Cross, Gary 2020 mug - Fox transportation director.jpg

The Fox C-6 School District will have some new faces in new positions for the 2020-2021 school year.

Over the past four months, Board of Education members have promoted a longtime district employee to the director of transportation position, hired two new elementary school assistant principals, moved an administrator to a teaching role, replaced three administrators who left the district after last school year, and said goodbye to the district’s administrative assistant to the superintendent and board secretary.

Director of transportation

On May 20, Gary Cross moved into the director of transportation job, which he has had his eye on for six years.

Cross was a Fox bus driver for 12 years before he became the routing coordinator at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

“I knew this is where I wanted to end up when I took the position as routing coordinator,” Cross said. “It was one of the reasons I took that, to bridge myself to the next step.”

Cross took over the position after John Byrne retired. Board members voted unanimously in a March 17 closed meeting to accept Byrne’s resignation, Fox reported.

Cross received a prorated salary of $8,355 for the final months of the 2019-2020 school year, and he will be paid $72,409 for the upcoming school year. He was paid $43,180 as the routing coordinator.

Byrne was paid $83,548.23 as the director of transportation.

Superintendent Nisha Patel said Cross deserved the promotion.

“Gary Cross has built a reputation of being people first and having the trust within his department,” Patel said. “He worked his way up through the ranks. He is someone from Day 1, when I was an assistant superintendent, I remember communicating with and knowing he was for this district and for making it more progressive and customer-focused. He is going to be great. I’m very excited to have him on board. His leadership is second to none.”

Cross said some of his goals are to improve communication and driver morale.

He said he will utilize the department’s Twitter account to let parents know about any bus delays, and he created a private Facebook group for Fox drivers to join so they can receive updated information.

Cross also said he will use the district’s website to keep everyone informed about what is happening in the transportation department.

“I’m really concentrating on the communication side,” Cross said. “I think that is a big part that maybe we were a little short on. I am hoping to shore that up and get that rolling.

“We have had a driver shortage for years, and I’m hoping if we can turn around morale, we will hopefully fix the driver shortage. I hope it is a place where everybody wants to work and get kids back and forth safely from school.”

Board of Education members voted 6-0 in a May 19 closed meeting to promote Cross. Board member Judy Smith was absent for the vote.

Assistant principals

All of the Fox district’s elementary schools will have a full-time assistant principal for the 2020-2021 school year.

Board of Education members promoted Lisa Hazard to assistant principal at Simpson Elementary School and Paul Tramel to assistant principal at Sherwood Elementary. They both will be paid $80,000 next school year.

Hazard was a fifth-grade teacher at Lone Dell Elementary last school year.

“Lisa Hazard will be an asset to Simpson Elementary in the role of assistant principal,” Patel said. “Lisa brings valuable experience to this role, including being a co-organizer of the Fox Parent Summit and serving as an assistant principal in our summer school program. I look forward to seeing Simpson thrive under her leadership.”

Tramel was a physical education teacher at Ridgewood Middle School last school year. Patel said he is an “excellent hire.”

“He brings a variety of classroom experiences to Sherwood Elementary, including experience as a principal in our summer school program,” Patel said. “His student-centered approach and love for what he does will continue to help Sherwood excel.”

The district combined building duties for two assistant principals at the elementary school level before the start of last school year. Jim Ray was the assistant principal at Sherwood and Lone Dell, and Christine Simokaitis was the assistant principal at Simpson and Hodge. However, each one will work full time at just one of the schools, and the Board of Education members agreed to hire two more elementary school assistant principals to cover the other two schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

Randy Gilman, Fox’s assistant superintendent in charge of elementary education, said Ray will be at Lone Dell full time next year and will be paid $96,058.74, while Simokaitis will be full time at Hodge and will be paid $98,157.08.

The board voted 7-0 in an April 21 closed meeting to promote Hazard. The board voted 5-2 during that same closed meeting to promote Tramel, with former board members Steve Holloway and Dawn Mullins casting the no votes.

Administrative moves

Four administrative positions were vacated this past spring, and three of those four positions were filled on June 16.

On May 19, board members voted unanimously to accept staff separation agreements from assistant director of food service Shannon Ebron, director of business and financial services Matthew Norrid and director of elementary special services Rebecca Young.

Norrid left Fox for a job as chief financial officer for the Brentwood School District, the same position current Fox CFO John Stewart held before coming to the district. Ebron also left Fox for another professional opportunity, and Young retired, the district said.

Ebron earned $52,509 last school year, Norrid’s salary was $86,906.69 and Young was paid $113,655.38.

The board voted unanimously to hire Kaila Schrimpf as the assistant director of food service, and board members voted 6-1 to name Dawne Trokey the director of business and financial services and Sam Muehlenbeck director of elementary special services. Bob Gruenewald cast the lone no vote on both of those hires.

Schrimpf will be paid $52,509, Trokey’s salary will be $79,356 and Muehlenbeck will be paid $105,000, the district reported.

On April 21, the board approved moving Tina Risse from the position of coordinator of literacy to reading specialist at Clyde Hamrick Elementary for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. The vote was unanimous.

Risse has been with the district for 26 years, serving at the literacy coordinator for the last six. She spent 20 years as an elementary teacher and a reading teacher, district spokesman JP Prezzavento said.

Fox does not plan to fill the vacant coordinator of literacy position at this time, Prezzavento said June 16.

Goodbye and hello

Sandy Menchella finished her time with Fox on Tuesday after serving as the administrative assistant to the superintendent and Board of Education secretary since June 2015.

Menchella, who arrived at the district with former Superintendent Jim Wipke and remained in her role when Nisha Patel took over as superintendent at the start of last school year, said she left to take the same type of job for the School District of Clayton.

“It is a great opportunity that came my way,” said Menchella, who lives in Ellisville.

The district announced Menchella’s departure on July 21. She was paid $66,299.82 last school year.

“Sandy Menchella has been a crucial part of this district for the past five years and has helped us move forward in numerous ways,” Patel said. “Her professionalism and level of customer service is second to none.”

Also during the July meeting, members unanimously voted to hire Jamie Willis as Fox’s new administrative assistant to the superintendent.

Willis worked as an office professional in Fox’s Central Office last year and was paid $18.86 per hour. Willis started her new role on July 20, and she will be paid $50,898, Prezzavento said.

Willis began working in the district in 2017 as a secretary at Fox Middle School before moving to the Central Office last school year, and she was a Business IT Analyst for AT&T for 11 years before coming to Fox, Prezzavento said.

He said board members are expected on Aug. 4 to vote on whether to name Willis the board secretary, too.

“I am thrilled to get to work with Jamie Willis, who has always had an eye for excellence and treated individuals with the utmost respect and professionalism,” Patel said.