Willis, Joe-submitted 2019.jpg

Festus Middle School Principal Joe Willis will leave at the end of the school year to take a new job.

He has been hired as the new assistant superintendent for the Dunklin R-5 School District.

His last day with the Festus R-6 School District will be June 30, and he will begin his duties at Dunklin on July 1.

“Mr. Willis is a knowledgeable, hard-working, positive leader who will make us better as a district,” said Clint Freeman, the current Dunklin R-5 deputy superintendent who will take over as the district’s superintendent on July 1.

Freeman will replace Dunklin Superintendent Stan Stratton, who is retiring from the position at the end of the school year.

The Dunklin Board of Education voted unanimously Dec. 9 to hire Willis, who was chosen from among 19 applicants, said Matt Lichtenstein, a district spokesman.

His starting salary as the Dunklin assistant superintendent will be $115,000. His current salary as Festus Middle School principal is $118,680.

Willis said he has enjoyed his job at Festus Middle School, but he is impressed with the direction Dunklin R-5 is headed and is eager for the new challenge.

“I love Festus. I have nothing against Festus,” he said. “It’s a situation where I’m going to a school district that’s made great strides over the last couple years. They’ve done a lot of things with the support of the community.”

Willis, 40, of Festus began his job as Festus Middle School principal at the start of the current school year.

From 2010 until then, he was the principal at Antonia Middle School in the Fox C-6 School District.

Willis has been an educator for about 19 years. He started as a teacher in the Grandview School District, and after about five years there, he began working for the Fox C-6 School District, first as a physical education and health teacher at Fox Middle, then as a librarian at Fox High School.

Next, he moved to Seckman Middle School, where he was an assistant principal, and then he was promoted to be the principal at Antonia Middle School.

Willis and his wife, Jamie, have three children – daughter Allison, son Peyton and daughter Delaney.

“Allison is a college student at Lindenwood, Peyton is a sophomore at Festus High School and Delaney is in the eighth grade at Festus Middle School,” he said.

Willis served on the Festus school board for almost five years, one year as an appointee and nearly four as an elected member.

Festus Superintendent Link Luttrell said the R-6 district will soon begin searching for a new Festus Middle School principal.

“We might post it before the holiday,” Luttrell said. “Our goal is to have a recommendation (for the Festus Board of Education) by mid-February.”

The Festus district enrolls about 3,100 students, Luttrell said. Lichtenstein said the Dunklin district’s enrollment is 1,529.