The Knob Noster School District announced Monday the hiring of Dr. Jerrod Wheeler as superintendent of schools for the district, beginning July 1 through June 30, 2018.
The Board of Education also voted during a special board meeting hosted Friday to appoint Wheeler as the acting superintendent for the district through June 30.
The appointment was made after the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Kristie Lorenz, who left the district under the terms of a separation agreement in December. Lorenz took a leave of absence from the district beginning Dec. 30.
“I feel very good about what is to come for the future of the district,” Wheeler said Monday morning. “We are and have been going through a transitional period in the district but my focus now is to work to achieve stability throughout the district and to support the teachers so they can provide an excellent education for our students.”
Wheeler added that although it is the beginning of a new chapter for the district’s 1,550 students and 200 staff members, much of what the district does will remain the same.
According to a press release, “Wheeler has been credited with many progressive educational initiatives including: technology infrastructure and 1:1 digital learning platforms, Advanced placement and Dual Credit integration; K-12 foreign language implementation; K-12 digital citizenship; inquiry-based curriculum design; preschool implementation; district marketing and economic development strategy; and a personal priority, embedded K-12 character education.”
According to Wheeler, the District is at a point in time where it needs to have a shift in thinking to continue the success the district has experienced in the past and to use that success to build on the future.
“We are in a very unique position in our district with almost 65 percent of our students having a military background,” Wheeler said. “We have to respond to the needs of those students and their families.
“One thing that neither the students nor their parents want is for the students to come in and replicate classes and learning experiences,” he added. “What we hope to continue and develop is a reliable, seamless educational experience for the students.”
Both Wheeler and Board President Mary Ann Matthews commented on the many challenges that have faced the district in recent years.
“The Knob Noster School District has been in transition for a number of years in a variety of areas including our leadership,” Matthews said in the release. “One of the priorities of the Board is to achieve the stability which is essential for both short-term and long-term improvements to occur for our district and our students.”
The district will have the opportunity to help shape the future direction of the board with the upcoming April 5 election.
In December, as a result of the separation agreement with Lorenz, two board members, Micheal Fisk and Matt Cleveland, resigned. The terms of both men expired this year, creating two vacancies on the board.
Seven individuals have filed for the two three-year terms: Tony J. Morris, Brent Robles, Larry L. Bolton Jr., Tom Hughes, “Billy” William Francis, Morgan Ferrell Hildebrand and Sue Zacarias.
The board voted 5-0 at its Jan 20 meeting to not fill the vacancies of Fisk and Cleveland, citing concerns over the length of time between any possible appointments and the upcoming election as a reason.
“I feel the board wanted to leave the seat open and let the voters choose who fills those seats,” Wheeler said. “I’ve only been in the district six months but I have been told in previous elections there have been more individuals who have filed so I don’t think this number is out of the ordinary.
“If anything this gives the voters the opportunity to choose from a number of candidates,” Wheeler added.
A graduate of the University of Louisiana, Monore (formerly Northeast Louisiana University), Wheeler completed his undergraduate degree in elementary education in 1999 and his masters in 2001, completing his doctorate in 2003.
Wheeler has served as a superintendent for five years, most recently as a superintendent of schools for the West Platte District in Weston.
In 2014, Wheeler resigned from that position to pursue other opportunities, working as a consultant for charter schools for a year before signing with Knob Noster this August.
His salary as superintendent at Knob Noster is $111,870 per year.
Wheeler said he sent an email to his staff Sunday night prior to the public announcement of his hiring, thanking them for their support and outlining his goals for the future.
“Along with new programs and ideas, improvement often involves selective abandonment of poorly-performing, under-performing, or misguided programs and practices,” Wheeler wrote. “It also involves honing our focus and getting better at executing our most important work.
“In all cases, improvement involves change that results in more productive work, more effective use of time and elevated end results,” he continued. “Again, I encourage you to contribute your ideas to continuously improve our school.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484