Springfield Public Schools superintendent John Jungmann is exiting his position after seven years with the district.
SPS announced Sept. 9 that the 2020-21 academic year would be Jungmann’s last. In his resignation letter, Jungmann told SPS Board of Education members he would retire from Missouri public school service “after a combined 23 years spent as a teacher, building principal and district superintendent.” His resignation is effective Aug. 31, 2021, according to the letter, a copy of which was provided to Springfield Business Journal.
In an interview with SBJ following the announcement, Jungmann said his “season is coming to an end” at SPS.
“My strengths are around creating changes in a system, building strategies and deploying initiatives. I’m really satisfied with the work that our team has done,” he said. “I just think that it’s time to hand that to someone else.”
Jungmann said his decision was not prompted by the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the district. SPS began its semester in August with a mix of in-person and virtual learning options for students, a process Jungmann said he wanted to oversee before making his retirement intentions known to the board.
“The pandemic has caused stress for education leaders and our teachers and our kids across the country,” he said. “That’s not the deciding factor. This is something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time.”
Jungmann came to SPS from Liberty Public Schools, where he was superintendent of the 11,500-student district near Kansas City for one year. A southwest Missouri native, Jungmann served as superintendent of the Monett R-1 School District for four years before taking the job in Liberty, according to SBJ archives. He started as SPS’ superintendent in July 2014, when he succeeded nine-year leader Norm Ridder.
Jungmann, 44, said he’s not yet ready to fully retire, but what his future endeavors will entail are up in the air.
“I am not retiring from work, I’m retiring from public education in Missouri,” he said. “I feel like my leadership journey is not over. I have a lot of energy and look forward to what is next.”
Shoes to fill
The SPS Board of Education accepted Jungmann’s letter of retirement during a closed session, said board President Alina Lehnert. A nationwide search for his successor is planned.
At its next meeting on Sept. 22, the board is slated to prepare a request for qualifications to hire a consulting firm that would conduct a search for Jungmann’s replacement, said Lehnert.
“We will be working on drafting a timeline that will be presented at the next school board meeting,” she said. “When you look at the history of SPS, you hope by the spring there is a candidate selected so that they’re ready to start the school year.”
The board in January extended Jungmann’s contract for the sixth time, through the 2022-23 academic year. His current annual salary is $279,877, said SPS spokesperson Stephen Hall.
Lehnert said while the board is sad to see Jungmann go, his retirement announcement was not entirely unexpected given his years of service in public education.
“Our board knew that this was a possibility. We just didn’t know when Dr. Jungmann would make that decision to retire,” Lehnert said. “We are very thankful for Dr. Jungmann’s thoughtfulness to signal his retirement plan now so that our board can get started with the next hiring process.”
Jungmann’s tenure at SPS has been marked with multiple economic and workforce development initiatives, including a $168 million bond initiative; an increase in graduation rates; and growth of the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies to connect students with businesses.
The superintendent and other school officials in 2019 successfully lobbied for the voter-approved Proposition S bond request that paved the way for the renovation and construction of multiple school buildings. Work is ongoing, with recent projects including the $23.8 million new building for Delaware Elementary School and the $12.7 million Adah Fulbright Early Childhood Center.
“It’s set a new bar for what the expectation is for learning environments,” said Jungmann of the bond initiative. “I’m proud of the execution that’s happened thus far.”
Jungmann said his greatest achievement at SPS was helping to grow the graduation rate to more than 93% this year, representing growth of around 5% from the prior year.
The workforce impact likely will be felt down the line, he said, noting it’s difficult to immediately quantify how the graduation rate growth would impact the economy.
“It’s changing the future of this community,” he said.
The district also has invested millions of dollars into technology solutions that have been utilized amid the coronavirus pandemic. In the spring, SPS officials rolled out online learning platforms and course content as the pandemic forced the closure of schools. That work continues this fall, with students having some or all of their course work delivered virtually.
Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Morrow credited SPS’ innovation under Jungmann, specifically its work on the GO CAPS program and college and career readiness initiatives.
“From day one, John has been focused on long-range workforce development,” Morrow said in a statement to SBJ. “Under John’s leadership, SPS has embraced innovation and partnership as essential to creating lifetime success for students.”
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