Grenita Lathan knew she wanted to be an educator since she was a young girl playing with dolls in Asheville, North Carolina.
“I was the teacher in the neighborhood when we played games and activities,” Lathan says. “Once I got the hang of being a teacher, I realized I had the leadership potential to become a principal, and one of my former superintendents said they could see me in a larger role as a central office administrator.”
Before being unanimously selected by the board of education as superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, Lathan was an interim superintendent in Houston, Texas.
As the SPS superintendent, Lathan leads the largest school district in the state with almost 24,000 students, 35 elementary schools, an intermediate school, nine middle schools, five high schools, the Phelps Center for Gifted Education, and four early childhood centers.
An abundance of opportunities drew Lathan to Springfield.
“The opportunity to take this district to the next level as it relates to student achievement and the opportunity for expansion — not only as it relates to the city of Springfield but potential growth in our school district — were really appealing,” Lathan says. “The dynamics of the board being an effective governing board also made a difference in my decision.”
Since she began in July 2021, Lathan says she has focused on building a positive culture in the district. She has put emphasis on making herself available to students, staff and community members. This visibility and availability has helped her build relations both in the community and the district.
Lathan says a challenge every school district faces is student achievement, mainly putting programs in place to help students who are not at or above grade level. She plans to implement a new college and career readiness program during the 2021-22 school year to help middle and high school students prepare to think about their future work.
On Dec. 14, Parkview High School will host the first event for SPS University, a new program being launched by SPS.
“SPS University is a program that I have used before where we are engaging and empowering parents,” Lathan says, “We are providing them with strategies and resources they need to help their child be successful in school.”
Lathan has prioritized flexibility within the district since the start of this school year. Schools have had in-person instruction with a virtual option available. SPS staff were also given a mental health day on Oct. 22 for an opportunity to be off and focus on their own mental health.
Mercy Springfield Communities relocated a clinic; San Clemente, California-based law firm Gilson Daub Inc. expanded to the Springfield market; and a second video gaming center for Contender eSports Springfield LLC opened in the Queen City.