Ben Meldrum knows he's been granted a massive responsibility as the first principal of Jefferson City Public Schools' second high school, but he's up for the challenge.
"This is kind of a one-time deal for Jefferson City — and that's a great thing to be part of — but we also want to be sure we get it right," Meldrum said.
JCPS announced Meldrum's new position Monday. He is the current principal at Simonsen 9th Grade Center and will continue to serve in that position even as he officially begins his tenure as the second high school's first principal July 1, according to a district news release.
"I am very humbled by the opportunity to be a part of something that is so special to our students, staff, community and school district," Meldrum said in the JCPS news release.
He will be "involved with the construction process and staffing procedures for the second high school" while he continues to be Simonsen's principal, according to the release.
Meldrum said it's still too early for him to know exactly what it entails. One thing he does know is Simonsen's teachers will have to go somewhere when that building's role as a freshman center ends after the 2018-19 school year.
He'll lead the transition in collaboration with other district officials including Jefferson City High School Principal Bob James, Director of Secondary Education Gary Verslues and Chief of Learning Brian Shindorf.
Meldrum said his priority in the time remaining at Simonsen will be to "continue to create the learning environment that we've worked so hard over the past six years to develop here."
He was an assistant principal at Simonsen from 2012-14 and has been principal there since 2014. Before then, he taught cooperative career education (school to work) at Nichols Career Center from 2001-12, meaning he has a total of 17 years of employment experience with the district.
He's a Jefferson City native and a 1996 JCHS graduate. He earned his undergraduate degree from Missouri State University, a master's degree from University of Central Missouri, and specialist of education degree in superintendency from William Woods University.
He said the top priority at the new high school will still be student learning.
"If our teachers thrive, then our students are going to thrive," he said of the importance of getting the building's culture right and creating a "great teacher experience."
He added it will be part of his charge to build upon traditions in extracurriculars and help determine what new opportunities will develop at the second high school and what will remain equal between the two high schools.
He mostly dealt with juniors and seniors in his 11 years of classroom teaching but welcomes the challenge of leading a 9-12 high school instead of a freshman center, he said.
Students at Simonsen are around for only nine months, but now, he will be able to watch them progress through all four years of high school.
Shindorf said Monday that 2018-19 Simonsen students — the last freshman class in that building — will split and go to one high school or the other in fall 2019, depending on where they live.
Students within Thomas Jefferson Middle School's boundary lines are slated to attend the second high school, and Lewis and Clark Middle School students will go to the renovated JCHS.
Once final decisions are made regarding district middle school boundary line changes, Simonsen's last freshmen will likely know this August which high school they will attend in fall 2019, Shindorf said.
As for the future of the building itself, Shindorf said in December that the district is considering whether Simonsen could be used for alternative education programming.
The current principal at Simonsen Ninth Grade Center will become the principal of Jefferson City Public Schools' second high school this summer.
Ben Meldrum will begin the new position on July 1, according to an announcement school district officials made today.
In the meantime, he will continue to serve as building principal for Simonsen, while also being involved with the construction process and staffing procedures for the second high school.
"I am very humbled by the opportunity to be a part of something that is so special to our students, staff, community and school district," Meldrum said in a news release.
A native of Jefferson City, Meldrum graduated from Jefferson City High School in 1996. He earned his undergraduate degree from Missouri State University, a master's degree from University of Central Missouri, and Specialist of Education in Superintendency from William Woods University.
He has spent the past 17 years employed in the district. From 2001 to 2012, he taught cooperative career education (school to work) at Nichols Career Center, was an assistant principal at Simonsen from 2012-14, and then lead building principal there from 2014 to present.