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2016 Most Influential Women Honoree: Kathy Whitworth

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Kathy Whitworth knows a school district’s most important resource is its human resource – its teachers.

A 36-year education veteran and former elementary school principal, Whitworth  spent the past 11 years at Nixa Public Schools helping streamline and modernize the Christian County district’s HR efforts for administrators, faculty and staff. She even created her own department.

“I had the privilege of opening the first human resources office for the district,” says the executive director of human resources. “Prior to opening the office, paper applications were used by the district.”

Whitworth wasted no time taking the district digital within the year, a move that has since resulted in more than 3,000 applications received online annually.

The district is now the largest employer in the county with roughly 850 employees. More than just eliminating paperwork, Whitworth doesn’t take her role lightly.

“The selection and ongoing development of teachers is the single most important responsability of school administrators,” she says, noting the district is looking for individuals with an attitude of servanthood and a desire to build relationships.

That attitude of servanthood has led Whitworth to develop and grow the Nixa Education Foundation, which grants teachers funds for innovative programs. From a single donation of $1,000 in 2007, the NEF funds currently reach over $150,000. Designated by the superintendent as a member of the board of directors, Whitworth has coordinated the annual NEF Gala since its inception in 2010.

“It is a time to celebrate together the district’s accomplishments and to enjoy the relationships that have been built,” she says of the event attended by roughly 300 employees.

During this year’s Gala, more than $10,000 was given back to teachers, bringing the total to over $40,000.

A member of the superintendent’s cabinet, Stephen Kleinsmith says he’s come to rely on Whitworth’s well thought out advice.

She serves on numerous district committees and is active in the school’s strategic planning.

The Comprehensive School Improvement Plan involves input from hundreds of community members, including the Nixa Area Chamber of Commerce, where Whitworth also serves on its executive board as secretary.

Outside the school walls, Whitworth is active as a team leader for the Nixa chamber’s Working Women in Nixa group. The group has the opportunity to encourage businesses through monthly skills learning programs.

She lends her talents to peers within the field, serving on the Missouri Association of School Personnel Administrators board of directors since 2013, along with five other professional organizations.

“Effective leaders are simply servants who recognize and cultivate the potential in others, acknowledging, valuing and tapping into their gifts and strengths,” she says.

“Organizations succeed because of the ‘we’ and not ‘me’ created in a team.”

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