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New Administrative Appointments

PHM Supt. Dr. Jerry Thacker, Dr. Thomas Keely, Mr. Ryan Towner, Dr. Melinda Higginson, & Board Pres. Mr. Chris Riley


At the Monday, March 27, Penn-Harris-Madison Board of School Trustees meeting, the Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker and P-H-M Administration submitted several administration staffing changes for Board approval.


Dr. Thomas Keeley is the new Executive Business Manager replacing Jerry Hawkins who will be retiring effective June 30. Jerry joined P-H-M in 2017 from Goshen Community Schools. Jerry has been an asset to the district and his extensive experience spanning 33 years in education and finance will be missed. We wish Jerry the best in his upcoming retirement. Dr. Keeley has a total of 29 years of experience in public education. Dr. Keeley is currently serving as Director of Operations for Rush County Schools, before that he served 14 years as Assistant Superintendent of Beech Grove City Schools. Since 2011 he's served as an Indiana State University Adjunct Professor/Lecturer on School Business Finance, School Facilities Planning, and the Politics and Role of the Public Superintendent. He is a member of IASBO and previously served as Chairman of INASPA. Dr. Keeley has a Doctorate of Philosophy Education Leadership and his Superintendent Licensure from Indiana State University. Dr. Keeley will begin working with Jerry to ensure a smooth transition. 


Walt Disney Principal Ryan Towner will transition into a new role in the district as the New Literacy Director on July 1. Ryan joined P-H-M as a fifth grade elementary teacher at Prairie Vista in Fall 2011. In his 12 years with the district, he's also served as Assistant to the Principal at Walt Disney and Principal of Madison Elementary. He's served as Walt Disney Principal since 2017. Ryan was named a Milken Award winner in 2021. He also presented on P-H-M's Tiered Literacy practices at IASP and recently Indiana State Literacy Association virtual workshop series. He received both his undergraduate and Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from IUSB.

Replacing Ryan as Walt Disney principal is Dr. Melinda Higginson joining us from Elkhart Community Schools where she currently serves as Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction. In this role, Dr. Higginson has supervised the leadership and daily operations of 13 elementary schools. She has also served as Principal of Eastwood Elementary (Elkhart Community Schools), LaSalle Intermediate Academy and Tarkington Traditional School (South Bend Community School Corporation). Prior to going into administration, Dr. Higginson was a teacher for 13 years. She has also served as adjunct professor at IUSB and Andrews University. Dr. Higginson received her B.S. from DePaul University (Chicago), Master's from IUSB, and Doctorate from Purdue University. 


Judith Dahlstrom has announced her retirement effective June 30th. Judith has worked as the Director of Transportation for P-H-M for nine years, but has a total of 54 years total experience in public school transportation. Judith has been recognized and has participated at the state and national levels as a leader in school transportation. She has mentored and developed our bus operators, office staff, mechanics, and assistant directors. Most importantly, she has positively impacted the lives of thousands of P-H-M students and families providing safe transportation to and from school.


Dr. Thacker and the Board of School Trustees welcome our newest members of the P-H-M family; we congratulate our current members on their new roles, and we thank our dedicated colleagues for their many years of service.