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Watson to helm Utica Shale Academy

SALINEVILLE — The Utica Shale Academy will have a new leader this fall after Bill Watson was named director of the community school.

Watson, a resident of Wellsville, will helm the program at Southern Local High School and replace Rich Watson, who has become principal of Southern Local Elementary.

Watson has connections with education and industry and plans to bridge the two to help academy students find a place in the work force.

He received his diploma from Wellsville High School in 2001 as well as degrees from Bismarck State University of North Dakota in 2007 and Grand Canyon University in Arizona in 2012. Watson also has a connection with Southern Local, since he worked there as a special education teacher from 2012-14. Watson then moved on to become a nuclear specialist at the Beaver Valley Power Station operated by FirstEnergy Corp. in Shippingport, Pa., where his job entailed creating lessons to instruct nuclear instrumentation and control technicians.

Watson hopes to use his expertise in education and industry to prepare students for a future in energy and other fields.

“My kids are at school here and I want to be part of their lives, plus we had to struggle to get people at the nuclear power plant. I thought I could be a good segue (to connect employers and workers), so if you don’t want to leave the area you don’t have to,” Watson said.

Watson has already had some conversation with Wright and was aware of the academy’s partnership with the New Castle School of Trades in East Liverpool to provide welding classes for students. He also hopes to get other trade organizations involved so future graduates can find successful career paths.

“I talked to a business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and it’s definitely an avenue I’d like to pursue,” Watson said.

Now entering its sixth year, the shale academy serves students in grades nine through 12 at the Southern Local and Columbiana sites. The program is sponsored by the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, and provides curricula required by the Ohio Department of Education, including a customizable digital curriculum that allows for acceleration or remediation along with flexible scheduling and safety certification courses. Academy graduates receive a high school diploma, certificates and college credit options offered through Eastern Gateway Community College.

Chuck Kokiko, superintendent of the educational service center welcomed Watson aboard.

“As sponsor, JCESC looks forward to providing oversight of the school and working with the new director in collecting the required documentation,” Kokiko said.

For information about the academy’s programs, contact Watson at (330) 420-5353 or through the website at uticashaleschool.com.

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