New president of King"s Academy prepares for year
SEYMOUR -- As the incoming president of The King"s Academy, a K-12 private Christian boarding school, Matt Mercer doesn"t have to search for a house in Seymour. He does, however, have to search for a dog.
Asked during a Wednesday interview about any rules, such as a prohibition on pets, that govern the president"s house on TKA"s campus, Mercer had a quick answer.
"Funny you should ask that," he said.
Mercer explained that his wife, Angie, had told their three children that the family could get a dog if Mercer was offered the job at TKA. The kids -- Cameron, 11; Caden, 9; and Madison, 5 -- had been asking for a family dog at their home in Powell. Mercer said they"re now looking at some Labrador retrievers.
For the Powell native, Mercer"s new role as president of TKA comes after years spent in education. The Powell High School graduate most recently served as headmaster of First Baptist Academy in Powell. He was also on the administrative leadership team at Grace Christian Academy in Knoxville. Prior to those Knoxville posts, Mercer taught and coached at Fulton and Central high schools.
While attending Carson-Newman University in nearby Jefferson City, Mercer played on the football team. When he became a teacher with Knox County Schools, he found himself in the busy position of coaching one basketball team at Fulton and another basketball team at rival Central.
Asked if he plans to take on any coaching duties at TKA, Mercer indicated he might help with middle school basketball.
"I am very hands-on working with staff and students," he said. "I come alongside them and work. I want to serve the student body with excellence."
Mercer steps into the president"s role as Walter Grubb prepares to retire on July 31. Grubb served for seven years as the school"s principal and has been the president/headmaster for the past 24 years.
Grubb was only the seventh headmaster at the Christian school that dates to 1880. In a June interview, Grubb expected that he and his family will likely stay in the Sevier County area.
"The best days of this 138-year-old school are in the future," he said.
At least for the first year, Mercer doesn"t expect any large changes at the school.
"There are certain things we"re not going to change, because that"s who we are," he said of the institution that traces its roots to 1880. He described changes that are underway as "tweaking the duties" of some staffers rather than as making changes to the overall roll of employees.
"Already, we have had to make small adjustments," said Mercer. "It"s minor changes that have to take place. I don"t anticipate drastic changes."
He praised Grubb as making the transition smooth, even inviting the Powell family to the president"s home and giving Mercer"s kids a ride around campus on a golf cart - and hooking them up with milk and cookies.
"That always helps," Mercer laughed. His wife preivously lived in the area and attended one year at Seymour High School.
"He"s been there 31 years. He and his wife have a lot of insight," Mercer said of the retiring headmaster. "I want to make sure I"m learning well. Dr. Grubb and other people have been helping with that."
Grubb and Mercer have been spending their summer days on transitional tasks as July 31 approaches. In addition to going over administrative duties and procedures, the veteran headmaster has let Mercer in on valuable information - Grubb"s favorite Seymour restaurants are already on Mercer"s "already visited" and "must visit" lists.
Mercer said that his children are excited, and a little scared, about their new lives in Seymour.
"We"re going to strive to make The King"s Academy one of the best schools in the country," said Mercer. "I hope the community will stop by and check us out. I want it to be a safe place. Parents have a lot of anxiety sending their kids to school today."
Mercer also pointed out that the school seeks to be an active part of Sevier County.
"I just hope the community knows we"re here not just to receive but to give back to the community," he said. "We want people to come be a part of TKA in some form or fashion ... We want our graduates to be someone you"d like to have working for your business."