Ricker begins position as interim superintendent

New role allows optimism, determination in upcoming school year


Samantha Haney

Interim superintendent Timothy Ricker speaks at his first Board of Education meeting on July 22. “Thank you for the grand welcome that I have received from the 22 days that I’ve been officially in the district,” Ricker said. “I really look forward to listening and hearing what people have to say based on the issues in the district now and into the future.”

Morgan Vehige

Approaching his 45th year in public education, Dr. Timothy Ricker is making his return to Rockwood. Not as a parent, this time around, but rather as the interim superintendent for the 2021-2022 school year. With all three of his children graduating from Eureka High School in the district, he is excited to return to a community he feels embraces students, parents and staff alike.

What sparked his interest in public education came from his half day as a cadet teacher at his high school. Since he had enough credits to graduate, he was able to take some time to go out to elementary schools and work in various grade levels.

“I tutored students, helped them read and do their homework, and that just got me hooked,” Ricker said.

He began his career in education as a first grade teacher in Smithville, Missouri. Since then, he has had many roles in education: teacher, coach, principal and superintendent. His last role was working as the state supervisor of instruction for the St. Louis metropolitan region and the southeast region at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for 12 years.

In his role at DESE, Ricker worked with previous Rockwood superintendent, Dr. Mark Miles. One of his job responsibilities was to keep an eye on the district and assist Miles as he made his transition.

“I supervised the Rockwood School District, among others,” Ricker said. “When the situation came such that Dr. Miles had to make other career decisions, I thought ‘Hey, I’m here’. I have one grandchild at Babler and others that will go to Babler. I thought ‘Hey I know the District, I could probably help out’. So I just offered my services.”

Outside of his role at DESE, Ricker was no stranger to Rockwood. His three children all went through and graduated from Eureka High School. When they attended, he felt that the district and all those in the community welcomed and embraced his family. Now he is happy to return to such a community, and looks forward to working with the Board of Education to continue The Way Forward plan for the district.

Ricker recognizes that coming into the district after the school year ruled by COVID-19 will be riddled with challenges. To counteract such challenges, Ricker believes that the district must continue to stick to the foundational principles that The Way Forward was focused on.

“Because we have a solid foundation, and had a solid foundation pre-COVID, we’re going to be fine. It all has to be focused on The Way Forward, all the work we do has to be focused on that plan. When you look at the mission of the district, and then operationalize it and make it work for all the kids in the district, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.

Despite the challenge, Ricker believes that cohesive teamwork amongst the Board of Education and administration in the district, accompanied with discussions with parents and students, will help contribute to a great school year.

“I’m going into this with my eyes wide open. There’s no surprises. To me, the key is that the Board of Education is working together as a team, which they are, and that the board works with the administrative team to push for The Way Forward plan, which I believe they will,” Ricker said. “We’ll work with people who have different points of view, we need to do that. We’ll listen to the dissenting opinions on the decisions we made. But it’s also what goes on in the classrooms, that’s where the rubber meets the road, that’s where students realize their potential. Looking at a continuous improvement model so that we can get better everyday is the heart of implementing that plan.”

While a strong focus on academics is at the forefront and core of The Way Forward plan, Ricker believes that the first step must be making sure that everyone returning to school, whether teachers, students or other persons, is okay.

“My biggest worry is we have to make sure everyone is doing okay and ready to come back. We as a district understand that it was a turbulent year. Some of [the work] has to be checking in with people and making sure that they’re okay,” Ricker said. “We want healthy teachers, healthy kids, healthy staff, and then we’ll be able to move on to academics. If we have to do some work with people, we’ve got to make sure that they’re okay before we can move forward.”

Overall, Ricker is looking forward to the possible bright future that lies in the upcoming school year. He is most anticipating traveling to the schools to visit and meet with students, attend activities such as games and concerts and to just be a part of the Rockwood community in general.

“I want to get in the buildings and meet students and teachers. I want to see all the things that all students excel at. The whole reason for being here is the students. If we don’t celebrate and acknowledge and find the good that we do, why are we here?” Ricker said. “I look forward to being in the buildings, being in the classes and being at the activities to see what we do best. If I can get there, I’m going to be there.”