Nisha Patel

Nisha Patel

Nisha Patel will take over leading the Fox C-6 School District, an in-house hire.

At a closed meeting tonight (Jan. 29), Board of Education members voted unanimously to name Patel the district’s next superintendent.

Patel, 46, of Chesterfield currently is the district’s assistant superintendent in charge of secondary education.

She will replace Jim Wipke, who has been the superintendent since 2015.

Wipke announced in November that he is leaving Fox to take the position of superintendent of the Ladue School District for the 2019-2020 school year.

“The (Fox) Board of Education went through an extensive process to find the right person to continue this district’s history of achievement, character and excellence,” Patel wrote in a letter released by the district. “I am incredibly humbled by their faith in me and look forward to working with all of our stakeholders to continue to lead this district towards success.”

Wipke’s last day with the Fox district is June 30. He is being paid $192,937 this school year as Fox’s superintendent.

Patel will begin working as superintendent for the district on July 1. She will have a three-year contract and will paid a $182,500 annual salary.

When Patel started working as an assistant superintendent at Fox in July 2016, she was being paid a $135,000 annual salary.

“We know how important the right choice is for our students, staff and community and I am incredibly confident in the future of this district under the leadership of our next superintendent,” board president Dawn Mullins said in a written statement.

Patel's career in education began in 1999 as a high school science teacher in Kansas City, Kan. She later moved to the St. Louis area, taking a job as a teacher at Eureka High School in the Rockwood School District.

Patel eventually moved into administrative roles at Rockwood, first as an assistant principal at Eureka High School and then as an associate principal at Lafayette High School.

She finished her time at Rockwood as principal at Crestview Middle School, a job she started in 2013. While Patel was principal at Crestview, it was named a Lighthouse School by the “Leader in Me” program.

Patel earned her education doctorate in administrative leadership from Maryville University in 2012. She also has two master’s degrees, one in science education from the University of Kansas and another in administration from Missouri Baptist University.

“My commitment is to making student-centered decisions, and I believe in my heart that anything is possible for our kids,” Patel said in the letter. “Our role is to provide students with every opportunity we can to ensure their continued success in college, career and life.”

The district began its search to replace Wipke on Nov. 1 when an emergency closed school board meeting was held to release Wipke from his contract, which ran through the 2020-2021 school year.

The board also voted Nov. 1 to hire Brent Underwood of the Missouri School Boards’ Association to facilitate the search. The district agreed to pay up to $30,000 for the search.

Twenty-four candidates applied for the Fox superintendent position, with applicants from Missouri, Illinois, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, New Jersey and Colorado.

Underwood and the board narrowed that field to five candidates, who were all from Missouri. The final five included two current superintendents and three current assistant superintendents.

The five candidates were interviewed by board members on Jan. 22 at the Drury Inn in Arnold.

“We are thrilled by the outcome of this process,” Mullins said. “In working with the Missouri School Boards’ Association, we were able to have an efficient and comprehensive process in place to collaborate with the community and bring forward an impressive group of candidates. Our community provided clear direction in their priorities and I am confident Dr. Patel will be able to keep our focus on students and their success.”

Patel’s hire comes in advance of the April 2 election, in which the district is seeking voter approval of a $70 million bond issue.

It is tied to a 40-cent property tax increase that would be paid off in about 20 years. The measure – called Proposition Safe School Strong Community, or Prop S – requires a 4/7th (57.14) percent) majority.

If the measure is approved, the district would use the extra revenue to build a new Antonia Elementary School, replace a wing of classrooms at Fox High School, build a new library at Seckman Middle School, add a student commons area at Seckman High School and replace a section of Meramec Heights Elementary School.

In addition, the revenue would fund safety and security improvements across the district, as well as energy-efficiency upgrades. The plan also calls for a variety of improvements to science labs, HVAC systems, parking lots, playgrounds, roofs, lighting, flooring and kitchens throughout the district, officials said.

Fox’s overall property tax levy is $4.55 cents per $100 dollars assessed valuation, with 39 cents of that for the debt service levy. If the bond issue is approved, the overall levy would increase to $4.95, with 79 cents for debt service.

The increase would cost a district resident with a home valued at $150,000 by the Jefferson County Assessor’s Office an additional $114 annually.

“If you look at the surveys (sent out to the community at the start of the superintendent search), the No. 1 thing is we have to address the facilities,” Underwood said. “It is so important to them. The future of the district, in a lot of ways, is tied to what happens on April 2. I hope that the excitement that comes from knowing who the next superintendent is and knowing how that played out will help (the Fox district). It could be a nice cascading of positive things. The district deserves that. The community deserves that. I hope it plays out that way for them.”