Federal Way superintendent moves to Enumclaw

Rob Neu is superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools. - Courtesy photo
Rob Neu is superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Superintendent Rob Neu is entering his second year at the helm of Federal Way schools. After renting and house-hunting for several months in a shaky real estate market, Neu recently purchased a home in Enumclaw, located about 20 miles east of Federal Way.

Previous superintendents have lived in the Federal Way School District boundaries, but unlike some school districts, residency is not a requirement in Federal Way.

Neu and his family own several horses and plan to launch an equestrian business. They needed a property large enough to accommodate the animals, and finding such a property in the area was a goal when relocating from Michigan last year.

How important is it for the superintendent of schools to live in the district he serves? For example, in the Enumclaw School District where Neu now lives, residency in the district is required for Superintendent Mike Nelson.

“My contract from the Enumclaw Board of Directors states that my residency should be within the school district,” Nelson wrote in an email to The Mirror.

Other local school districts, such as Kent, Auburn and Tacoma, do not require residency for the superintendent. Tacoma Superintendent Art Jarvis lives in the nearby city of University Place, according to a spokeswoman, while Kent Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas lives in his district.

“It’s really a local decision,” said Nathan Olson, spokesman for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, regarding a district’s preference for residency. “A superintendent is hired by a school board, and they know best what their needs are.”

Although living in the Federal Way district would be more convenient for commuting, Neu said, he is still committed to serving Federal Way schools while meeting the needs of his wife and six children.

“Performance is what counts,” said Neu, who also explained his personal situation in a Sept. 1 letter to school district staff.

Federal Way School Board members were informed of Neu’s quest to find a home for his family.

Board President Tony Moore said he’s focused on Neu’s job performance — along with pressing issues such as the district’s budget crisis and standards-based education.

“If the guy performs well, and he is, that’s his responsibility to the district. I’m not monitoring his personal life,” Moore said. “I want his family to be happy and I want him to be happy.”

Board member Amye Bronson-Doherty echoed similar sentiments.

“Ideally, I think it’s great to have your superintendent right in the district, but not necessary,” Bronson-Doherty said. “He’s still working here every day and still involved in the community. I don’t see it as a hindrance.”

Education activist and former school board member Charlie Hoff noted that many administrators live outside the school district.

“His family is into horses, and Enumclaw is a better place for that than here,” Hoff said. “There are other more important issues about academics than that. ... I don’t care where he lives, as long as he gets the job done.”

The Federal Way Mirror asked the following question on Facebook: Does it matter whether the superintendent of schools lives in the Federal Way School District? Here are some responses so far:

• “I think so, especially if s/he has kids in school,” responded Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe.

• “If it does, then it also matters that other key figures who make decisions on the community’s behalf also live here....such as key employees at the city, Chamber executives and board of directors and so on,” wrote Kelly Maloney.

• “Nope. As long as he keeps up the good work,” wrote Agnieszka Vronsky-Wooters.

• “I think living in the district gives any ‘key’ figure a more vested interest in the success of what they do. It makes me sad that someone would not want/do that. This city needs to be even more about community to ensure the city’s success and, more importantly, our children’s success,” wrote Cristell Frederickson-Willis.

Neu was hired to replace Tom Murphy, who retired at the end of the 2010 school year. Neu previously served as superintendent for three-plus years at the Waterford School District in the Detroit metropolitan area.

In Federal Way, Neu earns an annual salary of about $195,000.


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