His time with may be almost over, but school board members and Parkway staff are hoping his legacy lives on.
Don Senti, who has served for the last year as interim superintendent for the district, will officially step down this summer. The , begins the job July 1.
To honor Senti's contributions to the district, the school board and staff are encouraging donations to the Parkway Alumni Association. Specifically, they're asking contributions be made to the association's Al Burr Educators Make A Difference Fund. The fund rewards outstanding teachers in the district with cash stipends.
At Wednesday's Parkway Board of Education meeting, board member Dee Mogerman announced the idea.
"Dr. Senti stepped right into the progress we were making and filled those (former Superintendent Robert Malito's) shoes beyond our expectations," Mogerman said. "As a board, we wanted to find a way to honor him, and we figured that he has plenty of plaques and watches since he's been an educator for more than 40 years." Senti laughed, and agreed that he has plenty of watches and rarely wears one.
Assistant superintendent Kathy Blackmore agreed that Senti fit seamlessly into the role following Malito's retirement in summer 2010. The district has been in the middle of Project Parkway, a multi-year strategic planning effort. Normally, Blackmore said, progress on that might have slowed down under an interim superintendent.
"He didn't miss a beat," Blackmore said. "In fact, we accelerated under an interim, which is unheard of." In the past year, the school has approved , based on recommendations from Project Parkway committees. In May, the board approved a five-year strategic plan, which drew from Project Parkway input, too.
Blackmore said Senti hasn't hesitated or considered waiting to make such big decisions until the new superintendent was in place. In fact, within weeks of beginning the job, Senti had to make a tough decision. Reading specialists in the district's 18 elementary schools were reassigned just weeks before school started. The decision was based on assessment results—specialists were shuffled so that more would be in the schools that needed more help.
"He wasn't thinking of the adults," Blackmore said. If he was, she said, the specialists would have stayed in the same schools where they had always been. "They like their buildings and want to keep that culture," she said.
Decisions like that one are indicative of Senti's "kid check," Blackmore said. It's a motto that ensures kids are put first: "We are responsible for student learning by knowing students well, valuing every child and placing students at the center of every decision." Blackmore said many principals and schools have adopted the motto in the last year.
Senti might have been able to tackle the job so easily because of his previous experience in the district. Senti began teaching in Parkway in 1969 and was a principal at junior and senior high schools in the district. He served as Parkway's superintendent from 1988 to 1995 before becoming the superintendent of the .
"He has a knowledge of the community, the culture and how we do things," Blackmore said.
Senti has been named the executive director of the Cooperating School District, a St. Louis area nonprofit that aims to share resources and information among participating school districts. But his last year at Parkway has been a career highlight.
“I’ve enjoyed this year. It might have been the best year of my career,” Senti said.
To donate to the Al Burr Educators Make A Difference Fund in honor of Senti:
- Mail a check, made payable to the Parkway Alumni Association and with "Honoring Don Senti" on the memo line, to The Parkway Alumni Association, 455 N. Woods Mill Rd., Chesterfield, MO 63017.
- Contribute via credit card or Paypal online.