Dalton stays in-house for new group of administrators

Dalton stays in-house for new group of administrators
Craig McGinty

Administrators in new roles at Dalton this school year are Steve Watkins, left, Zach McFarren, Scott Beatty and Paul Jackson — along with Bailey, McFarren’s Bulldog. Watkins is Dalton High’s new principal, McFarren is DHS assistant principal and athletic director, Beatty returns as superintendent, and Jackson is the middle school principal, taking Watkins’ place.


The 2023-24 school year comes with a lot of swapping in the Dalton Local School District.

At the end of the 2023 school year, four of the administrators decided to take jobs in other districts, which left openings. The board offered the positions in-house first and ended up needing to look not much further.

Steve Watkins has moved from Dalton Middle School principal to the same role at the high school while his spot at the middle school was taken by Paul Jackson, previously a teacher in the district.

Longtime Dalton teacher Zach McFarren is now the district’s athletic director and assistant principal at the high school while the fourth change isn’t exactly a change but rather a homecoming — former Superintendent Scott Beatty has returned to that role, replacing James Saxer.

“We feel we have an outstanding staff at Dalton Local Schools, and it makes the most sense to look within first when a new position becomes available,” said Jeff Jager, president of the Dalton Board of Education.

When Chris Black left Dalton to go to Cuyahoga Falls, Watkins decided to make the move to DHS.

“I look forward to the new aspects of student life and challenges that it will bring,” said Watkins, a Wayne County native who went to high school at Norwayne. “I’m also eager to work with the team at DHS to create a positive and welcoming environment for our students, parents and community.”

Jackson, who joined the district in 2015 and taught high school Spanish and English to speakers of other languages district-wide, is now an administrator.

“I applied to my new role because of the awesome community we have in Dalton and Kidron and because I wanted to serve our students and teachers on a broader scale,” Jackson said. “About two years ago, I decided that I wanted to explore a role that impacted a wider range of students and teachers, and I was fortunate to receive mentorship in that from Mr. Watkins and (elementary school principal Cherie) Marthey.”

Jackson is originally from rural Knox County and attended East Knox High School. He later graduated from Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Ashland University. He and his wife have three young children: a boy and two girls. “Our oldest is excited to become a Bulldog when he enters kindergarten next school year,” he said.

McFarren, who has worked at Dalton for 14 years — 12 years as an English teacher and the last two years in a mental health role — replaced Brian Misanko, who is now at Field.

“I want to help influence change,” said McFarren, who also has coached in the district. “I desire to lead others and to build relationships with those around me, and I am excited for this opportunity because it will allow me to influence others in a different capacity that will challenge me to be intentional.”

McFarren graduated from Dalton, his four children currently attend Dalton schools and he’s the grandson of the late Billie J. McFarren, a Wayne County Sports Hall of Fame football coach and DHS principal who the Bulldogs’ football stadium is named after.

“I have known Dalton my entire life. I appreciate the community and how people genuinely care for others,” he said. “Dalton is built upon a solid foundation of morals and values. I want to be a part of building upon that.”

Beatty was formerly Dalton’s superintendent for nine years, in addition to other roles at Dalton and other schools.

“I’m really here to assist with all of the transition. The district had a direction before I arrived, thanks to the work of the administrative team, and we will continue in that direction,” he said. “If anything, we will continue to look at our facilities and providing the most up-to-date learning environment — challenge ourselves to look at those students at the far end of the learning spectrum and how best to serve them.”

Watkins said he’s looking forward to teaming up with McFarren.

“We will keep the traditions and strong academic expectations at Dalton High School,” he said. “The families and community put a lot of trust in us to deliver a strong foundation of education and to give our students the best possibilities for their future.”

Watkins’ daughter is a fifth-grader in the district while all five of Beatty’s children are DHS graduates.

Dalton has 922 students district-wide including 286 at the high school.

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