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Poteau Public Schools hires new Superintendent!

Posted Date: 03/28/2023

Poteau Public Schools hires new Superintendent!

After a lengthy search, the Poteau School Board hired a new superintendent at a special meeting Monday afternoon.

Scott Kempenich officially will take over July 1, with the start of the school district’s new fiscal year.

Kempenich comes from Newkirk, where he has served as superintendent for the last three years.

“He seems to have a lot of enthusiasm and is ready to help steer our school in the direction it needs to go. His communication, collaboration among the campuses, focus on curriculum and trying to bring all our activities to a superior level I think made him a really good candidate. We are very excited with the person we have coming on. We think he will do an exceptional job,” School Board President Ranada Adams said following the meeting.

The board also rehired High School Principal Joe Ballard and accepted four resignations: Shelly Barrera Gafford, Pansy Kidd Middle School custodian and bus driver; Debrorah Johnson, special ed teacher, Todd Hackler, dean of students; and Justice Davis, paraprofessional.

Kempenich replaces Don Sjoberg, who resigned last year. John Turner has served as interim superintendent. The board earlier offered the job to Aaron Espolt of Shawnee, who accepted the offer but later decided to remain at Shawnee.

Before Newkirk, Kempenich said he served at Hulbert for a year and as Coweta principal for 11 years before that.

Kempenich said he grew up in Wagoner and played high school football against Poteau. He noted how the community has grown in the decades since. He was a four-year starter on the University of Oklahoma Sooners football team, which claimed the national championship in 2000, his senior year.

He said the work ethic he learned there – “I am not satisfied with mediocrity” – has carried on into his professional career.

He said he “did a lot of homework” on the Poteau job before accepting it, and looks forward to learning the strengths and negatives of the district and building a strong administrative and teaching team.

He said he will be making monthly visits to the district before beginning his official duties.

His wife is a teacher and they have two children in college.