Ron Lankford to be honored with Missouri Pioneer in Education award

·3 min read

Jul. 25—Ron Lankford, former Webb City superintendent who also held leadership positions in the Joplin School District and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, will be honored next week by state education officials as one of six Pioneers in Education.

The six individuals who have been named 2022 Pioneers in Education by the state education department will be recognized Aug. 1 during the 61st annual cooperative conference for school administrators. The ceremony will take place during a luncheon with more than 600 school leaders in attendance.

"These individuals are true champions of public education, striving for excellence and advocating for Missouri students throughout their careers as public servants," said Margie Vandeven, commissioner of education, in a statement. "DESE is honored to bring together educators from across the state to recognize the trailblazing efforts of these Pioneers in Education."

Lankford, of Webb City, lived and worked in the same school district for 45 of his 48 years in education. He became an assistant high school principal in the East Newton School District before moving to Webb City, where he retired as superintendent in 2010. As superintendent, Lankford oversaw 13 bond and levy ballot measures, started a local scholarship program to receive and distribute local donations to graduates, led an effort to form what was named the Southwest Center for Educational Excellence, and worked with Crowder College to secure a campus site in Jasper County.

After retiring from Webb City, Lankford served as deputy commissioner of financial and administrative services at DESE and later as chief financial officer for the Joplin School District.

In an interview with the Globe on Monday, Lankford said the award, like public education itself, represents a "collective effort" to prepare students for success in life.

"I have seen a lot of these awards presented, and they were presented to people who had earned the respect of their colleagues and the (state education) department. I'm really flattered to have gotten it," he said. "I just really think it reflects the fact that I stayed in a community for a long period of time and worked with a lot of great people. It's a compliment to me, yes, but it's also a compliment to the many, many colleagues and boards of education I've worked with."

Other Pioneers in Education to be recognized are:

—U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who first worked as a classroom teacher before serving in Washington, D.C., as a representative and senator for 24 years.

—J.J. Bullington, of Caruthersville, who spent her entire career in the Caruthersville School District, serving the district for more than 40 years.

—Charles Brown, of St. Louis, who worked in St. Louis schools and later was DESE's assistant commissioner of teacher quality and urban education.

—Julie Leeth, of Springfield, who worked in the Springfield School District for 30 years as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and chief education officer.

—O. Victor Lenz Jr., of Lindbergh, who was a teacher and administrator in the Lindbergh School District and later a member of the State Board of Education.