McGinnis avows mission of service as SJSD chief | Schooling
The principal of Lafayette High School is moving to the next step in a career that has relied on teamwork in public service.
Ashly McGinnis will replace the retiring Marlie Williams as assistant superintendent of academic services on July 1, after five years of service at Lafayette. In her new role, McGinnis will have charge of all classwork, school operations and curriculum. McGinnis will answer to Superintendent Doug Van Zyl and will give her own monthly report to the Board of Education.
It could seem like she will take a lot on her plate, but to McGinnis, that’s the standard in modern schooling.
“And I like a good challenge,” she said. “So for me, this is just a new challenge I feel passionate about, I feel called to do. And I am passionate about St Joseph and being involved in our community. So, I saw this as an opportunity.”
After being named as principal in 2017, McGinnis earned her doctorate in 2018 with the University of Missouri, continuing years of study in special education. McGinnnis began her career as a mental health counselor before certifying as a teacher in 2007. She worked at Coleman Elementary School and Truman Middle School. Over the years, she has contributed to nonprofit boards set up by Missouri Western State University and the United Way of Greater St. Joseph, among others.
“I’m hoping to prepare kids for college and for their career after graduation,” McGinnis said. “I’m passionate about having equity in education. I think that students need to have the same opportunities, no matter where they go to school. And I also believe in just high expectations, accountability and really just collaboration with our staff.”
Lafayette teacher and head softball coach Jeff Leake said he is excited to see a leader who he knows well from his school move up the ranks.
“I like it when we have a qualified person to take up one of these positions when we have the luxury of promoting from within,” he said. “It’s a good situation and a good fit. She brings a lot of experience from different buildings to that position.”
McGinnis said that at Lafayette, and in her future duties at the Noyes district headquarters, she strives to never issue orders and simply expect them to be followed. Instead, she relies on teams of deputies to reach collective decisions. Her dissertation is a study of co-teaching, in which the challenges of special needs students get served by the seamless coordination of staff.
This has been more important than ever in the last two years of COVID-19 challenges, in which McGinnis has often helped staff who were pushed right up to their breaking point, and in some cases, beyond it.
“I am not one that’s much of a dictator,” she said. “I like to pull up a chair with people and work alongside. And I think that’s what I’m most proud of, is that we’ve continued to do what’s best for kids and do it as a team.”
Leake places particular trust in McGinnis’ work in special education.
“Historically, it’s been something that’s not gotten the attention it deserves. There’s always been those students out there that needed special attention,” he said. “But unfortunately, back in the day, they weren’t able to get it … It’s good to have someone who really puts that as a priority for these students.”