By David Boyce
A week before students returned to school at Liberty Public Schools, Beth Heide had already experienced the energy and enthusiasm in the school district.
Heide spent the previous 21 years in the Center School District. She joined LPS on July 1 as the Executive Director of Secondary Education. Heide enjoyed her time at Center, spending 10 years as a teacher, four years as an assistant high school principal, and another four years as Center High School principal.
During her time as principal, Center was a Gold Star high school in Missouri and nominated for a Blue Ribbon Award by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best high schools in America.
In her final few years in the Center School District, she was Director of Human Resources and Director of Student Services.
“I liked it very much,” Heide said. “Anywhere you go, you meet people that have a heart for kids and how to bring excellence into a school district. It was time for my learning to grow in a different place, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have the utmost respect for what that school district is doing for kids, because they are doing great things.”
In her new job as executive director of secondary education at LPS, Heide is responsible for working on curriculum, planning, training, building improvement, and vision for what LPS is going to look like in 10 years.
“I have the pleasure of partnering with secondary programs at all levels,” she said. “I am pleased to be a part of everything that goes along with that, examining data to determine growth for students and teachers.”
One program she jumped right into is the Go Open campaign that was implemented by LPS before Heide arrived. The U.S. Department of Education started Go Open to increase access to high-quality education opportunities in the United States. Switching to openly licensed educational materials has enabled school districts to repurpose funding typically spent on static textbooks for other pressing needs, such as investing in the transition to digital learning.
“With so many online resources, it is using resources vetted for students’ and teachers’ use,” Heide said. “It is really opening up the resources that teachers can use in a way that is approved through laws and copyrights. They are solid resources.
“Liberty partnered with the Department of Education to have a conference. It is the first Go Open conference in the country, and Liberty was in the lead.”
Other school districts in the Kansas City area that are participating in Go Open include Fort Osage, Lee’s Summit, and Kearney.
Being part of a school district that is forward thinking in how to educate students is one reason why Heide is already thrilled about her new job.
“It is nice to see the dedication and really the centralized mission of the educators here, seeing the passion for teaching and just this continual need to grow as learners,” she said. “That has been really exciting, and the kids haven’t been here. That is just what I see from adults. When kids come, that is a newfound energy that just expands and will take on a new realm of excitement.”
Before Heide took a job at LPS, she knew about its many successes with students, using innovative methods to prepare them for the future, whether that is college, a trade school, or entering the workforce. Educators who want to help students prepare for their future are always looking at other districts and learning what they are doing.
“In education, you never have your blinders on,” Heide said. “You are constantly looking for better ways to improve your craft. I think all educators are open to the community at large. We are in this together. Liberty’s success as a school district filters out to other districts.”
Over the next few months, Heide will spend plenty of time listening to people, hearing their needs, and learning more about the programs that are in place.
“Because of the excellence already here, it is nice to enter a job and know you don’t have to turn it upside down,” she said.
Heide sees her role as continuing to support the quality programs that are already in place in the district and finding areas in the school district that can grow.
“Part of that is listening and learning and searching and being present,” she said. “That is my goal this year.”