3 department chairs retire at the same time

Sami Pathan

Art teacher Sharyn Hyatt-Wade talks with senior Colleen Roetmeyer and junior Maddie Hicks about their art projects. Hyatt-Wade, Bill Priest (not pictured) and Mary Dix (not pictured) are all department chairs retiring at the year’s end. Photo by Halley Hollis.

As the school year begins the final four month stretch, three RBHS department chairs are spending their last days at the school as teachers. Social studies chair Bill Priest, art chair Sharyn Hyatt-Wade and English chair Mary Dix all plan to retire at the year’s end, leaving behind leadership positions in each of their departments.

Department chairs are in charge of much of their department’s budget and thus play a large role in the distribution of funds for different class materials. New department chairs could signal changes to things like which books students read in classes or what certain projects are like.

“They do a lot of the money stuff, taking care of what different teachers need for their classes and that kind of stuff,” principal Mark Maus said. “But as for curriculum, that’s done more at the district level, but there are certain things that they’ll work with different teachers on, but there wouldn’t be any drastic changes or anything.”

For Hyatt-Wade, however, the changes go beyond purely financial or academic. As a department chair she feels in charge of where the department can go and often considers ways to improve the department’s workings, both in and out of the classroom.

“To me, most of the responsibilities as a chair have to do with the vision for the department,” Hyatt-Wade said. “Not so much the day-to-day answering emails and that kind of thing, but, like when I first became division chair, I visited all the galleries downtown to see who would show our [students’] work, got a relationship going with the Columbia Tribune and Columbia Missourian. We try to do that sort of thing, try to push the departments forward.”

The search process for replacements begins in April with Maus and other department teachers interviewing possible candidates. Maus will make selections before the end of the school year to allow time for the appointees to adjust to their responsibilities.

“We’ll always let anyone within the department know, and we’ll speak with all of them and that probably won’t be until more towards the end of the school year,” Maus said, “but also name that new person early enough so that they have some time to work with the outgoing department chairs so they can understand what some of the things to expect as the year goes on.”

Neither Maus nor Hyatt-Wade believes the replacement department chair will have difficulty fitting into the system or transitioning to their new role.

“The process will be seamless; we have such strong people that will be taking over. And really everyone is replaceable even though we think we’re so indispensable,” Hyatt-Wade said. “But this kind of thing happens quite often, and it’s always fine, so we just need to go with it.”

Children’s Theater teacher Terry Overfelt also plans to retire at year’s end.
Read about Overfelt here.
By Sami Pathan