In with the Neu: Federal Way schools hire superintendent

Rob Neu, the new superintendent of Federal Way schools. - Courtesy photo
Rob Neu, the new superintendent of Federal Way schools.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

It's been decided: The next Federal Way School District superintendent will be Robert Neu.

The school board voted unanimously to offer Neu the job April 6. The board took an immediate recess to allow board president Tony Moore to call Neu with the job offer. Moore returned, saying that Neu accepted and that, barring any complications in the contract process, Neu would be the next superintendent, replacing retiring Tom Murphy.

"We're fortunate in that we don't need a superintendent to save us," Moore said. "For me, Robert Neu was just a better candidate from every category."

Neu has been the superintendent for the Waterford School District in Michigan for four years. He was also the district's director of secondary education for four years and a principal or assistant principal for 11 years. He has an educational specialist degree in educational leadership from Oakland University (Rochester, Mich.) and a master of arts degree in secondary school administration. Neu began his career as a high school business teacher, cooperative education coordinator, and basketball and track coach.

After Murphy announced his retirement last fall, the district hired a search firm to find candidates for replacement. Last month, the board narrowed the field down to the final two candidates, Neu and Peter Dion, both superintendents from school districts in Michigan.

Some board members traveled to Michigan last week for site visits.

School board members said that throughout the process, they were looking for four main attributes in a candidate:

• Thoughtful, decisive and willing to weigh multiple points of view prior to making decisions.

• Student-centered with student success as their primary motivation.

• A servant leader who personally modeled their expectations.

• Politically savvy and could lobby for what is best for the Federal Way School District.

School board member Amye Bronson-Doherty said the other candidate, Dion, was never even in her top three and that she had had some concerns about his decision making skills.

Board member Angela Griffin seconded that, adding that she felt Neu was better at balancing his decisions between what he heard and his own beliefs of what was best for children.

Another plus for Griffin was that Neu demonstrated some political savvy, not only in his immediate area, but also statewide.

The board acknowledged the fact that neither candidate really had experience with the type of situation they would encounter in Federal Way, which has a very different diversity level and a wider range of socio-economic classes compared to their districts.

"It's kind of scary, we know they are small districts," Griffin said. "We know they don't look like us."

However, Griffin added that the community Neu comes from looks similar to Federal Way, just on a much smaller scale.

Board member Ed Barney, who wasn't able to make the site visit, said Neu really stood out at the community meetings, where Neu spent more time answering questions.

"He said, 'I don't do education, I am eduction,'" Barney recalled. "That said everything."

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