Coeur d’Alene has the ingredients David Rawls says he wants in his next job as school superintendent.
Its school district is larger than the one in Moses Lake, where he’s head honcho now. It has a business community that wants to be an active partner in education. It has a junior college, offering the next step for high school graduates.
“And the people are very prideful about their schools,” Rawls said Monday. “Any time you see a community that is building new schools, that says, ‘Kids count.”’
Rawls, 55, is one of three finalists for the job of Coeur d’Alene school superintendent, which will be open when Doug Cresswell retires this summer.
Rawls met Monday with parents, school district employees and other members of the community. He toured schools and had another interview with the school board, which will choose Cresswell’s successor this month.
Rawls has worked nine years for the Moses Lake district, which has 6,000 students compared with Coeur d’Alene’s 8,500. He’s been superintendent since 1994.
Stroud Kunkle, vice president of the Moses Lake School Board, would hate to see him leave.
“He mediates very well. People tend to trust him,” Kunkle said in a phone interview.
Rawls is so good to work with, he added, that “we hope he finishes second” in Coeur d’Alene.
Kunkle praised the way Rawls handled the trauma that followed the 1996 classroom shootings of a teacher and three students by student Barry Loukaitis.
Three people died. The central Washington town was traumatized, and became the focus of national media attention.
“We had a crisis plan in place before that happened,” Rawls said Monday. “We looked at it a day or two later and found we hadn’t missed a beat.”
The incident, he said, has made the community more sensitive to the needs of teenagers.
Rawls, trim in a double-breasted navy suit, fielded questions easily. Several of them focused on money.
Describing himself as “pretty conservative,” Rawls said he gives a lot of financial responsibility to principals. He gives his school board a detailed but easy-to-grasp financial report every month.
One of the first things he’d do in Coeur d’Alene, Rawls said, is listen to everyone who is involved with the schools. He would ask: “What is your vision of what this place should be?”
He also would bring in impartial outsiders to see how things are working, he said.
“Any time you’re going to take over as CEO at an organization with as big a budget as this, you need to look at an audit - not so much the books, but the programs.”
Rawls said he regularly meets with business people, especially real estate agents. “It’s very important for the superintendent to market the school district.”
Rawls majored in science at Washington State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1964; and at the University of Washington, where he got a master’s in 1973. He was a classroom teacher until 1983, when he took his first administration job as a curriculum specialist.
Among his accomplishments at Moses Lake, he counts the passage of a $29.7 million bond election for a remodel and reconstruction of all schools.
Richard Gregory of Emporia, Kan., was the first superintendent finalist to visit Coeur d’Alene. The last one will be Richard Cole of Colville, Wash., who will be here on Wednesday.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.