NEW PALESTINE — With a smile beaming from ear to ear, Kari Shelton made her way through the recent Southern Hancock School Board meeting by shaking hands and greeting parents and district officials.
Of the 50 applicants who applied to be the next principal at Sugar Creek Elementary School, Shelton was the cream of the crop, district officials said.
Shelton officially will start her duties with the district July 1. She agreed to a two-year, $95,840 annual contract and said the decision to come to the district was a logical one.
“After understanding New Palestine and this school district’s strive for excellence, it’s just such an elite school system and district that I was interested in joining,” Shelton said.
Shelton has spent her entire career in Wayne Township. She is currently the assistant principal at Bridgeport Elementary School. She’s also served as an assistant principal at Garden City Elementary. Prior to that, she was a teacher for more than 10 years at various grade levels at Rhoades Elementary.
“I am absolutely ready to lead a school,” Shelton said. “The technology and innovative teachers that they have in place are in sync with my philosophy and beliefs.”
She’s scheduled to take over the lead role at Sugar Creek this summer when current principal Mark Kern heads to Brandywine Elementary and takes on more corporation administrative responsibilities while also serving as Brandywine principal.
After growing up in a rural southwestern Indiana town, Shelton graduated from Ball State University in 1998 with a degree in elementary education and special education.
She also has a master’s degree in curriculum from Indiana Wesleyan University and earned a principal’s license from Indiana University in 2008.
Superintendent Lisa Lantrip worked with Shelton in Wayne Township and said Shelton had many qualities that stood out from the several qualified applicants.
“For one, it was her personality,” Lantrip said. “It was a good match.”
Lantrip said a large committee of teachers, parents and staff members met Shelton during the interview process and were impressed.
“She rose again to the top when the administrators met her,” Lantrip said.
Referring to herself as a facilitator of learning, Shelton said she believes deeply in active engagement and development for both teachers and students.
Shelton said she’s looking forward to the challenge of being responsible at the district’s largest elementary with some 800 students.
A community reception to meet Shelton will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. May 13 at Sugar Creek Elementary.