A local hospital spokesperson has been tapped to join the Jefferson City Public Schools leadership team.
Superintendent Brian Mitchell announced Wednesday that
Amy Berendzen will replace David Luther as assistant to the superintendent for school-community relations. Berendzen will begin her work with the school district April 7. Luther announced his retirement in January after 14 years in the position and 30 years in public education.
Berendzen, 42, has served as director of marketing and public relations for Capital Region Medical Center for nine years.
Mitchell said Berendzen brings many of the same attributes possessed by Luther.
"David built relationships with staff, parents and the community on behalf of the District, and I see Amy doing the same thing," Mitchell said. "She has the communications, public relations and marketing skills, plus the personal character, it will take to make this a reasonably seamless transition."
The district accepted applications for several weeks before narrowing the field down to five candidates. A three-person panel - two school employees and a community leader- interviewed the candidates before recommending three applicants to Mitchell, who made the final decision.
Berendzen has more than 20 years of communications, public relations and marketing experience. Prior to working in health care, she worked in the Missouri Lottery's communications department.
A graduate of Jefferson City High School, she has a bachelor of art's degree in English communications and public relations from William Woods University.
Although no written contract has been executed yet - only a verbal offer and acceptance - she'll receive a $95,000 salary with the same benefits extended to other employees.
Berendzen has two children in the school district: a 10-year-old at North Elementary School and a 16-year-old at Jefferson City High School.
She said she is "very happy" with her position at the hospital, but is also excited about the opportunity to be able support the many "fantastic projects" the school district is working on.
She sees her role in the community as transitioning from one where she promoted health and wellness to one where she will help empower students to be successful.
"Job No. 1 is the success of our students," she said.
Berendzen said she believed she was hired for the job based on her ability to communicate and her involvement in the community. Aside from her work at the hospital, she also has been a participant in the American Cancer Society, the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross and the district's Vanguard leadership program. She recently joined the YMCA board.
"I'm so appreciative that, in this community that raised me, there are opportunities to give back," she said.
Mitchell noted Luther will work closely with Berendzen until he steps down in June to provide a smooth transition.
Asked about his feelings about leaving the district, Luther said: "I'm excited for Amy. It's a really good job where you get to meet a lot of wonderful people."
Luther said he's not planning on retiring; instead he hopes to "find meaningful work in the field of public education."
He said he is leaving "because the timing was right."
"I felt like I'd done some good work for the schools, and I'm interested in finding some new challenges," he said.
Berendzen said her first steps would be learning about the district.
"My intent is to continually support the foundation set forth by my predecessor, David Luther, and the district," she said in the district's newsletter. "I am excited for the opportunity to promote and embrace the possibilities of our students. I truly believe that the plans that are in place for the district are in the best interest of our students and community.
"The future is bright for our community and, if I might say, Jay Pride!"