A new but familiar face will be at the helm of Salem schools beginning July 1.
Superintendent Bob Foster announced at the Jan. 19 board meeting he will retire at the end of June. Ken Rich, Salem High School principal, will replace Foster, who has been Salem's superintendent for three years.
"Ken will do a great job," Foster said. "He's familiar with the staff and how things go. The transition will be smooth and the staff will welcome him to the position."
When his duties at school are over, Foster, 52, said he will "do a little farming." He and his wife, Martha, own a farm south of Salem. They have one son, Andy, 28.
"I've really enjoyed working in Salem. I can't imagine working anywhere better," Foster said.
Improvements made to Salem schools during Foster's time there include facility upgrades, campus beautification and hiring quality personnel.
"Hopefully, we improve something every year," he said. "One of the biggest improvements (made) is the kind of personnel we have. The staff is top notch and second to none. We take the most pride in the staff here and the job they do."
Foster has been in education for 28 years. He has been at Salem for the last 11. Before moving to Salem, he was a history teacher and boys' basketball and baseball coach at Viola for 15 years and an assistant principal at Highland for two years. Besides being superintendent at Salem, Foster has held the positions of assistant high school principal, elementary principal and assistant superintendent.
A 1969 graduate of Bakersfield (Mo.) High School, Foster earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. He also has 45 hours of superintendent credentials. He is certified to be either a high school or elementary school superintendent. Foster also spent five years in the United States Air Force.
Rich said he is looking forward to being Salem's superintendent.
"(Salem) is a great place to work. I want to keep carrying on the good program that we have going on now," Rich said.
One thing Rich, 37, said he would like to do as superintendent is implement an after-school tutoring program. He and Foster said they have been discussing this idea for some time but are waiting for a decision from the Legislature concerning the funding of education before taking the next step with the program.
Rich has been Salem High School's principal for the past seven years. Before that he was the assistant high school principal at Salem. He also was a science teacher and girls' basketball coach at Salem for one year and at ICC for four years.
A 1984 graduate of Neelyville (Mo.) High School, Rich earned a degree from Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., in 1988, a bachelor's degree in education from ASU in 1989 and a master's degree from ASU in education in 1995.He and his wife, Iris, have two children -- Ryan, 10, and Kendra, 3.