Cowherd stepping away from Park Hill
Park Hill School District Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd’s 30-year career in education is brimming with accomplishments and chock-full of firsts, including being the first female in a decade to take the reins of the Park Hill School District.
Dr. Gayden Carruth was the first female to lead Park Hill, serving as superintendent from 1994-2005.
Most recently, Cowherd’s high-earning achievements and strong communication skills earned her the 2022 “Missouri Administrator of the Year” award from the Missouri School Public Relations Association (MOSPRA). The award recognizes superintendents for their ability to consistently improve the lines of communication between the education system and the communities they serve.
“Dr. Cowherd has been a tremendous asset for Park Hill, and we greatly appreciate her service and dedication. She has a natural instinct for building relationships through genuine and open communication, and that strengthened the relationship Park Hill has with our staff, families, and the community. She is a true leader with integrity and a champion for public education,” said Janice Bolin, president of the board of education.
On Tuesday, the district hosted a retirement celebration at the LEAD (Lead, Empower, Aspire, Dream) Innovation Studio honoring Cowherd’s contributions and dedicated service to education. Many of her colleagues, who have an insight into the character and integrity of Dr. Cowherd, took to the podium to share messages and extol the importance of her dedication to the district’s 18 schools.
Reflecting on her three-decade-long career in education, Dr. Cowherd said in a written statement, “I am proud of making a difference for students, teachers, and staff.”
Over the past decade, the educational system has experienced rapid changes, from the COVID pandemic and hybrid learning to enrollment growth and curriculum changes. Cowherd and her team of educators adapted to the ever-changing demands of the educational system. She helped navigate the district through the complexities of modern education by focusing on implementing internship experiences at LEAD, a K-12 college-and-career-readiness index, and culturally responsive methods of teaching.
“Through everything that came our way, I always tried to listen to people and to solve problems collaboratively,” said Dr. Cowherd.
In 2020, Cowherd helped lead the district through an unprecedented districtwide transition to distance learning. When in-person learning returned at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, Cowherd implemented a variety of learning modes to fit various comfort levels. While most students returned to the classroom for an abbreviated face-to-face instruction, others utilized the online learning option, which Cowherd and her team of educators made available.
District leaders say Cowherd’s commitment to implementing alternative learning modes gave wings to countless students.
While public school systems have faced new challenges over the past decade, Dr. Cowherd said the school system is consistently becoming better.
“Education has improved in many ways – we are better at preparing students for their future college or career plans. We are also better at removing barriers like fees and transportation, so that every student has an opportunity to succeed. I am encouraged to see how much better we are at incorporating students’ voices in our decision-making processes,” said Dr. Cowherd.
“We had many opportunities to collaborate and come to a new understanding together. We grew and learned, and we chose to respond instead of just reacting,” said Dr. Cowherd.
Cowherd studied education and previously taught instrumental music in the southwest region of the “Show-Me” state and across state lines in the Shawnee Mission School District. In these earlier roles, she earned the Shawnee Mission West Teacher of the Year award, the March of Dines Teacher of the Year award, and the Influential Educator award.
She began her career in the Park Hill School District as a building administrator during the 2005-2006 school year and later served as the assistant superintendent for school improvement.
Cowherd became the acting superintendent of the Park Hill School District during the 2015-2016 school year, replacing the former superintendent, Scott Springston, who resigned citing health-related matters. When Dr. Cowherd took the reins, she played a role in improving communications with students, teachers, and staff.
When asked about the future of the public education system, Dr. Cowherd said she looks forward to what’s next for education.
“We have a lot of opportunities to be innovative. We can provide individualized instruction, and we can build competency-based learning in our public schools.”
Dr. Cowherd’s message for aspiring educators is, “You are entering the greatest profession there is. Remember that you are in a position to serve others and to be a voice for your students and community,” she said.
Like most educators, Dr. Cowherd has a particular teacher whose presence in her childhood made all the difference. Additionally, she credits her mother and father for instilling in her the importance of education.
“My parents were a huge influence on me, and they taught me to value my education. I also had a band director when I was in school who inspired me to become a teacher who made a difference, like him,” said Dr. Cowherd.
Cowherd will be succeeded as superintendent by Dr. Mike Kimbrel, who is currently serving as the assistant superintendent of academic services.