Jake Newkirk (center) is pictured with District 348 Superintendent Tim Buss and School Board President Tim Schuler Monday, May 15.

Haley Church/The Register

MOUNT CARMEL — With Mount Carmel High School Principal Pat Cheesman's imminent retirement, the District 348 Board of Education made the decision to hire Jake Newkirk as his successor during the regular meeting Monday.

"First of all, I am humbled by the opportunity the board has entrusted me with," Newkirk said in a later interview. "Additionally, there have been a lot of people reach out to me with genuine support and I am truly thankful for that."

During his many years with District 348, Newkirk has worked at MCHS for 14 years as a biology teacher, coached MCHS football for 17 years, coached MCHS basketball for three years and coached wrestling for one year at MCHS. He is also a former National Honor Society Adviser at the high school. For the past three years, Newkirk has been the Mount Carmel Middle School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director.

"I am looking forward to going back to a place that feels like home," Newkirk said.  "For a community our size, there is a great deal of talent amongst our faculty and students. It will be a collaborative effort to maximize the teaching and learning opportunities that are already in place while exploring new avenues to prepare our students for the ever-changing job landscape.

"Again, I am humbled because I know how many great people are part of the MCHS family and take pride in that distinction. I am confident we will be able to elevate that even higher with the opportunities and experiences we construct in the coming years."

He was recommended to the board by District 348 Superintendent Tim Buss, who said Newkirk "comes highly recommended" and "has the experience and drive to do a great job."

Newkirk is a Mount Carmel High School graduate. He received a Bachelors Degree in Biology and Education from Millikin University and a Masters in Educational Leadership from the American College of Education.

He resides in Mount Carmel with his wife, Samantha, and kids Ruby, 8, Aleah, 5, Hattie, 3, and Asa, 1.

There were several new hires at the other District 348 schools as well.

At Mount Carmel Elementary School, Pam Oliver was hired as a Pre-K Paraprofessional, replacing Tammy Merriel who retired, Matthew McCarty as a Special Ed Paraprofessional, Debra Nettleton as a Kindergarten Classroom Assistant, replacing Melinda Henson who resigned, and Tara Bruce as the Kindergarten Teacher, replacing Debby Smith who retired. At the Mount Carmel Junior High School, Reagan Keepes was hired as an Alternative Education Room Supervisor, replacing Steve Rigg who retired, and Laura McLemore as a Reading Assistant, replacing Shannon Emmons who resigned. At Mount Carmel Grade School, Lou Ann Scott was hired as a Paraprofessional and Carol Wood as a Paraprofessional, replacing Debbie Reed who retired.

As the school year comes to a close, teachers have been reviewing the results of peer studies performed during Teacher Institute Days, Shelley Richardson reported. She said there were nine different topics included in the studies, and they appeared to be very successful.

The district will do more peer studies next year, in order to gather more data on whether or not to change certain policies.

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