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Grenita Lathan has quickly made a name for herself since her entry into Springfield in mid-2021.
Superintendent of the state’s largest school district, Lathan oversees the education of more than 23,500 students and the work of over 4,000 employees across Springfield Public Schools. She says she was encouraged by the community right away.
“When I came to Springfield, it was a pleasure to see that this community supports its students and schools. That collaborative spirit fuels my passion for serving students and providing them the best educational experience possible, no matter who they are or where they live,” Lathan says.
Lathan’s entry plan has focused on challenges and celebrations for SPS, as well as her vision for the future. Her goals include growth in learning support, financial stability and prioritizing equity and diversity.
The SPS Board of Education approved a one-year extension during Lathan’s first performance evaluation, meaning she’s on board at least through the 2024-25 academic year. It’s an amendment to her initial three-year contract when she was hired last year.
As an energetic communicator, she says her motivation comes down to the students and staff at SPS.
“People tell me that I have infectious energy and that I can command a room. I try to put those traits to good use as an advocate on behalf of the students and staff of Springfield Public Schools,” she says. “By sharing the story of Springfield Public Schools throughout our community, the state and the country, I can rally awareness, resources and support that help students and staff succeed.”
Her community involvement extends beyond SPS. She serves on the boards of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of the Ozarks campaign cabinet and Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc. She’s also involved with international service organizations for women: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and The Links Inc.
“When I was a young girl, I first learned about serving my community through Sunday School and Girl Scouts,” Lathan says. “The women in leadership inspired me and I wanted to be just like them. In fact, my experience in Girl Scouts instilled in me many of the leadership qualities that have helped me to achieve success.”
Next up at SPS for Lathan, the board and staff is a proposed $220 million bond to upgrade facilities that could be on the April 2023 ballot with board approval.
It follows the $168 million bond issue, dubbed Proposition S, that voters approved in 2019. Lathan previously told Springfield Business Journal that Hillcrest High School, Jarrett Middle School and York Elementary School are the final Prop S projects and are scheduled for completion in early 2023. New projects in the proposed bond issue are at Pipkin Middle School, Pershing K-8 and other sites.
The first downtown Springfield branch for Arvest Bank opened; a longtime licensed massage therapist became a first-time business owner; and 7 Brew Coffee opened its fourth shop in Springfield.