When Ladue School District retiree Dr. Chuck McKenna was promoted from Administrative Assistant to Superintendent in 1971 after eight years at the district, he had big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Dr. Ivan Nicolas, was in that role for 29 years, which was an unusually long tenure for a superintendent in any school district. But in 2000, when McKenna retired, it was 29 years later, completing for him a 37-year career at Ladue. “I didn’t set out to stay that particular length of time,” he says, “but being there was such a wonderful opportunity, I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. Ladue was unbeatable. I participated in many superintendent groups across the country, and in my opinion, there was no place better to be.”
McKenna says he feels fortunate to have been affiliated with Ladue, a district he calls a wonderful place to work. “It was really ideal,” he says. “I feel forever grateful to have had that opportunity. I was fortunate to be in a school district with not only talented teachers, but also talented students.” While he is especially proud of the 90% college-bound graduation rates that Ladue School District boasted during his tenure, he is also pleased about the non-academic programs the school offers, which he feels affords students a well-rounded education. “I attended hundreds of musicals and debates and thousands of athletic events,” he says, which he considers some of the highlights of his career. According to McKenna, the programs, as well as the academic offerings, gave students opportunities they might not otherwise have had if they had gone a non-public route. “Ladue loses students to non-public schools, and while people may see the smaller class sizes as a benefit, the programs Ladue has been able to offer often encompass a broader scope. We have high-level courses in math and science as well as many more extracurricular options, like the pep band or the student musicals, which I looked forward to seeing every year.”
McKenna is proud of the level of excellence the district was able to maintain during his time there, and notes that that distinction has not changed since his departure. What has changed, however, is the high school campus, which he is looking forward to seeing when he comes back on Sept. 29 as the Ladue Education Foundation & Alumni Association Breakfast’s honorary guest. “To quote Harry Carey, it is a magnificent edifice! The success of the new high school is so wonderful for our district," he believes. McKenna’s legacy is being played out in even more ways than the bar he set for the district in his role as Superintendent—his youngest grandson is a freshman this year at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, keeping the McKenna tradition at the Ladue School District going strong!
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