Lewis Central Community School District Superintendent Eric Knost is ending his time at Lewis Central after only three years — but he’s not sorry he came.
“I think whatever happens, Lewis Central is always going to be special to me because of how welcomed I felt — by kids, by parents, by colleagues in every employee group,” he said. “I think it’s the people I’ll remember.”
Knost feels he connected with students and said that is what inspires him to continue in education.
Over much of his three-year stint with the district, he has had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, a school closure prompted by the U.S. outbreak of the illness, the mask controversy and state politics. While that is unfortunate, he said it has been a learning opportunity.
Knost has also overseen two major facilities projects for the district: Construction of a fine arts and career-technical education addition to the high school and completion of a new operations building.
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“When I came in, I heard loud and clear from parents and colleagues we needed to design and build an auditorium,” Knost said.
The 1,100-seat auditorium is now nearing completion and will be largest in Council Bluffs and much of the surrounding area.
Knost also found out the old operations building was in poor shape.
“I felt the good people working in that building deserved something better,” he said.
That building opened earlier this spring.
Knost also got involved in the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations and felt well received.
“They just always made me feel like an integral part of the work that was going on,” he said.
Before coming to Council Bluffs, Knost had always lived in the St. Louis area. He attended a small school in St. Louis County and had about 100 students in his class. He learned how to play several instruments growing up and zeroed in on percussion. 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. He started his education career as a band director, but was later encouraged to consider becoming an administrator. Before coming to Lewis Central, he was superintendent of Rockwood School District in St. Louis.
Along the way, he has continued to be active as a drummer. He has driven to St. Louis about once a month from Council Bluffs to play with a couple bands he has connections with there. That will increase to twice a month when he returns to that area.
“I’ve played music my entire life,” Knost said. “Music’s always been a big part of my life. I’ll do it until I’m too old, because I’ve always done it and I love it so much.”
Knost’s wife, Julie, has always been an educator and is currently coordinator of a Drug-Free Coalition that provides drug education at certain schools in the St. Louis area. Since she worked remotely during much of the pandemic, she was able to be in Council Bluffs with him.
Her position is funded by a five-year grant that has ended. However, as drug overdoses skyrocketed during the pandemic, thanks to carry-over dollars, she was able to stay and help the coalition write an application for renewal of the grant, which is expected to be approved. Knost felt it was his turn to sacrifice for his spouse.
“She’s supported every different way I’ve traversed through my career,” including when he was working long hours or had to be away, he said. “As hard as it is, I’m glad I’m able to do that.”
As for him, Knost isn’t sure what will come next. Options include consulting, lobbying for public schools, working for a search firm and serving as an interim superintendent in the St. Louis area.
“I’ve spent a year being conflicted about my dreams and what comes next,” he said. “All of those sound exciting to me, (but) to accept any of those seems like accepting that I’m retiring.”
Knost doesn’t mind that Lewis Central came at this point in his career.
“If I’m really done serving in a superintendent-like role in public schools, I couldn’t think of a better exclamation point to put on all of my years in education,” he said.
Whatever materializes, Knost plans to start his next venture in August or September.
“I think something will come to fruition,” he said.
Knost and his wife have two adult daughters — Kaylin, a middle- and high-school band director in the St. Louis area; and Amy, who just completed a stint as a long-term substitute and will be teaching elementary music in Independence, Missouri next year. Neither has started a family.
“My wife and I are fortunate that our grown daughters still like to travel with us,” he said. “That’s special to me.”
The family plans to take a trip to Oregon this year, Knost said. As a Beatles fan, his ultimate vacation would be to travel to Abbey Road in London, Penny Lane in Liverpool, England and/or other Beatles-related destinations.