When Benton Grade School students return to classes this week, they will be greeted by some new faces.
Steve Smith has been at work for about the past month, getting acclimated to his new position as superintendent of District 47.
"I'm happy to be here," said Smith, a Marion native who left his position in Dupo to join Ranger Nation.
Smith brings a wealth of experience to his new post. He began his education career at Carbondale Community High School, spending eight years there as a teacher, women's golf coach and assistant principal. He spent 11 years as the principal at Marion High School. He just completed his fourth year as superintendent at Dupo.
Smith holds a bachelor's degree in finance and economics from Murray State University, a master's in education administration from SIU Carbondale, and a doctorate in educational administration from Oakland City University.
He was hired in June and granted a four-year contract.
Smith said he has started by getting familiar with the teachers, programs and structure of his new district.
"I expect to spend the first year developing relationships and getting to know my staff," he said. "I want to build on what we do well."
Smith comes from a family of teachers. His mother, Mona, spent 35 years in the classroom before retiring from Johnston City High School as a business teacher. His father, Chuck, taught English and was the guidance counselor at West Frankfort High School, as well as running the John A. Logan extension center in West Frankfort before retiring.
"I'm thankful for this opportunity," Smith said. "We will work together to build a positive, strong school culture."
The district is still in the process of hiring, according to principal Tammy McCollum, but at least two new faces will greet K-4 students this week. Scott McKenty and Mallory Marting were hired to fill K-4 special education position.
Students and parents will have a chance to meet the new personnel at the open house events. The K-4 open house is scheduled for Aug. 14 from 5 to 6 p.m. On Aug. 15, the fifth grade open house is set for 5 to 6 p.m., followed by a session for students in grades 6 to 8 from 6 to 7 p.m.
There will be no school on Aug. 21 because of the total solar eclipse.