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Open Door Principal heading home to Symmes Valley

Eight years ago, Jeff Saunders walked towards the door of the principal's office at Open Door School with butterflies in his stomach.

Next month, he'll have to take the same walk as he leaves Open Door to take over as principal at Symmes Valley High School.

"When I came to Open Door I was a little tentative because there's a lot of people in the county, and I wasn't really sure what MR/DD was, I knew of Open Door School, but the program was a mystery to me at that time," Saunders said. "So, yeah, I was a little nervous."

Saunders said that despite his nerves, he soon formed close attachments to his students, and began an eight-year period of leadership at Open Door, a school specifically designed for students with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

Though he enjoyed his time at Open Door, when the chance arose to return to Symmes Valley, where he began his teaching career, he found it impossible to resist.

"It's the district I live in, I went to school there, I taught there for 12 years before I came to Open Door, it's a great district to work in," Saunders said. "You put all those reasons together and the opportunity is too good to pass up."

Paul Mollett, superintendent of the Lawrence County Board of MR/DD, said the Symmes Valley school district has received a tremendous asset in Jeff Saunders.

"It's a personal dream for him going back to Symmes Valley, for him it's like going home," Mollett said. "I think Symmes Valley is the only place that he would have left MR/DD for."

Though Saunders is eager to begin at Symmes Valley, he's clearly upset about the end of his time at Open Door.

"I'll definitely miss the interaction with the students most," Saunders said. "You fall in love with the students here very quickly and that's definitely what I'll miss Š it's a great place to work."

Mollett said

he hopes for the best for Saunders, but said the principal will definitely be missed.

"I really wish him well," Mollett said. "Jeff has been a tremendous asset for MR/DD and for me personally."

The superintendent emphasizes that even though Saunders worked at Open Door School, his influence was felt by all those who worked with MR/DD.

"He's a real team player," Mollett said. "So we're going to miss him, not just at the school, but in the entire MR/DD community."

Saunders' last day at Open Door School will be June 16, before taking the butterfly-inducing walk to the principal's chair at Symmes Valley High School July 6.