RIMERSBURG – Clarion High School principal John Kimmel was hired last week as superintendent of the Union School District, effective July 1.
He started his teaching career at Union, and now will return after a number of years to serve as the district’s new superintendent.
“It’s like coming full circle,” he said after learning he was hired unanimously by Union’s school board at their April 10 meeting.
“It’s definitely exciting for me — a new adventure,” Kimmel said.
After voting 5-4 in January not to renew the contract of current superintendent Jean McCleary, the Union School board voted 8-0 last week to hire Kimmel to a three-year contract.
While the school board took the action last week without any comments, board president Terry Rush later said that the board interviewed several great candidates and tried to choose someone who will be a good fit at Union and in the community.
“He understands this area, he understands the students,” Rush said of Kimmel. “I believe we made a very wise choice.”
The board president described Kimmel as “very intelligent and knowledgeable” as well as “transparent and willing to learn,” and said he has built up a good network of resources during his tenure at Clarion and Jeff Tech.
Rush said that while any new superintendent will have a lot to learn when he or she begins a new job, he expects Kimmel to be up to the challenge.
As far as the contract, Rush said the board agreed with Kimmel on a three-year pact but is still working out the other details before they can be made public.
Rush said the unanimous vote to hire Kimmel was also an important gesture from the board.
“It shows a unity there to get behind the person,” he said.
Kimmel said his family moved to the Clarion area when he was two years old, and he attended Clarion schools through his graduation in 1997. He then went on to Clarion University, graduating in 2002 with his teaching degree.
During his time at Clarion University, Kimmel did his student teaching at Union. After moving to Maryland to teach for a period, he returned to teach science at Union from 2004 to 2008.
“I’ve always had a fondness in my heart for Union,” he said. “It’s a great community.”
After his time at Union, Kimmel worked as principal of the Jeff Tech vocational school in Jefferson County for six years, and was hired as Clarion High School’s principal in March 2014, a position he has served the past five years.
Kimmel earned his master’s degree in 2007 from Scranton University, and his superintendent letter in 2013 from Gannon University. He is currently working toward his doctorate at Gannon.
While he still has a job to do at Clarion and doesn’t officially begin at Union until July, Kimmel said he plans to use some of his days off to visit the Union schools and get acclimated as much as he can with the staff and students.
“You need to know where you are,” he said of the importance of learning the lay of the land.
Kimmel said that as Union’s superintendent, he plans to get involved in the community. He also said one of his first priorities will be to review as much as possible so that areas for change can be identified. He noted, however, that his approach to change is that it needs to be slow and deliberate, and should only be made when there is a real purpose for change.
In looking forward, Kimmel said that as superintendent, it will be important to show staff and students that they are a valued part of the district, and that he wants to promote a culture in which everyone feels welcome as part of the Union family.
“My goal right now is to exit Clarion as positively as I can, and enter Union in the right way,” he said.
Kimmel resides in Hawthorn with his wife, Amber, and two children, ages 13 and four.