Glass: Cape schools need to meet physical needs of poor students before they can educate

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Neil Glass

As an incoming superintendent of Cape Girardeau public schools, Neil Glass has had to adjust, shifting focus from his nine years as assistant superintendent to the student experience.

Glass began his role July 1, and said he’s looking forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead.

“The support I’ve gotten from the community is huge,” Glass said of partnerships with organizations, including the United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters, among others. “Without their support, a lot of what we do wouldn’t be possible.”

Glass said one of the biggest challenges the district faces is student poverty.

“We’re at 65 percent of our students, districtwide, on the free and reduced lunch program,” Glass said.

“That’s over six out of 10 kids who have so many needs we have to meet before we can even begin to educate them.”

The schools serve free breakfast, Glass said, and if a student comes to school needing basics such as clothing or hygiene products — even cleaning supplies — there are mechanisms in place to provide those.

“That is really what I see us as a team doing, moving forward — meeting those basic needs first, then let’s educate them,” Glass said.

”We want kids to know they can come to us, have a safe place here and know they can be themselves and can learn and have a lot of support,” he said.

Parent liaisons, counselors, nurses, social workers, resource officers all work with administration and the teachers, Glass said, to help keep students learning.

“They do a tremendous job and tremendous amount of work,” Glass said. “It’s our responsibility to educate students, and we take that to heart.”

Glass said he can’t say enough about the teachers, who he said are the backbone of the district.

“I hear stories all the time about teachers going above and beyond the call of duty, providing so many different resources and support,” Glass said.

Glass said he’s big on creating relationships, fostering connections and removing barriers whenever possible.

“If a teacher needs help, if I can remove that barrier, help them succeed, I will,” Glass said.

Glass said the Cape Girardeau school board is an asset as well. The board has a diversity of backgrounds and tremendous number of connections, Glass said.

“I’m very blessed, very much enjoy working with them,” he said.

Before his nine years at Cape Girardeau, Glass was principal of Chaffee’s high school and junior high. Before that, he was a physical education instructor at Jackson public schools.

“I learned a lot, worked with a lot of great people both at Jackson and Chaffee,” Glass said. “Those mentors helped build who I am as an educator today.”

Glass said he hopes to provide that mentorship to others in his role as superintendent.

The district recently adopted a five-year strategic plan, which was a year in the making and identified several areas of potential growth for the district.

“We’re developing action plans for each individual point,” Glass said, and while this is a big document, “we’re going to pick off a few things and do them well. We don’t want to just jump into the whole thing and not do anything well.”

A few key points he’d like to approach are discipline of students, by taking a more restorative rather than punitive angle.

He’d also like to see the district become more effective with communication.

“We have to tell our story,” Glass said.

In that same vein, Glass said he wants all administrators to have more of a presence in the buildings, meeting the students, getting to know their worlds.

“We have several success stories,” Glass said, including recent commendations of Blanchard, Alma Schrader and Clippard elementaries. “We want to expand that.”

Glass said ultimately, he’s here for the students.

“It’s all about them,” he said.

In his former role, Glass said, “I supported every aspect of the student experience, not necessarily the students themselves. Now I’m zeroed in on the student.”

Glass said he’s looking forward to the challenges and opportunities the position of superintendent will afford him.

“I see only great things on the horizon for Cape schools,” Glass said. “I’m ready to hit the ground running.”

(573) 388-3630

Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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