Eight Pioneers in Education will be in the spotlight on Monday, July 29, in recognition of their commitment and contributions to public education in Missouri. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will recognize the 2019 Pioneers during the 58th Annual Cooperative Conference for School Administrators. The ceremony will take place during a luncheon where more than 500 school district leaders are expected to be in attendance.
“DESE is honored to recognize these Pioneers for their trailblazing efforts to promote excellence in education at the classroom, school, district and state levels,” said Margie Vandeven, commissioner of elementary and secondary education. “Missouri students have benefited from their contributions.”
The following individuals will be honored:
- Pastor Earnestine Blakley, St. Joseph, discovered at an early age that she was a natural teacher. She spent her education career teaching in St. Joseph schools and was named Missouri Teacher of the Year in 1991. In 1994, Pastor Blakley began Helping Other People Excel (H.O.P.E.), an outreach ministry that works with the needy and promotes literacy. Pastor Blakley founded the Hope Fellowship Church in St. Joseph in 2009. She believes that as a pastor, she is still a teacher.
- Marjorie Cole, St. Louis, has made a mission of caring for the sick and promoting health and wellness since she became a school nurse with the St. Louis Special School District in 1982. Cole also was involved in many nursing organizations, and became president of the Missouri Association of School Nurses in 1993. In 2002, she became the State School Nurse Consultant. She has addressed the Centers for Disease Control and has received grants from that agency. They, in turn, have used Cole’s information for social media campaigns to share with the country what a healthy school looks like.
- Sybl Dell Blakemore Slaughter, Lebanon, grew up in a household where the importance of education was emphasized. She began her teaching career in Kansas after receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. In 1972, she married Vic Slaughter and they moved to Lebanon, Mo., where Sybl taught second grade. During her career, she served on the College of Education Alumni Board of the University of Missouri, the Missouri State Board of Education, and the National Association of State Boards of Education. Sybl and Vic are being honored as a couple for their contributions to public education.
- Victor B. Slaughter, Lebanon, was influenced to become an educator by his uncle, who was a teacher. Vic received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture education and served in the U.S. Army before beginning his teaching career in Senath, Mo. He served as assistant superintendent of the Liberty School District and ultimately became superintendent in Lebanon, Mo., after he and Sybl married. Upon his retirement as a school administrator, he worked as director of school finance for DESE. The year he retired from DESE, Vic received the Missouri Association of School Administrators’ Outstanding Emeritus Educator Award for Statewide Contributions to Missouri Public Schools.
The following four honorees are being recognized as a group for their service on the Special Administrative Board (SAB) for the St. Louis Public School District (SLPS), which was the governing entity for the district from 2007-2019. Under the SAB’s guidance, the district improved student and district performance, stabilized leadership and regained full accreditation.
- Richard Sullivan, St. Louis, was appointed by the governor and had served as president and CEO of the SAB since 2007. He retired from McBride and Son Companies after a 35-year career with the homebuilder. He was founder of Strategic Advisors LLC and served on the Board of Trustees for Rockhurst University, his alma mater. Sullivan has a long history of service with many civic and charitable organizations. He sits on the St. Louis Regional Chamber Board of Directors and the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America.
- Richard Gaines, St. Louis, had served as a member of the SLPS elected board when he was appointed to the SAB by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in 2007. He chaired the Comprehensive Long-Range Planning Committee, which was the first strategic plan used by the SAB to move toward full accreditation. Gaines was also a driving force behind voter-approved funding to benefit SLPS education programs, student and staff safety and security, and teacher pay and professional development. Gaines is a proud graduate of Vashon High School in St. Louis and owns an insurance firm.
- Melanie Adams, St. Paul, Minn., was appointed to the SAB by the St. Louis mayor. She served as vice president of the SAB and led the search committee for the district’s superintendent, Dr. Kelvin Adams. She is the former executive director of Teach for America St. Louis, as well as past president of the Association of Midwest Museums. Beginning in August, she will be the director of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C. Adams stepped down from the SAB in 2016 to accept a position in Minnesota.
- Darnetta Clinkscale, St. Louis, was appointed to the SAB by the St. Louis mayor in 2016 to fill the seat vacated by Melanie Adams. She served as president of the elected SLPS Board of Education from 2003-2006. Clinkscale was on the faculty of the Center for Reform of School Systems and was a board member and delegate of the Missouri School Boards’ Association. Clinkscale was a fellow of the Broad Institute for School Boards and worked with the National School Boards Association, the Council of Urban Boards of Education, and the Council of the Great City Schools. Clinkscale is a registered respiratory therapist.
This marks the 45th consecutive year that state education officials have presented the Pioneer in Education awards, which honor teachers, school administrators, citizens and lawmakers for their distinguished careers and contributions to public education in Missouri.