Welker, local educator, a unanimous decision by Cape school board as next superintendent

Thursday, February 7, 2008

In the end, the Cape Girardeau school board decided to hire a local. Dr. Jim Welker, currently assistant superintendent of finance in Jackson, beat out two other finalists to be named Cape Girardeau's new superintendent Thursday.

His three year contract will begin July 1.

Welker will be paid $135,000 his first year, $4,204 less than former superintendent Dr. David Scala but about $43,000 more than what he is making in Jackson. Scala's contract was terminated by the board effective Dec. 19.

"[Welker[']s] local, and that's a plus, but we were not looking exclusively for someone local. He has a wide range of experience, with finance, in the classroom, and with curriculum," said Board President Dr. Steve Trautwein. He declined to comment about the other candidates, and said the board's decision to hire Welker was unanimous.

Welker graduated from Jackson High School, but has lived in Cape Girardeau for 27 years. His two sons graduated from Central High School.

"There are similarities in the size of the district, and the communities are similar," Welker said, noting he'll have to trade his red apparel for orange. "I think there's a lot of good things going on. I'd like to work with the staff to continue those things," he said.

Low staff morale was a problem identified in community forums last year, along with a lack of unity. Welker said he intends to spend time meeting with staff and "developing a team concept."

"I hope to get out and listen to teachers," he said.

Welker attended Southeast Missouri State University for two years before transferring to the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he obtained a bachelor of science degree in agricultural education and a master's degree. He also has a specialist in educational administration degree from Southeast, and a doctor in education degree through a cooperative program with Southeast and the University of Missouri.

He taught agriculture in Delta for almost 10 years, supervised agricultural education for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for 10 years, and coordinated adult education, along with performing other administrative tasks, in Sikeston for two years. He's worked for Jackson the past eight years.

"He came highly recommended," Trautwein said. "I've heard that when he believes in an issue, he is very strongly supportive of it."

Welker acknowledged the Cape Girardeau district has had financial problems, but said he feels confident the district is "going in the right direction."

While the board gave no official reason for parting with Scala, the decision came amid a realization that a mistake by the former director of finance, Brenda McCowan, resulted in a loss of $700,000 for the district.

Welker said he has already met with the new director of finance, Misty Clifton, because when Clifton was hired in November she sought advice from local administrators working in finance.

Pat Fanger, formerly assistant superintendent for the district, will remain the interim until Welker's contract begins.


335-6611 ext. 123

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