The Washington School Board ended its search for the next Four Rivers Career Center director Thursday morning, hiring Philip King to take the helm at the vocational education center.
“We are excited to have Mr. King join the leadership team as the FRCC director due to his connections to the Washington-area communities, his deep focus on students, and his commitment to career and technical education,” Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Kephart said.
King, who coached the Washington High School Lady Jays’ softball team to last year’s Class 4 state championship, has been with the Washington school district since 2004. King’s new post will require him to give up his coaching duties.
“It was not easy to leave my job as the softball coach,” King said. “We just won state. I only am losing one player to graduation. This team will be very good for at least the next two years with all of the talent on the roster.
“In addition, we will be opening our (new) baseball, softball complex in the spring. So, this is about the best time ever to be the head coach of the Washington softball team,” he said.
The Washington Board of Education approved plans in March for the construction of a new baseball and softball complex on the grounds of the former South Point Elementary School.
King’s promotion will be effective July 1, with interim director Dr. Joe Dierks retaining his role as director of choice programming. Dierks took over at Four Rivers after Andy Robinson abruptly stepped down as director in early April, citing health reasons. Robinson had worked at FRCC for 15 years.
King, who was first hired as a high school mathematics teacher, has been teaching engineering classes at Four Rivers as part of the district’s Project Lead the Way program since 2016.
Because he has spent a few hours a day at the career center, King said he already has made connections with some of the staff and has an affinity for the programs. He said his dad and brother are engineers.
“I think it’s phenomenal, teaching kids a relevant trade or skill that they have chosen, something of interest to them,” King said. “I mean, I would have loved it. I went to a college prep school (for grades) 9-12.”
King said he has been preparing to be an administrator for several years. He earned a master’s degree in education administration from William Woods University in 2006, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in 2004 from what then was Central Missouri State University. He attained an educational specialist degree from Lindenwood University in 2016.
“It is not easy to get the initial administration job,” he said. “I have been doing any administration work for our district that I could for the last six years. So, when this opportunity came up, I had to go for it.
“I love working for the School District of Washington. The Four Rivers Career Center has been a joy for me to work at for the last six years, and I always enjoy working with the staff at FRCC,” King said. “I applied for the job knowing that if I was not selected, I was still in a great place with my coaching and teaching schedule. I ended up getting the job, and I am very excited for the next phase of my career.”
The search for King’s successor as softball coach is ongoing. Washington Activities Director Bill Deckelman said the school hopes to have a recommendation to fill the post at the next school board meeting, June 29.
“I do feel as though I am leaving the team better than when I started,” King said. “I also know that we have some strong candidates to fill my position. So, I am not worried about the team staying successful.”
Deckelman said he believes King “won’t be a stranger at games for years to come.”
The Lady Jays have amassed a 219-155 softball record during King’s 14-year tenure as head coach.
King oversaw district championship victories in 2016, 2017 and 2021 and Gateway Athletic Conference Central titles in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021.
The team placed fourth in the state tournament in Class 4 in 2016, before winning it all last fall.
The state championship victory, coming in a decisive 11-0 rout of Rolla in the final round, landed Washington its first team title in 48 years and the first in softball program history.
“Coach King has done a great job building a successful program that has been gaining momentum over the past seven to eight years,” said Deckelman, who described the FRCC job as “an opportunity (King) could not pass up.”
King said he has started reaching out to community partners and other FRCC stakeholders.
“A big part of this role is getting to know a lot of the business and community leaders, so I’m going to be introducing myself to connect all that networking that we need to keep the students successful at Four Rivers,” he said. FRCC has an enrollment of 671 students.
“When you get down to the nuts and bolts of it,” King said, “our vision is to prepare the students to be productive members of society post-high school, and help them find relevancy in what they’re doing.”