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District 833 board picks Osseo school official Jacobus as next superintendent

Keith Jacobus, an assistant superintendent in the Osseo school district, was picked to be the next District 833 school superintendent. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner

Keith Jacobus stood apart from other District 833 superintendent candidates because of his leadership qualities, thoughts on school innovation and wide variety of education experience.

Those traits were highlighted by South Washington County School Board members last week as they unanimously picked Jacobus to be the district's next superintendent.

Board members were impressed with Jacobus' leadership as well as his experience in school finance and variety types of education, including leading alternative schools. They commented favorably on his decision-making skills prior to their vote May 9 to enter into contract negotiations with Jacobus, who will come to District 833 from his current position as assistant superintendent in the Osseo Area School District.

Jacobus would create an open environment for feedback, said board member Laurie Johnson. Board member David Kemper appreciated Jacobus' remark that trust is only won one person at a time. Jacobus wants to hear feedback he might disagree with, Kemper said. Those qualities propelled him to final interviews along with Lolli Haws, an area superintendent in Washington D.C. Each interviewed in the district last week.

In informal talks with school administrators and others, Jacobus said he had a 100-day plan if he were chosen to be superintendent. He plans at least 100 visits during that first 100 days with as many people and staff members as possible, even meeting in people's homes.

Board members picked Jacobus after the final interview with Haws.

It was a tough decision because "we had very excellent candidates," said Chairwoman Leslee Boyd.

Kemper said he voted for Jacobus because he has "a vision" for the district.

"He has charisma," said board member Jim Gelbmann, who made the motion to enter into contract negotiations with Jacobus. Gelbmann said that he liked his 100-day plan and his plan to meet individually with board members.

Minnesota school financing is unique but Jacobus has had some experience with it during his two years in Osseo. "His learning curve won't be long," Gelbmann said.

Jacobus has a broad range of skills, Boyd said, including being a principal in an alternative school, having a flexible approach and an understanding of organizational change.

Board member Tracy Brunnette said Jacobus' professed passion for education seems genuine.

Jacobus handled himself well, said board member Ron Kath. He had to make tough changes as an administrator and owns his goals.

He has deliberate structured thinking, Johnson said, and wants transparent leadership.

"He's open, honest and people centered," added board member Marsha Adou.

Assuming a contract agreement is reached, Jacobus will take over as superintendent July 1. He will replace Mark Porter, whose contract was not renewed by the board.

Jacobus said he "couldn't be more pleased" to be headed to District 833.

"I am so excited to join the district," he said after the vote last week. "My time throughout the interview process solidified my belief that South Washington County Schools is a wonderful district."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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