By CHRISTIANA NIELSON
Rock Bridge High School’s self-named “biggest cheerleader” is retiring.
Principal Kathy Ritter, who has served at the school for 20 years as a math teacher, assistant principal and principal, will retire at the end of this school year.
Superintendent of Columbia Public Schools Chris Belcher said she will be hard to replace.
“Kathy’s done such a nice job supporting the Rock Bridge culture as the school demands a certain type of principal.”
Now, the school district must take on this difficult task of finding a new leader for the high school before Ritter leaves June 30.
Ritter, who has been principal of Rock Bridge for three years, is leaving to explore more of the world.
“As much as I love Rock Bridge, there’s a big world out there,” Ritter said. “I want to travel all over.” New Zealand and Africa are among the destinations on her list.
She said she has really enjoyed being around the kids and working with the teachers who are also leaders in the school. She described her motto as “freedom with responsibility.”
According to Ritter, the important tasks for a new principal are to trust students and to trust teachers as professionals.
One of those students is Sean Harper, 17-year-old junior class treasurer at the school. He echoed that everyone has grown to trust Ritter because she is very charismatic and approachable.
“Every student can talk to her,” Harper said. “The school needs someone with the same qualities because people have set a high bar.”
Mary Laffey, assistant superintendent for human resources, said the administration is trying to move expeditiously and she hopes to complete the process of finding a new principal by spring break.
Belcher said this process will entail an interview team posing questions for candidates, who will be sent to him when they are narrowed down to two or three. Then the applicants will be interviewed from an administrative perspective.
“I want someone just like Kathy Ritter,” Belcher said. “She really fit the school and was making things happen.”
Ritter will help the selected individual make transitions to the position, he added.
Harper said he hopes the administration will allow students to give input as well. He would like the candidates to come to Rock Bridge, if possible, to get a feel for the students and environment.
And to the person who will become the new leader of Rock Bridge, Ritter said it best: “You are surrounded by talented, dedicated faculty and staff. Trust and support them and the students in every way you can.”