Rouse is a keeper

By Chuck Kajer

At their meeting tonight (Thursday), the New Prague Area Schools Board of Education will discuss and possibly decide whether they will reopen the search for a new superintendent or if they will offer the job to interim superintendent Jim Rouse on a permanent basis.

The board's search process last summer resulted in three good candidates, but each candidate, when offered, turned down the opportunity to lead the school district. That resulted in a short search for an interim superintendent that resulted in a divided board voting 4-3 to hire Mr. Rouse.

In November, the board discussed goals for the interim superintendent and set the first January meeting as the date to make a decision on the superintendent's job. At a board meeting last month, several people spoke during the Open Forum session, urging the district to forego its earlier decision and hire Rouse immediately. Again, the board was split on the proposal. But interestingly, it was the three who opposed Rouse's hiring in August who were in favor of making an immediate commitment. The other three board members at the meeting preferred to wait until January, as planned, to make a decision.

Rouse has done a great job of introducing himself to the district. He has been visible, personable and supportive of staff. When a school bus went off the road last month, Rouse was quickly on the scene.

In his few months in New Prague, he has gained the public's trust. Staff members have expressed their support, and students have appreciated his visibility and his support for them in attending a variety of school activities.

The board has two choices tonight. They can go back to where they were last spring and reopen the process, with no guarantee that they will find a candidate that everyone can agree on, or they can move forward and make a commitment to an administrator who, in his short time here, has made great strides in changing the public's perception of the district and administration. That's an important consideration, as the district's operating levy expires next year and the district is planning to hold a referendum this fall to renew, and possibly expand that levy.

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