By Herb Meeker

News Report Staff

The past three months have been pretty hectic for Jason Fox as the new assistant superintendent for Effingham Unit 40 School District.

During the summer, the battle over the state budget between lawmakers and the governor, followed by the fight over school funding changes before the start of the school year, made compiling his first Unit 40 budget a challenge to say the least.

Fortunately, he followed a process that provided up-to-date and realistic figures for completing the school district budget when it appeared to the public that chaos ruled in Springfield.

“This summer, we had a lot of different associations we called regularly to find out what was going on in Springfield. And we used numbers from last year for this budget. With the new funding formula, we weren’t sure what the final figures would look like,” Fox said.

“Our transportation funding was not decided when we presented the budget to the school board. Fortunately, Mr. (Unit 40 Superintendent) Doan had a strong association with those in the know about what we needed. He was able to tell me, ‘This is where we need to be,’” Fox added.

Fox, who has been associated with Effingham Unit 40 for 21 years, starting as a student teacher and working as an intern, teacher, coach in several sports over the years, yearbook sponsor and high school principal, knows his job as assistant superintendent is about more than crunching numbers.

“I handled budgets as a principal and coach. What I’ve found out about this job is it’s dealing with people,” Fox said.

His new job has him regularly interacting with custodians, bus drivers, paraprofessionals and teachers because as assistant superintendent he has a “jack-of-all-trades” job with responsibilities covering contract negotiations, oversight of buildings and grounds in the district, buses, cafeteria and even covering Freedom of Information Act requests.

In recent weeks, he has been busy arranging roofing repairs, a major repair project for the high school tennis courts and discussions with experts on a renovation plan for Effingham Junior High School.

“I always have a lot of balls in the air,” Fox said with a grin.

Helping him from dropping any of those balls have been the workers in the Unit 40 business office over the past few months.

“I can’t ask for better people out there,” he said while pointing outside his office door. “They always have answers to my questions or help find the right answer.”

With the start of the school year, there are many needs for both teachers and students. He has been impressed with the dedication of employees in different departments, including the maintenance staff and their ability to fix or fabricate just about anything that saves taxpayer money in the long run.

He is also seeing students at all grade levels in the district, where before he was mainly engaged with high school students as EHS principal.

“I’m making myself meet students. I’m high-fiving at parent drop-offs. And I’m getting to see what teachers are doing in all the schools. It’s really amazing. That’s one of the best parts of my job now,” Fox said.

Sometimes, Fox sees some of his own family at different school buildings. His wife, Jennifer, is the Early Learning Center principal. Miranda, their oldest, is a junior at Effingham High School. Dalton is an eighth grader and Spencer is a sixth grader. Carson, the youngest, is a second grader.

He has deep ties to Effingham now, but Fox came from Mattoon. He started as a graphic arts teacher, but his career was influenced by two men at Effingham: Mike McCollum, who was high school principal; and Tom Fish, a dean of students and assistant principal at Effingham Junior High.

“I learned a lot from both of them. They were not bosses to me. They were leaders and co-workers. It was a great opportunity to learn from both Tom and Mike,” Fox recalled.

When Fox took the job as Effingham High School principal, succeeding McCollum, there was a hint he might be facing a new job in the future.

“I remember Mark Doan asked if I had an interest in the assistant superintendent job. That got me thinking about it. When I started my career, the plan was being a teacher. The saying goes there’s always a plan and it’s not always your plan; but sometimes it’s a better plan,” Fox said.

Jason Fox

Jason Fox

Jason Fox web

Jason Web