Wright City schools bid farewell to David Buck

END OF AN ERA — Departing Wright City R-II Superintendent Dr. David Buck closed out his 15-year journey as an administrator in Warren County last Friday. Buck was principal at Warrenton High School for three years, before accepting the role of assistant superintendent at Wright City in 2008. He has spent the past five years as R-II superintendent. Derrick Forsythe photo.
Derrick Forsythe
Staff Writer

After 15 years as an administrator in Warren County, a fixture in local education has opened a new chapter of his journey three hours to the west.

Dr. David Buck, who spent the past five years as superintendent of Wright City R-II Schools, departed his corner nook in central office a final time last Friday. He began his new duties at the helm of the much larger Lee’s Summit School District on Wednesday.

Buck came to Warren County from Fatima in 2005, after accepting the role of principal at Warrenton High School. He made his move to R-II in 2008, coming on board as assistant superintendent.

“A lot has changed,” quipped Buck. “I remember when I arrived not every room had air conditioning, we had a gravel track and one set of stands and there was no fieldhouse.”

During Buck’s tenure, Wright City added East Elementary and the Early Childhood Education Center to provide for the district’s growth in enrollment. R-II also took major strides in technology, progressively moving toward one-to-one computer access for every student and transitioning to a more digitalized hiring process.

“When I started, every applicant was by paper in my office,” said Buck. “I would come to my office each day and see what files had been added.”

Those are the tangible changes that can be observed. For Buck, it’s the stories of progress which can be told through data that are most satisfying. From an increase in test scores to a decrease in teacher turnover, he believes the impact involving the collaborative effort of staff and students is most enduring.

“When I came to Wright City, we were in the bottom 4 percent of the state in test scores,” said Buck. “We’ve made it up to the top, thanks in large part to the commitment of our staff. We’ve kept our folks and developed together.”

During the beginning of his administration, Buck says teacher turnover rates were an alarming 20 to 40 percent and have since dropped below 5 percent.

“One of the things I’m proud of is how we’ve promoted a positive climate,” said Buck. “We’ve done a really good job of improving work climate and student climate.”

R-II Board President Austin Jones says finding ways to retain qualified staff was one of Buck’s most esteemed achievements.

“If you look at the salary schedule for teachers, I think he did an awesome job of moving the salary for all of our employees to make it competitive with whoever we have to compete with,” said Jones. “That’s something we can be excited about as a district.”

According to Buck, Wright City is one of only 28 districts in the state with a starting salary above $40,000.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve done with salaries the last four years,” said Buck. “When we gave those raises, we were determined to give them to all employees.”

Buck says he admires the focus on instructional leadership by the current administration and reflects back positively on social-emotional initiatives, such as RULER. R-II has started several exemplary programs which have become models for districts across the state.

“My mantra has been to remove barriers for kids so they can grow up to become adults we’d be proud to call our neighbors,” said Buck. “We knew our kids were excited about tackling rigors from the get-go, so we worked to provide them more opportunities.”

As buildings and extracurricular offerings in the district expanded, focus on financial stewardship increased.

“When it comes to our budget, he’s leaving us in a better place than when he started,” added Jones.

The data-driven Buck frequently presented the board with number-filled graphics to illustrate progress or potential outcomes. Worldly events, from student violence to a pandemic, delivered frequent challenges to the district.

“As far as his impact, from a safety perspective, we have been doing a lot of improvements,” said Jones “He would do analysis and recommend how we could improve safety at as low of cost as possible.”

Buck says he particularly admires how well the community and local businesses work with the district to better student outcomes. He has also appreciated the board’s support of his professional development efforts.

“We’ve focused a lot on equity pieces, which not a lot of districts do,” said Buck. “I’m going to miss those collaborations and partnerships. I’ve had a lot of opportunities that administrators in other districts do not have.”

Jones says the community complimented Buck through its feedback during the candidate search and survey that followed his departure announcement in mid-January.

“When we asked the patrons of the district what they wanted in a new superintendent, they indicated they want a continuation of what we’re already doing, and that’s validation that Dr. Buck has us on the right path,” said Jones.

Buck asserts he can step away confidently, knowing R-II is left under the reliable guidance of a leadership team he had the privilege of assembling.

“I feel like Wright City is in great hands,” said Buck. “All the building administrators are coming back, and they’re all very capable of moving this district forward. I’m happy I can leave the campsite better than I’ve found it.”

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