Retirement on the Horizon: All-Star Pritchett graduates from RHS


After 11 memorable years of being Rolla High School head principal, Dr. Jim Pritchett will be retiring from his role at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. 

Despite being loved and respected by staff and students alike, Pritchett didn’t have the desire growing up to be a principal. More so, the job slowly came to him as he was able to participate in various opportunities throughout the years.

“In high school, I wanted to be an NBA basketball player but that didn’t work out…” explained Dr. Pritchett. “[Then] I wanted to be a high school basketball coach, and a teacher. I really enjoyed both of those jobs. I liked working with kids and I liked the sport aspect of being a coach…It was kind of a progression throughout my life, just opportunities that came up…You know, I was put in some leadership positions, and then from there, I just kind of found my way into administration.” 

During Dr. Pritchett’s years of being a principal, he has learned by watching his students grow: from the years of them learning how to write in kindergarten all the way to their graduation. This on-the-job training allowed him to understand an important lesson about working for the public school system.

“I think one of the biggest things I think I’ve learned is that parents just want what’s best for their students, and to not take things personally regarding things people sometimes say either about you or about your school,” said Dr. Pritchett. “I also think I’ve learned that kids really want to do the best that they can, they just need to be given an opportunity.”

As the end of this school year is quickly approaching, staff and students are reflecting on their time with Dr. Pritchett. Throughout all of Dr. Pritchett’s years of being a principal in the school district, assistant principal Josh Smith has worked with him.  

One of the funniest moments Smith recalls about working with Dr. Pritchett is the day of the bomb threat that happened last year. Thankfully, it was determined that there was no legitimate threat, but Dr. Pritchett quickly became severely sunburned as he supervised the response. 

“He literally stood at the top of the parking lot from nine in the morning to, I think, nine at night. He didn’t have a chair, nor did he have sunscreen – he sunburns pretty easily. That was actually funny when I came back and saw how sunburned he was,” recalled Smith. 

To Smith, this story also shows that Dr. Pritchett “wasn’t above everybody else”; no one could enter the building for belongings like car keys or sunscreen, and to Pritchett, that included him. 

Dr. Pritchett’s administrative assistant Charlene Mumma has also worked with him in multiple schools.

“I was his secretary for him at Mark Twain. Then…he was at the high school for a year before I came over to the high school. For sixteen years, I´ve been Pritchett’s secretary,” said Mumma. 

Mumma recollects a time when he was first getting used to being a principal and both he and Mumma witnessed a teacher flailing on the floor of a classroom. 

“One of the funnier [memories] is when he first came to observe at Mark Twain before he started the job there. We were walking down the hallway in the morning and one of the kids in one of the classrooms was having a fit separating from his parents. [The teacher] was trying to calm him down and while she was, she ended up on the floor…she looked like a turtle on her back. We were just kind of looking through the window,” remembered Mumma. “Dr. Pritchett looked at me like: ‘What have I gotten myself into?’” 

Assistant principal Dr. Stephanie Grisham has worked with Pritchett for a total of eleven years, first as a teacher and then as an administrator. Grisham’s favorite memories of working with Dr. Pritchett are the moments where he shows his honest and emotional side. 

“I have witnessed him multiple times whether it be at graduations, in a faculty meeting, sometimes in the cafeteria in front of students, and assemblies, where he became very emotional. He cries,” said Grisham. “These moments are memorable to me because it shows just how much he cares. He is human…So, if it’s because we lost a staff member, lost a student, if someone in the district lost a family member, births, or even students that we didn’t think were going to graduate and they’re graduating. If he’s telling a story and it gets emotional, I love that about him.”

For Dr. Pritchett, the significance of his years as a principal comes down to the growth and relationships he’s been able to nurture.

“One of the most memorable moments for me as being a principal is that I have six children, and I was their principal – all six of them – and so I got to give them their diploma.” said Pritchett. “I think the other thing for me that’s memorable is when I see people in the community who are students here at one time, and I get to see them as adults…because, you know, I kind of watched them grow up.” 

Senior Jessica Pritchett confirms that it has been meaningful to have her father as a principal. 

“He could have retired two years ago but he stayed two more years so he could hand me my diploma like he did with the rest of my siblings,” said Jessica Pritchett. “My dad is the most dedicated and faithful person I know. Sometimes he’ll work until nine or ten o’clock at night and not come home until one in the morning because he wants to get his work done to be the best he can be for all of his students and all of his coworkers.”

This theme of willing service was a common characterization from those who are closest to Dr. Pritchett. It is clear that many people will look back fondly on his time at RHS.

“He will definitely be missed,” said Smith.