HOWARD — Jim Peterson makes one thing crystal clear about his role as interim superintendent of East Knox Local Schools for the coming school year.
“I’m not here to be a place-holder or a lame duck. I’m here to lead and to work with students, staff and the entire community to achieve measurable progress,” he said.
Peterson was hired in June to serve as an interim while the East Knox board of education decides on the hiring of a superintendent for 2024-2025 and beyond.
He recalled his conversation with the board prior to his hiring.
“The board asked if I could help. That word ‘help’ stuck in my heart,” Peterson said. “We should always help students achieve their full potential. I am excited to be here. I believe there are great days ahead.”
An educator for nearly 50 years, Peterson served most recently as superintendent of schools at Fredericktown and River Valley. Earlier he was a classroom teacher and dean of students before serving 13 years as principal of Delaware Hayes High School.
Born and raised in Mount Vernon, he earned his undergraduate degree at Youngstown State University and his master’s at the University of Dayton.
“Our test scores need to improve. When I left River Valley our scores were the highest in the county,” Peterson said. “And we need to get to the root of the reason why we are losing too many students to other opportunities.
“I fully support our partnership with the Knox County Career Center but we must grow our curriculum to keep as many students as possible in our building.”
Ben Snedeker, director of student services, said East Knox will begin the school year with a K-12 enrollment of 960. Like most other districts East Knox has students who are still struggling with the impact of disruptions caused by Covid 19.
“We will work with staff to expand our engagement with kids who have special needs,” Snedeker said “And we are in the process of hiring two teachers who will provide supplemental academic support. They won’t have class schedules; they will help kids get back up to speed.”
Both of East Knox’s buildings will have resource officers – deputies provided by the sheriff’s office, Snedeker said. Teachers will have three in-service training days before school starts onAug. 17. The third day will focus on school safety.
“One of my key goals is community unity,” Peterson said. “I want residents to know they can meet with me and a member of the board without coming to a public meeting.”
Toward that end, Peterson is planning to have a board member join him for informal meetings with the public two Tuesday evenings a month at the Subway restaurant near the entrance to Apple Valley.
The sessions probably will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. but specific dates and times will be announced after the board meets Aug. 10.
“It will be an opportunity for anyone to share their thoughts with us – not just complaints, but also positives, how we can improve as a district,” Peterson said. “Of course, I also will be glad to meet with anyone at my office.”
Meanwhile, Snedeker said, the stage is set for the opening of school.
“Everything is ready to go,” he said. “Kindergarten jumpstart began on Monday (Aug. 7).
“Student schedules are printed. Open houses are set for Aug. 15 – elementary 6 to 7:30 p.m., junior/senior high 5:30 to 7. Our entire staff is dedicated and hard working. We are so glad to have them.”
The junior/senior high administration remains the same: Cody Reese, principal, and Scott Brickner, assistant principal and athletic director. Melissa Moreland, elementary principal, will be joined by Dave Coleman, who was hired recently as assistant principal