Challenges ahead for new MLSD Superintendent

After seven years in various positions, Brian Rau moves up to the Superintendent’s post with the Manchester Local School District, beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

Rau moves into the district’s top spot for 2017-18 – 

By Mark Carpenter – 

There are very few, if any, school superintendents in the state of Ohio who face the challenges ahead of the newly named superintendent of the Manchester Local School District. Approved by the MLSD Board in late June, Brian Rau takes over the top spot on a two-year contract that begins with the 2017-18 school year, replacing the recently retired Charles Shreve.
Rau is a 1989 graduate of Eastern Brown High School and received his Bachelor’s Degree at Morehead State University in K-4 Elementary Education with a Mathematic component. He earned his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and his Principal’s Licensure from the University of Dayton, and his Superintendent’s Licensure came from the University of the Cumberlands. In July of 2016, he began his PhD program, which he is says he is “knee-deep” in at the moment.
Rau comes from an education family with his mother being a retired teacher and his wife Michelle a long-time teacher in the Ripley School District.
After teaching junior high Math in the Ripley district, Rau was hired at Manchester for the 2010-11 school year as the Elementary Assistant Principal/ Special Education Coordinator.
“To be honest, that was a great experience for me because I killed two birds with one stone,” says Rau. “I got to serve as an assistant under Bill Nichols so I got to see how the principalship worked and I learned so much in the special education. The following year I was bumped up to Elementary Principal when Mr. Nichols retired, and I stayed in that spot for three years, then I was assigned to the central office position of Director of Special Program/Curriculum. It will be nice to have a one-word title again.”
Rau admits that his weakness sometimes is delegating responsibility but that will have to be a major component of his new position. “In my past positions, I never had the luxury of delegating, everything was delegated to me and either I was the only one that knew how to do it or the only one who could do it. Now I have spoken with the building principals and told them that some of these duties will have to be delegated out.”
After Shreve announced his retirement, Rau was approached by the Board and the two had some discussions, not the typical interview process with the job being filled internally. “I was very appreciative and humbled with how the Board handled the process,” Rau adds. “I told the Board that they could go outside the district, but I assured them that they wouldn’t find anybody to come into the superintendent position that has more compassion and cares about this district and community more than I do.”
Rau takes over a district in transition, but wanted to clarify something that he had seen in other news outlets, that being that the exodus of staff members from Manchester was solely due to the impending financial issues caused by the imminent closing of the power plants.
“Most of the people that have left Manchester, they left to move up and better themselves,” says Rau. “I can only name one staff member who left because they were truly worried about their job being eliminated and it turned out that they would not have lost their position. We had some staff leave to go back home to work, so you can’t blame them for that. We will also be fortunate to have Treasurer Karen Ballengee around for one more year. It was reported that she was leaving too but she only announced that this would be her last year before retirement.”
“I’m not going to make any bones about it. It’s going to be rough and we can’t sugar coat anything. I’m still looking at six vacancies and the uncertainty of next year. We have the language in the budget to sustain us for this year, but what will happen next year? Luckily, we didn’t have to make many of the cuts for this upcoming year that we thought we might have to. We may have to revisit some things next year especially when the power plant owners reassess their evaluations which means another cut in our revenue.”
“One of the problems is that we just don’t know when another ax might fall,” Rau continued. We have a meeting in August with DP&L and hopefully we will get some answers from them instead of the news just coming out of nowhere. It’s just the uncertainty of it all.”
There’s nothing going to be easy about this position. It will be overwhelming if I let it get to me, but I realize that I am not going to solve all our issues overnight, but I am looking forward to the challenge. It’s not going to be business as usual but as superintendent I will still have high expectations for staff and students achievement, but we will have to do things a different way.”
Rau says that he is pleased to have received a lot of support from the MLSD staff after taking his new position, and he sent out an e-mail to all staff earlier outlining some of his personal goals for the upcoming school year.
The e-mail read, “I have set three personal goals intended for next school year: (1) unite our separate buildings into one unified district; (2) close the achievement gap of our students; and (3) maintain constant communication with staff. I have complete confidence the first two goals can be accomplished with collaborative efforts of everyone doing their part. To say we have a remarkable staff in an understatement; moreover, we have tremendous additions to our administrative team that will enhance our chances of success.”
Three-fourths of the MLSD administrative team will be new for the 2017-18 school year as Rau will be joined by new high school principal, Dr. Dana Pollock, who comes to the district after serving as superintendent at Northwest. The new high school assistant principal and Athletic Director will be a more familiar face in mrs. Cheri McClanahan, who moves up from teaching fourth and fifth grade at Manchester Elementary.
“I am very excited to have these new hires as members of our administrative team and past that, my first message to the staff will revolve around the concept of change and continuing positive relationships,” Rau says.
‘I’ve built a lot of very good relationships in my seven years at Manchester and I feel like I have connected with a lot of families in a positive way and I will continue to do that as superintendent.”
As superintendent, Rau plans to be very visible, further reinforcing those community connections. “I can assure you that you will see me at community or district events and sporting events. I’m not attending all these events because it is the right thing to do as a superintendent, or any political reason, I just think that the superintendent needs to be seen and I want to be out there meeting people.”
“I’m not in this business for collecting accolades,” says Rau. “I don’t need the recognition. I don’t need to be seen on TV unless it’s for very good things. If something goes well, I will defer the credit, if something goes bad, I will take the blame.”