in improving academic achievement, making it one of the most-improved districts in the state.

The Mehlville School District is at a critical juncture in its history as it faces pressing financial and academic challenges. Given his success and longevity in other districts, we believe Dr. Gaines is up to the challenge to overcome those hurdles and move Mehlville forward.