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WATCH: Full interview with Moberly School District Superintendent Cristina Wright


Cristina Wright is in her first school year as the superintendent of the Moberly School District and its 2,000-plus students.

This means she's taking the job at a challenging time in education in Missouri, as districts around the state are grappling with a shortage of teachers.

ABC 17 News is interviewing superintendents around Mid-Missouri as the 2023-2024 school year begins. Questions are edited for brevity and clarity.

Mitchell Kaminski: You just started on the job recently, right?

Wright: I took over actually in June. Okay, there was not a seated superintendent at the time. So I was able to start a little bit early. Usually, it's a July 1 contract start, but it's been a wonderful start getting to know everybody.

Kaminski: So what are your first impressions of the district?

Wright: Well, I love the size of the town. It's wonderful a small-town feel, but we have some larger community resources, with beautiful facilities and a really welcoming staff. We serve about 2,000 students, just over that. So it's a really great size for young people to learn here.

Kaminski: What stood out to you before coming here as something Moberly did well and something that needed improvement?

Wright: Well, I think Moberly is really organized in terms of our continuous school improvement planning, and involving stakeholders in that process. So we have a vision for the next five years about where the district wants to go. They have great facilities, resources and planned involvement to that end with community input. So that's a really great resource. And you know, I think just continuing to have leadership in central office, in terms of financial planning, is something that I can connect with, too.

Kaminski: What kind of construction projects has the district been working on?

Wright: We've really had a focus of enhancing safety as a district. So we have installed window laminate on all the buildings in the district. We have added these HVAC filters for air quality. We install several new security cameras across the district, we have just finished our early childhood learning center expansion. And we have an alternative school building being built right now that will be finished in approximately December. So really all things safety and security, we're taking a hard look at how to keep our students and staff safe.

Kaminski: Has the district used any state resources on increasing security?

Wright: That's been a tremendous benefit to us. Great help. So that is how we were able to afford installing security cameras and the window laminate. So where we might not otherwise have been able to do that.

Kaminski: Math scores have trended downward everywhere. What's your assessment of Moberly's numbers?

Wright: We are taking a hard look at all of our students' academic achievement results. And there is a large push in terms of literacy and numeracy. So both reading and math improvement. Of course, we were tracking that before the pandemic but it's really been ramped up post-pandemic, how to recover from some of that learning loss. So we just have, we have needs to recover.

And we have plans to do that. But we need to implement and it takes all hands on deck to make that happen. Some of that looks like before and after-school tutoring. Some of that looks like extending into the summertime for summer school, and just the way that we teach inside of the classroom.

Kaminski: What is staffing like in Moberly?

Wright: Well, you know, we have hired approximately 30 new teachers, we still have two openings in math. So the teacher shortage is affecting us and it's real. So we are looking at our Grow Your Own program and how we retain folks in this community that, so they'll stay as professionals if they graduate high school or graduate college locally and they're willing to settle down in a beautiful community. So it is a factor that didn't used to be quite as heightened as it is now where we would be on Aug. 13 looking to fill classroom teachers.

Kaminski: How does the district still deliver quality education while those are open?

Wright: We look at a variety of strategies really.

We look at virtual learning as one possibility. We look at restructuring our staff placement if necessary. So if we have someone with appropriate certification, we can move into math content, and take a look at that. And we look at if there's someone that has great experience with mathematics that's not perhaps appropriately certified that would work towards certification that has a college degree then that's someone that we can look at putting into the classroom and then working on some hand-to-hand training with other staff members who have expertise in instructional coaching.

Kaminski: What else do families need to know about this school year?

Wright: Well, we are really pushing the refresh button and starting a whole new vision for this district and infusing joy wherever we can. So really focusing on building relationships with our students and our families, and enhancing a caring environment so that we can press the gas pedal on high expectations. So putting all that together in a small town I think is the perfect blend. It's exactly what I would be looking for, for my children and am, and have brought a child here. So I know that we'll have a really welcoming and academically enriching environment for all of our students.

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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