Sandlin Retires

O’Neal principal passing torch after nearly a quarter-century
Posted on 03/11/2013

The 2013/14 school year will mark the end of an era at O’Neal Elementary School, but school officials say the future is in capable hands.

O’Neal principal of 24 years, Lorenzo Sandlin, will be succeeded by Angie Rideout, junior high teacher at the Graduation Center, effective upon completion of summer school.

The school board unanimously approved Rideout’s hiring during their monthly meeting Feb. 19, upon recommendation of a committee made up of one of the board members, school administration and five teachers from O’Neal.

“I’m excited for Mrs. Rideout and feel confident that she will work alongside the O’Neal staff to meet the needs of their students and families,” stated Patty Robertson, assistant superintendent of curriculum/instruction. “She has an incredible work ethic and has tried to gain a variety of experiences.”

Robertson noted that Sandlin, who formally requested his retirement this past December, would be missed. She commended the long-time principal for his willingness to stick around to help transition Rideout into the leadership post as soon as Missouri Assessment Program testing is finished.

In 2001, it was actually Sandlin who gave Rideout her first break in the field of education, taking her on as an aide at O’Neal, the elementary school where Rideout also happened to have completed her student teaching requirements as an undergraduate. Later on, when she was offered her first certified teaching job in the Zalma School District, Sandlin was a reference for her.

“To know that I’m returning as an administrator to the place where I started teaching is a big honor for me,” Rideout exclaimed.

Born in Broseley, Rideout earned her bachelor’s degree from Central Methodist University in Fayette and her master’s from William Woods University in Fulton. After she left to teach fourth grade for three years, she returned to Poplar Bluff as a third grade faculty member at Oak Grove Elementary School the following year.

The next three years Rideout spent as an eMINTS (enhancing Missouri’s instructional networked teaching strategies) instructor at Eugene Field Elementary, before dedicating this current school year to being an at risk teacher for students in need of credit recovery services.

“I feel she’s worked her way up the ladder to this position, which is very important, and will serve her well in meeting the challenges of principalship,” Sandlin said. “I’ll show her the ropes, and if she chooses to continue [operating] that way, it’s her world to make her own decisions. After 31 years in education, it’s time to allow someone else to come in with fresh ideas and new thoughts.”

Sandlin began his career in 1982 as a sixth grade teacher at O’Neal for two years before becoming head teacher at then Mark Twain School, which served kindergarten through sixth grade. In 1989, he was promoted to his present title at O’Neal.

He revealed that he became interested in the education of young people thanks to his mentor, the late Dr. Mitch Murphy, a preacher at the former Church of Christ, who later become Eugene Field principal himself. Sandlin said he can only hope he played the same role in at least one of his student’s lives.

There is no doubt about it, if the example Sandlin has set for fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is an indicator. In January, Sandlin received the lifetime achievement award from St. Jude for leading the school in raising more than $700,000 since he put his first Math-A-Thon on at O’Neal in 1989, gaining full district support within several years.

While his reasons for choosing the cancer research institution as a pet project are personal, Sandlin decided to use that passion to teach his students the importance of charity and what it means to become productive members of society. Oak Grove Principal Jenifer Richardson has agreed to take up Sandlin’s organizational duties with St. Jude in the future.

“I’ve just been lucky to have spent over 24 years in this position with the most wonderful teachers, aides, custodians, cooks, bus drivers, kids and parents,” Sandlin said. “The same goes for St. Jude. It’s not me who deserves the credit, it’s been a wonderful community effort and it does my heart good.”

For those who worked closest to him, Sandlin will perhaps be best remembered for fostering a close-knit culture at O’Neal through which, he described in his own words, his staff “laughed, cried and bonded together as a family.”

While Rideout admittedly has big shoes to fill, she said it is her desire to maintain that same school environment.

“You have to have that team atmosphere, where everybody feels that connection or unity,” Rideout said. “I’ve worked with many teachers at O’Neal, all here for the good of the students, and my plan is to just keep growing and learning with them.”

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Cutline: Angie Rideout will shadow Lorenzo Sandlin, as she prepares to succeed the long-time principal at O’Neal Elementary School.

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