JOPLIN, Mo. —
Angie Besendorfer, Joplin assistant school superintendent, announced Wednesday that she will leave her local post to become chancellor of WGU Missouri, a nonprofit, online university.
“A decision like this is really difficult,” she said in a statement released through the school district. “I love the direction Joplin Schools is going, and it’s hard to choose to leave, especially at such a transitional time for the district, but WGU Missouri is also an innovative education institution, and (it) offered me an exciting opportunity that I just couldn’t refuse.”
WGU Missouri was established this year by the state through a partnership with Western Governors University to expand access to higher education for Missouri residents. Besendorfer, who has worked as assistant superintendent since 2007 in the Joplin district, is to start her new position in January.
She acknowledged in an interview that leaving her post in the middle of an academic year “feels a little awkward and unusual.”
But she said most of her “critical work” will be wrapped up by then, as evidenced by the opening of three new schools on Jan. 6. In announcing her resignation, the school district said she had played a significant role in the recovery steps after the 2011 tornado, spearheading the design for temporary and permanent replacement schools.
“This opportunity was not the kind of opportunity that waits; the rest of the world doesn’t always operate on a July-to-June schedule,” Besendorfer said of the timing. “But I’m not going to leave before we get those first three buildings off and running.”
Besendorfer said she first heard of the job opening from Joplin Superintendent C.J. Huff, who serves on an advisory board for WGU Missouri.
Huff said Besendorfer’s “passion and vision” for education extend beyond the traditional classroom setting.
“Her collaborative work with staff, parents and the community has helped to develop a collective vision which has laid the groundwork for Joplin Schools’ efforts to provide a 21st-century education in our community,” Huff said in a statement. “We hate to see Angie leave the Joplin Schools family, but we are excited for her and the role she will continue to play in Missouri education.”
Huff told the Globe that he hopes to put together a job description for the assistant superintendent position and open it up for applications within the next week. He said he will oversee interviews and the final job offer, which will be subject to approval by the Board of Education.
Board President Jeff Flowers said board members formally accepted Besendorfer’s resignation during a closed session at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.
“I don’t know a person that is more intelligent when it comes to curriculum than Dr. Besendorfer,” he said. “I think she’s brought a knowledge that will be hard to replace.”
Huff said the anticipated starting date for a new hire would be July 1, the start of the 2014-15 academic year.
ROBERT W. MENDENHALL, president of Western Governors University, said in a statement released through the Joplin School District: “Providing high quality, affordable degree programs for teachers and administrators is a significant part of what we do, and Angie’s background and experience in K-12 education will be key to helping us grow and develop our teacher education programs in Missouri.”