Cassville hires middle school principal

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ballard K-12 principal heading to larger district

The Cassville school district has hired the K-12 principal at the Ballard school district to be its new middle school principal, effective in July.

Richard Asbill, superintendent of Cassville schools, said Jim Barton rose to the top of the district's list, and while he will do some work on his own a few days in June to help in the transition, he will begin his duties officially in late July.

"We wanted someone organized enough and open enough to allow the students to grow," Asbill said. "It was also important to the teachers to have a leader who is dedicated, hard-working and responsible and professional for the teachers and administration."

Barton said he has family in the area, in Wheaton, in Seligman and near Jenkins, and he is excited to make the move to Cassville.

"We are trying to move a little closer to family, and we've always loved the Cassville area," he said. "I have relatives in the school district, so I know some about what's going on and that the district is going in a good, solid direction. And, I've never heard anyone say anything bad about Cassville."

Asbill said a committee was formed to make a recommendation for the hire. Members of the committee, all middle school employees, included: Jennifer Pendergraft, math; Garrison Ernest, science; Becky Haynes, librarian; Rob Bredeson, sixth grade; and Amy Cole, counselor.

The group took a pool 32 applicants for the position, including two in-house candidates, and whittled the list down to 10. They then checked references and interviewed seven, whittling the list again to three, each of whom had extra interviews with district administration. Neither of the two in-house applicants were included in the final three.

"The committee worked with other middle school staff to develop a list of priorities they wanted in a leader and building-level supervisor," Asbill said. "They asked questions about student programs, evaluations, assessments, extracurricular activities, collaboration and teacher input philosophies. Jim was attracted to Cassville because he can focus on grade levels six through eight, and his priorities and improvement efforts fit right in line with what everyone was looking for."

Barton said his goals after arriving at Cassville will be to adapt to the district and help it improve.

"First off, I want to get to know the staff, students and the community," he said. "I'm not going to walk in guns blazing. I have to learn Cassville, not Cassville learn me."

After that, Barton said his No. 1 goal is to make sure to follow through with programs and initiatives already being pursued by the district.

"I also want to make sure there's some consistency in the leadership position, and I will make decisions based on what's best for the kids," he said.

As a K-12 principal now, Barton will be shedding a few grade levels to manage the middle school, which is only grades 6-8. However, he is not worried about the change.

"One of the things Cassville liked about me as a candidate was my 10 years of experience teaching in a middle school," he said. "It takes a certain personality, but that's a fun age group and I tend to like them."

Barton comes to Cassville with 20 years of education experience, including five years at Hume, where he worked as athletic director and handles many coaching duties; 11 Years at Belton, where he taught middle school and coached; and four years at Ballard in his first administrative position.

"I'm happy to be coming down that way and I look forward to building a relationship with the Cassville community," he said.

Barton, who will have an 11-month contract, will be paid a salary of $72,000. He is replacing Melanie Stringer, who took a personal, paid leave of absence in March and tendered her resignation, effective June 30. She earns a salary of $74,425

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