A longtime teacher and administrator who has spent nearly two decades in the Pickerington Local School District is leading Pickerington Alternative School this year as its principal.

The district's alternative high school is designed to serve students at risk of dropping out and those who have fallen off track to graduation.

Jim Campbell, who has worked in a variety of capacities in the district over the past 19 years -- including as an athletics director and assistant principal at Pickerington High School Central -- was hired July 30 by the Pickerington school board to lead Pickerington Alternative School.

Campbell, 42, replaces former principal Tyler Arnold, who resigned this summer to take a job with the Winton Woods City School District in Hamilton County.

According to Pickerington Superintendent Chris Briggs, Campbell was hired because of his experience at multiple levels of education and because he's shown a knack for helping at-risk students stay in school and pursue college, military service or careers after high school.

"Jim Campbell has served this district as a capable building administrator for six years, and we believe his leadership experience and passion for making a difference in the lives of students will be valuable assets at Pickerington Alternative School."

Campbell graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Dayton.

He's been with the district since 2000 when he began teaching health and physical education at Pickerington High School. He taught health and physical education at Pickerington High School North from 2003 to July 2008.

Campbell also taught health and phys ed at Central while also serving as the school's assistant athletic director from 2008-09 to July 2011 before becoming Central's athletic director from August 2011-12 and the school's assistant principal from August 2012 to July of this year.

Under his two-year contract to serve as principal of the altetrnative school, Campbell will be paid an annual base salary of $86,363. He'll also receive employee benefits ranging from a retirement contribution from the district, to Medicare and health insurance, that are valued together at another $27,750.

"I feel like all the experiences I've been able to gain in Pickerington have prepared me for this position," Campbell said.

Over the past six years, Campbell's duties have included working with students that have had trauma or are considered at-risk.

He's also spent the past few years working with students through a credit-recovery program to help students remain on track to graduate or to get back on track.

"I feel like that is my niche to connect students with their passions," Campbell said. "It's a passion of mine to be able to work with a student who is not being successful and you can help give them the skill set to help them be successful.

"They start to see some wins. I think that's internally rewarding, and it reminds me of why I got involved in education -- to help students find their passions."

Campbell said one of his top priorities this year is to get to know all of his students. He said he hopes to meet one-on-one with them to create goals and plans.

The school also is exploring opportunities through career-based intervention to bring students community resources that will help prepare them for college or careers, as well as bring in representatives from the armed forces, Campbell said.

Additionally, this month alternative school will partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Fairfield County to launch a program in which students will be paired with students from the district's elementary schools.

The students will work one hour a week as mentors to the younger students, both assisting with school work and spending leisure time with them.

"It's just trying to help the students find out what their niche is and getting them motivated to go after that," Campbell said. "We're implementing a tier-based education environment where we really focus on meeting students where they are (academically) and looking at the barriers that keep them from being successful."

Currently, the alternative school has 85 students, according to the district records.

Pickerington's public relations director David Ball said the school typically sees enrollment rise to 120-130 students during the school year, as district officials identify students in need of help getting on course to graduate, and has new students come to the district.

The school's mission is "to provide students with a customized and personalized educational experience leading to high school graduation and meaningful post high school employment, or successful transition to post high school education," Ball said.

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