The Wentzville School District Superintendent, a finalist for National Superintendent of the Year, will move to the Rockwood School District for the 2022-2023 school year. Both districts were the scene of heated protests during the pandemic over public health and racism in schools.
Curtis Cain led Wentzville for nearly a decade, overseeing a massive expansion amidst steady population growth.
During the pandemic, the Wentzville School Board repeatedly rejected Cain’s recommendations on mitigation measures, including masks. Last week, the board voted to ban Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” from high school libraries, attracting national criticism and a possible ACLU lawsuit.
“(Cain) fought on behalf of the students, educators and staff of the district despite the lack of cooperation from the board of education,” said Dr. Julie Scott, a candidate for the Wentzville School Board. “It’s a shame his gift of leadership has fallen on deaf ears.”
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Several teachers spoke at the last council meeting and said they were considering leaving the district due to the council’s decisions. After Cain’s announcement, the reaction from Wentzville’s parents and teachers on social media was largely dismayed at losing the superintendent to Rockwood.
Julia Luetkenhaus, president of the Wentzville teachers’ union, told the board at the January 20 meeting that she was ashamed to work in the district for the first time in 22 years. The board refused to vote on Cain’s recommendation to require masks in all schools which achieved a 3% positivity rate among students and staff.
“We have to ask ourselves, have we done everything possible to bring this district forward?” Luetkenhaus asked.
Cain will replace interim Rockwood Superintendent Tim Ricker, who assumed the role in July. Former Superintendent Mark Miles retired last spring after two years and acknowledged that he felt the pressure from heated protests and threatening emails that led to increased security for administrators. Brittany Hogan, the district director for educational equity and diversity, also resigned after a year of office and said she was subjected to racist insults and threats.
The climate in Rockwood has been tense with regular protests at board meetings since the decision to start school virtually in Fall 2020. The hype continued over the district’s diversity and equity study program and initiatives, earning the national media attention as a focal point in the national debate on so-called critical race theory in schools.
Last May, the Rockwood teachers union called on the school board and administrators to protect them from “personal attacks and outright threats of violence” on reading lists and curriculums designed to include and reduce inequality. racial in test scores.
Cain said he plans to relocate his family, including his wife Tori and two children, to the St. Louis County district. Tori Cain is director of student services in the Pattonville School District.
“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with his credentials, experience and integrity to lead our district in the future,” said Rockwood School Board Chair Jaime Bayes.
Born in Milwaukee, Cain earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and a master’s and doctoral degree from Iowa State. Before coming to Wentzville in 2013, he was associate superintendent of Overland Park, Kansas.
Cain’s salary will be $ 255,000 in his first year at Rockwood with increases up to $ 275,000 by the third year on his contract. His current salary in Wentzville is $ 217,350.
Cain is Missouri 2022 Superintendent of the Year and one of four finalists for National Superintendent of the Year. The winner will be announced on February 17 in Nashville at the School Superintendents Association annual conference.
The Missouri Attorney General filed a lawsuit against 36 school districts across the state for masking.
“It appears to be a gross violation of the First Amendment,” said Tony Rothert, director of integrated advocacy at the Missouri ACLU.
Several St. Louis area school districts have encountered recent library book challenges; Wentzville has banned one.
Enrollment in the Wentzville School District has increased from 6,000 in 2000 to over 16,400 today.