One of the new faces at Lewis Central Community Schools this year is Superintendent Eric Knost.
He replaced Mark Schweer, who retired in June after 16 years with the district.
Knost came to the district from St. Louis, where he was superintendent of Rockwood School District, Missouri’s third-largest district with enrollment of about 21,000 students. In fact, he grew up, attended college and worked in the St. Louis area.
“This is the first time I’ve lived away from where I’m from,” he said.
Knost attended a small school in St. Louis County. There were about 100 students in his class. He earned a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music at Webster University in 1983 and a master’s in educational leadership from Lindenwood University in 1997. He completed a doctorate in education administration from St. Louis University in 2002.
Knost started his education career as a band director.
“I really admired my band director,” he said. “He was very inspiring. I just wanted to be the best musician I could be. I had very supportive parents who were always encouraging me.”
Knost learned some piano and guitar growing up, but percussion became his main musical interest. He continues to gig as a drummer, mostly in the St. Louis area.
It was never Knost’s plan to become a school administrator, he said. He was pretty happy being a band director.
“I had pretty good success with being a band director,” he said. “I never thought about being an administrator — and definitely not a superintendent,” he said.
However, Knost had a couple mentors who encouraged him to consider pursuing a career as an administrator. He was reluctant and passed up a couple opportunities to apply for administrative intern positions. When they asked why, he said, “I still love teaching.”
He struggled with the question of whether he should try to become an administrator. When he talked to his brother about it, his sibling said, “If you still love teaching, maybe that’s a reason why you should (become an administrator).”
That gave Knost a different perspective. He knew that people who don’t like teaching aren’t always good administrators. Finally, he accepted an opportunity to become an administrative intern, but he thought of himself as possibly becoming an assistant principal. More opportunities surfaced, and his career as an administrator progressed.
Meanwhile, Knost served as an advocate for education, communicating with legislators about school-related concerns.
“I was very involved at the state level,” he said.
Friends encouraged Knost to apply for the state director of education position. He did, and was one of four finalists but was not offered the job.”
“When I didn’t get it, I didn’t know what was next,” he said.
Knost and his wife looked at the map and considered cities within four to six hours of St. Louis – or farther.
“The more I learned about Iowa, the more I liked it,” he said.
Search firm Grundmeyer Leader Search encouraged Knost to try Lewis Central, saying it would be a good fit.
“I just really fell in love with the whole region,” he said. “It just felt like home. Lewis Central just felt like a really good district that I could bring my leadership skills to and build on things. I already feel comfortable. I’m working with great people, the community has been so welcoming …
“Rockwood Schools was so big. I had 33 school buildings, and I was so busy we really didn’t have any quality time except on weekends.”
So Knost retired from the state of Missouri and started a new adventure at Lewis Central.
“At 31 years in education, I love what I do,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of passion.”
Knost’s goal is to “build excellence together through relationships,” he said.
“I plan to be in schools, in classrooms,” he said. “I want every kid to know who the superintendent is, I want every staff member to know me.”
Knost’s wife, Julie, is also an educator. Their two daughters are both in college majoring in music education, and the older one is student-teaching.