Padgett named leader of Otwell school


OTWELL — Otwell Miller Academy has a new leader as the Pike County charter school moves into its second year.


The school board approved the hiring of Richard Padgett Jr. — an Otwell native with more than 30 years of education experience — at Monday night’s monthly board meeting. He will operate on a two-year contract at the school and replace Rick Fears, the current school director, beginning later this month.

“This I saw as a perfect opportunity to repay a community that gave me an awful lot,” Padgett, 55, of Jasper, said following the board meeting. “My mother still lives here, is still connected to it. It’s just really about paying a debt that I need to pay back to the community for great things that they did for me. Not only here, Pike County as a whole.”

The position includes aspects of a traditional school principal and corporation superintendent. The role consists of everything from overseeing daily operations in the building to working with budgets and policies, as well as filling the shoes of a transportation director.

Padgett’s contract will pay $53,000 in year one, with an additional $2,000 in the second year if enrollment increases five percent.

Since 2006, he had been the assistant principal at Union County High School in Liberty. He was also the school’s head football coach from 2007 to 2013 and had been the head coach of the track team since 2008.

Prior to his 12-year stint in Liberty, he was the athletic director and head football coach at Pike Central High School in Petersburg from 2000 to 2005. He taught U.S. history and world history courses for one year after that at the school.

He graduated from Pike Central High School in 1981 and four years later from Hanover College with a bachelor’s degree in history. In 2006, he earned his master’s degree in teaching from Oakland City University. Padgett was also involved early on with the Friends of Otwell — the charter school’s nonprofit oversight group — as an educational consultant.

After the approval was given by the board Monday, Padgett said Fears will leave big shoes to fill. The two plan on working together next school year as Fears transitions out and Padgett settles in.

Fears announced he would hold the position for only one year when he was hired by the Friends of Otwell last year. He told The Herald in February that he was looking forward to having a flexible schedule and more time for his hobbies back in retirement. Those include bird hunting, mushroom hunting, refereeing basketball games and instructing driver’s education courses.

Padgett praised school leadership for laying a “tremendous foundation” for the school in a short amount of time. He hopes to tap into his old area relationships and build more during his time with Otwell Miller.

Goals he has include getting the school on solid financial ground for the future and growing the student population.

“Again, if you take a step back and look at what they’ve done since last August — tremendous,” he said. “And hopefully we can leap frog that again going forward.”

Otwell Miller opened in August 2017 after less than two months of construction on the building. School leadership is in the process of applying for the second round of a state charter schools grant with the help of a grant writer. Whether the school receives the money or not will be announced in September.

Also at the meeting, the board:

• Heard that an application and paperwork has been sent to the Indiana Department of Education to bring a lunch program to the school. Fears said he is still optimistic the school will have a program come the first week of August.

• Elected to not offer health insurance to employees during the 2018-19 school year.

• Heard that enrollment and textbook rental will be held at the school from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, through Wednesday, Aug. 8. On Thursday, Aug. 2, the school will be open different hours — from 1 to 6 p.m. The first day of school will be Thursday, Aug. 9.

• Set the date of the next board meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, July 23, at Otwell Miller Academy, 9958 East County Road 150 North, Otwell.

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