When this year's seniors at Batavia High School are handed their diplomas this spring, they will see a familiar face, a face they've known since they were kindergarteners in the City School District -- Paul Kesler.
This winter, Kesler will end a 13-year run as the principal of John Kennedy School and become principal of Batavia High School. He was appointed to the new position tonight by the school board. He begins his new position Dec. 22, the first day of Winter Break.
His 16-year-old daughter, now a sophomore at BHS, but also once a student at JK, also approved of the move.
"I wasn't sure how she would react but she got a big smile on her face and she said, 'Dad, kids that went to John Kennedy, they still talk about John Kennedy. They really respect you.' So when your own daughter feels like it's a good thing, that's pretty confirming."
Kesler also got a ringing endorsement from Superintendent Chris Dailey during the board meeting.
"You have a lot of people behind you," Dailey said. "You’re going to do great things. Your dedication to your community and your school is outstanding. We can only expect great results, so no pressure. But, hey, you do the great things you do here at John Kennedy at the high school, the high school will have the same kind of results we’ve seen here."
Kesler, originally from Utica, started his teaching career in Rochester. He was a kindergarten teacher, a second-grade teacher, a reading specialist and an instructional coach for three years before moving to Batavia.
He has a daughter who is a junior at Boston University, two children attending BHS, and a child who is a student at JK.
Two weeks ago, after setting aside all the prior principal applicants, the district hired Dennis Kenney as interim principal. His contract runs through Dec. 21.
Dailey said when the initial search for a new principal didn't turn up the perfect match, he thought about the criteria the district sought in a candidate and realized they already had the perfect candidate in the district with Kesler.
One hallmark of Kesler's oversight of JK is his promotion of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) and he's looking forward to continuing that effort at the high school level.
"I think you know we always have the instructional challenges of a small city district, especially in the performance of some economically disadvantaged students, particularly in the areas STEAM," Kesler said. "Those are some of the areas that are a challenge for any small city district. I'm excited about having that connection between what we do in the elementary school all the way up through high school."
There's really only one downside to moving to BHS, Kesler said -- leaving behind the staff and faculty at John Kennedy.
"I don't cry much but I was very close today as I told staff after school," Kesler said. These are just fantastic people. You know, they've been part of my family. My whole experience in 13 years in Batavia has been here. That's going to be the struggle, saying goodbye."