2 Cassville principals retire

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Weaver, Barton leaving district at end of June

Two Cassville school buildings will be under new leadership next school year, as Eunice Thomas Elementary Principal Catherine Weaver and Cassville Middle School Principal Jimmie Barton are both retiring.

Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent, said Weaver has served 27 years at the district, 22 as elementary principal, and Barton has been principal at the middle school for 7 years.

“Catherine announced her retirement on Jan. 1, and we posted for the job internally and on the state job posting list,” he said. “We had several internal and external applicants and started the interview process, then moved to top candidates and worked on developing a recommendation to the board, which we made on Thursday.”

Mindi Gates, currently the superintendent of the Purdy school district, was chosen to replace Weaver. Cassville had 18 applicants and conducted eight interviews before making the recommendation.

“Mindi will be coming back to Cassville after being in Purdy for 8 years,” Asbill said. “She will be a good leader for the building and a good connection for teachers, parents and kids.”

Gates is a Cassville graduate that attended Eunice Thomas as a child. She was a third-grade teacher at Cassville for 10 years before going to Purdy, where she was an instructional coach and assistant superintendent, and she has been superintendent for the last two years.

“Leaving Purdy has been a very difficult decision,” she said. “I have been here 8 years and fell in love with it my first year. The people, students and teachers have been wonderful.

“What I’ve found in my role as superintendent is there are some things I love each day, but there are some things I miss about being more hands on with students and teachers in the classroom. There is also a family aspect, as my children still go to Cassville, so this will align our schedules.”

Gates said she’s excited to return home.

“I’m excited to fill the principal position and excited to be in Eunice Thomas Elementary,” she said. “That’s where I attended and fell in love with becoming a teacher, so it’s special to become principal of that building. I’m also excited to work with the early childhood students and staff.”

Weaver said her decision to retire is mostly for family.

“I want to spend more time with family and friends because time is something you don’t have a lot of in this world,” she said.

Over her nearly three decades at Cassville, Weaver said there has been no shortage of changes.

“I am at the point I have children of the children I taught as a first-grade teacher in my building,” she said. “There have been gains in student numbers, and in physical layout of the building over those years. We’ve added the early childhood center and revamped the building a lot.”

Weaver said she’s not sure if she will leave any kind of legacy, but if she does, she hopes it’s for one specific thing.

“I don’t know if I’ll leave a legacy other than my love of kids,” she said. “There are only a handful of people still here that were here before I started as principal, so I have hired most of this staff. I believe it is a great staff, and they all love the kids.”

At the middle school, Asbill said a replacement for Barton has yet to be determined. The district is currently in the process of evaluating the position and has time to decide a direction before Barton’s contract ends in June.

Barton said he had always intended to retire by 2022, and the difficulties of the past year have given him the extra push to step away.

“The state of the world this last year with COVID, school just has not felt quite right,” he said. “Interpersonal connections and building with the staff and the kids has not been the same. It has become an impersonal business, and I don’t like it. I’m ready to go do something else, and it’s a good chance for someone new to come in and have a hand in setting up what things will look like after COVID.”

Barton said a big perk will be just being a parent to his daughter, a sophomore at Cassville High School.

“I’m looking forward to just being a parent and watching her go through her last years of high school,” he said. “We aren’t moving, so I will still be around for the next couple of years.”

Barton said he has connections outside of the education field where jobs may await.

“There are several things I’m mulling over, but that won’t be for a while,” he said. “I also have not ruled out getting back into coaching, because running a building is one thing, but coaching kids is still coaching kids. I may do some lower-level basketball coaching, possibly in Arkansas because of Missouri retirement rules.”

Barton said when he was hired, part of his goals were to improve the turnover and image of the building.

“We had a lot of turnover and other issues that needed stabilizing,” he said. “I feel right now, the middle school is very family-oriented and has a group of educators that all believe in doing what’s best for the students. We had an image issue in the community, and I think I have done a good job improving that and working with parents and kids.”

Barton also mention the implementation of Project Lead The Way has been an accomplishment in his tenure.

“Project Lead The Way helped fuel the Wild Academy,” he said. “It’s highly respected across southwest Missouri.”

Barton said he will greatly miss the staff, and the last few years have been incredible.

“It goes without saying, but the opportunity to lead this building and work with the staff, I can’t be more thankful,” he said. “I wish them all the best of luck.”

Another administrative change is being made for the upcoming year, creating an entirely new position at the district.

Lisa Schell, an instructional coach, will become the new elementary assistant, which will work with grades K-5.

“One of the things that came out of our discussions with teachers is they wanted someone to support intermediate and primary with disciplinary needs so the principal can interact more with parents and be in the classrooms more,” Asbill said.

Weaver is leaving the district at a salary of $93,232, and Gates will enter as principal at $80,000 per year. Barton is retiring at a salary of $79,732. Asbill said being a new position, a salary for Schell has yet to be determined.

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