SALEM - Buckeye Elementary Principal John Lundin can't wait for school to start.
The new guy on the Buckeye block officially took the reins from retired longtime principal Dennis Niederhiser on Aug. 1, but spent several weeks during the summer transitioning into the position.
He sat down with Niederhiser and said he helped him a great deal. He also stressed how nice everyone has been to him, from the administration and the teachers to the parents and students he's met - kindness he really appreciates.
Salem Buckeye Elementary School secretary Michelle Bowers and new principal John Lundin pose outside the school on Buckeye Avenue, ready to welcome students for a new year of learning. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
"They have gone out of their way to be helpful," he said.
He also gave a nod to his secretary, Michelle Bowers, saying she's made his life a lot easier, teaching him the nuts and bolts of how the building runs. He said the proactive custodial staff has done a great job getting the building ready, completing tasks before he has a chance to ask.
Now it's time for the first and second graders to report for learning Monday morning. The kindergarteners will show up Thursday.
"I'm really looking forward to the first day. I'm eager for the kids to come back to school and I'm eager to meet the families," the 45-year-old Canton native said.
He already spent some time with the incoming kindergarten students during two weeks of Kinder Camp, accompanying them on their first school bus trip, which included a stop at McDonald's for ice cream.
The term Buckeye Nation holds a different meaning for people in Salem than it does for the rest of Ohio, something Lundin is learning quickly.
"I've only been here about a month and I already realize this is a really special place to be," he said. "The team-oriented attitude of the teachers you can really feel in the building."
Anyone who walks into Lundin's office will get a feel for the new principal, with all of his passions present. Photographs of his family stand on a shelf, not far from his ice hockey skates, hockey stick and drums of every sort, along with a cymbal mounted on the wall.
"I've played the drums since I was in the second grade," he explained.
He played in the band when he was in school, played in rock bands in high school and currently plays in a praise band at Grace United Methodist Church in Canton. He resides in Plain Township with his wife Cindy and their children, Taylor, 16, and Tom, 14.
The ice hockey came later in life, although he did skate on ponds when growing up. His wife earned a college hockey scholarship to Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and was captain of the team. Lundin started playing hockey when his son was young and started playing. He still plays now in an adult league in the winter. His daughter plays soccer.
"I really enjoy spending time with my family," he said.
Other hobbies include scuba diving, hiking, fishing and exercising. He said it's important for kids to exercise and for schools to have a quality physical education program.
For Lundin, establishing and opening lines of communication is important and he said he wants the Buckeye families to know he's there to serve them. The two most important things to him are keeping students safe and helping them grow and become successful members of the community and society.
"I believe in being firm, fair and consistent," he said.
He said he believes in making students feel special and the school a place they want to be so when they get up in the morning, they can't wait to get there.
"I'll be working with the teachers to continue to develop the outstanding school culture at Buckeye Elementary. I want to continue the outstanding tradition of excellence that Mr. Niederhiser has worked so hard to establish," Lundin said.
The school this year will house eight all-day kindergarten classes, eight first grade classes, seven second grade classes and two special needs classrooms from the Columbiana County Educational Service Center.
Lundin graduated from Glen Oak High School in Canton, received a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Kent State University in 1990 and received his graduate degree and principal's certification from Ashland University.
He taught fifth grade at Plain Local school district in Stark County and first grade at Alliance City Schools, where he also served as an assistant principal and principal. Since 1999, he had served as principal at Sandy Valley Elementary in the Sandy Valley school district before coming to Salem.
He cheers for the Cleveland Browns and Indians, Ohio State and Pittsburgh Penguins hockey.