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2011 Men of the Year Honoree: Norm Ridder, Ed.D.

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As the oldest son among 12 children born in 13 years, Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Norm Ridder got an early start as a leader.

“I took over the leadership of our family farm at age 12,” Ridder says. “Rather than filing bankruptcy due to major illness of livestock, my dad began working in a meat packing plant in our local community to pay his bills.”

His responsibilities didn’t keep the younger Ridder from making the most of his time at school, where he served as captain of athletic teams, held leadership roles in student government and acted in drama productions.

Once Ridder began his career in education, it didn’t take him long to move ahead, serving as a department head by the end of his first semester teaching and becoming a superintendent within just six years.

At the helm of SPS since 2005, Ridder was instrumental in proposing and campaigning for a $96.5 million bond initiative in 2006. In 2008, the district recorded its highest attendance rate in more than 20 years, and a $50 million bond initiative passed in 2009. District seniors have outpaced state and national averages on ACT exams, with the 2011 class achieving an average composite score of 22.9, compared to a state average of 21.6 and a national average of 21.1.

Ridder says his proudest accomplishment, however, came during his days as a high school principal, working with a young man who faced challenges with drugs, family violence and depression.

“With much counseling and direct work with the student’s guardian, the student graduated from both high school and college and is now a dad and teacher,” Ridder says.

As superintendent, Ridder is focused on the quality of the school district.

“We are vigilant in aligning our thinking within an environment of continuous improvement, with a sharp focus on each and every student,” Ridder says.

As a member of the SPS Board of Education, Gerry Lee has seen Ridder’s passion for education firsthand.

“He is a strong collaborator with all stakeholders – employees and students alike – and has always represented the district in the best possible light, always with honesty and integrity,” Lee says.

Ridder is an active community advocate, most often focusing his service on children. Among the groups he’s worked with are YMCA, the Mayor’s Commission on Children, the United Way – including serving as a former chairman and director of the Strong Kids Campaign, St. John’s Ethics Committee and Catholic Campus Ministry.

“Currently, I serve on 12 boards within the community,” Ridder says. “My strength as a leader is my ability to provide vision and strategic thinking.”

From 2011 Men of the Year

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