Pending Lawrence school board approval, South Junior High School has a new principal for next school year.
Will Fernandez is the principal of Dodge City Middle School. Though he was raised in Dodge City, he has five daughters in Lawrence.
"I wouldn't leave Dodge City for anywhere except Lawrence," Fernandez said. "This is an exciting change and challenge for me."
Supt. Randy Weseman announced Fernandez's selection Thursday. South principal Russell Blackbird plans to retire in June after 31 years with Lawrence public schools, including 10 as principal at South Junior High.
Fernandez's salary is being negotiated.
Fernandez has several ties to Lawrence. He has a granddaughter who attends Southwest Junior High School. He completed a superintendent's practicum in Lawrence under former Supt. Al Azinger.
Fernandez was previously the associate principal of Dodge City Middle School and was a research associate at Iowa State University. He also has worked as assistant principal, social studies teacher and baseball coach at Dodge City High School, where he graduated from high school in 1970.
"He's a caring, compassionate person and someone who understands that achievement for all students is the bottom line," Weseman said.
Fernandez earned a bachelor's degree at Saint Mary of the Plains College, and his master's at Fort Hays State University. He has begun working on his Ph.D. at Iowa State University.
The district began advertising the principal opening in October. District-level interviews with candidates were completed the week of Jan. 3.
Finalists met the week of Jan. 10 with two South Junior High advisory committees, one made up of teachers and staff and another made up of parents, students, and a community representative.
More than 645 students in grades seven through nine attend South, which was built in 1968.