PERU — Peru superintendent Sam Watkins will retire at the end of the school year, ending two decades with the school district.
This is Watkins’ ninth year at the helm of Peru Community Schools. He was named superintendent in 2014.
Watkins told the Tribune in an interview Monday he feels now is the right time step away and usher in a new era — “a reboot” — at Peru schools.
“I’m confident that it’s right for here,” he said. “We’re at a point where the next person can take off.”
Watkins put in for retirement last year, giving Peru Community Schools and its school board, plenty of time to hire a successor.
The Peru school board is working with a third-party group to conduct a superintendent search. School board president Ron Mullett said they will review applications and conduct interviews in November and December.
A new superintendent should be named by end of January.
Mullett said they want to give the new superintendent time to transition to their new job and community, and maybe even work with Watkins if time allows.
“They should have a multitude of people wanting to be superintendent,” Watkins said.
Mullett and Watkins go way back. They worked together as principals, Mullett at Elwood Elementary and Watkins at Peru Junior High.
“Sam is very pro Peru and pro student,” he said. “He’s very proud with everything we’ve done.”
Watkins joined Peru schools as junior high principal in 2002. He took over a struggling school, one that was at risk of state takeover, according to the superintendent.
That Peru Junior High would go from on the brink to a four-star school is a high point for Watkins.
As superintendent, Watkins oversaw two largescale improvement projects, including renovating the high school building to take on seventh and eighth graders. The improved building now includes a secure entrance and renovated classrooms. The multi-million-dollar project did not raise taxes.
Watkins noted the dual credit and Heartland Career Center opportunities, as well as fine arts offerings.
“I’m proud of what’s been accomplished here at Peru,” he said. “Academically, we’ve put ourselves at the top of the county.”
Though he believes the time is right to retire from Peru schools, Watkins isn’t sure he’s done with education entirely. Only time will tell.
“I’m going to leave this system in great shape,” he said. “I mean that wholeheartedly.”