Two weeks before school starts, administrator tells School Board he has accepted position in St. Francis
Northern Ozaukee School District Supt. Blake Peuse submitted his resignation Monday during a closed session of the School Board. That session was convened to review the performance and compensation of the administrative team.
Peuse is leaving the district to become the superintendent of the St. Francis School District. According to a news release issued by the southern Milwaukee County district, the appointment will become effective Friday, Aug. 21.
The St. Francis board announced their selection Monday, at the same time the Northern Ozaukee board was meeting.
St. Francis had been searching for a superintendent since June, when John Thomsen resigned to take a similar administrative position with the Whitefish Bay School District.
According to the St. Francis district announcement, they chose Peuse after “an extensive interview process which involved faculty, staff, administration and community members.”
St. Francis officials said Peuse was the best fit for the superintendent’s job.
“We believe that his education experiences in different leadership positions will be helpful in leading the St. Francis School District into the future,” the announcement of the hiring said.
Peuse said the position was too tempting to pass up.
“The timing of this decision was simply a matter of coordination. Trying to coordinate the announcement is sometimes a delicate balance,” he said.
“My decision to accept the position in St. Francis is based largely on an opportunity to match my skillset with a school district. Given that I was a principal in the district previously, I was naturally drawn to the opportunity.”
In addition, he said working closer to his home in Waukesha will reduce his commute time.
“I look forward to gaining back an hour each day,” Peuse said.
He said leaving NOSD is not a reflection of any dissatisfaction with the position.
“I have been blessed to have worked under the NOSD board and have had wonderful interactions across the district. The staff has been outstanding and the administrative team is second to none,” Peuse said.
“There were no big concerns on my end regarding pay, direction or support. I always felt supported by the majority of the board.
“I have been extremely impressed by what we have accomplished at NOSD over the last three years and I am looking forward to having similar opportunities in St. Francis. There are great things happening in both districts.”
School Board President Paul Krause said Peuse has been mentoring administrators and felt an internal solution to the vacancy could be at hand.
The board was scheduled to meet in a special closed session Wednesday, Aug. 19, to consider reorganization of the administrative team in the wake of the resignation.
“There is a sense of urgency to have a leadership team in place for the start of the school year, but I feel confident we will have a solution,” Krause said.
He said when Peuse was hired it was with the expectation that he would probably only be with the district for three to five years.
“That is the standard for districts of our size. You don’t see administrators stick around for 20 years anymore. When we hired him, we felt he was a rising star,” Krause said.
“I enjoyed working with Blake and he leaves the district in a strong position. It was an emotional resignation, but I don’t think he is running from anything in the district,” he said.
“Blake has been looking for a position with a larger district that is closer to home, and he got both with the St. Francis job.”
When it accepted the resignation, the board also assessed $3,000 in liquidated damages for giving notice so close to the start of the school year.
A similar penalty was assessed to Jeff Sauer last summer, when he resigned as Ozaukee High School principal one week before the start of the school year.
Ironically, Peuse’s resignation came during a closed session that also saw the board approve a 3.5% performance bonus for the job he did during the last school year.
“Based on the standards we set, he earned it,” Krause said.
In 2013, Peuse was one of 28 school superintendents from around the country chosen to take part in the National Superintendent Certification Program, which is sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators and the National School Boards Association.
Prior to taking over as superintendent in Northern Ozaukee, Peuse was principal at New Berlin West High School.
Before that, he was principal at Brown Deer Middle School for three years, principal at Deer Creek Intermediate School in St. Francis for two years, assistant middle school principal in Waupun for three years, and physical education teacher and athletic director at Asa Clark Middle School in Pewaukee.
Peuse has a master’s degree in education from Marian College in Fond du Lac, and completed his state superintendent certification in 2011.
Not all board members lauded the job Peuse did as superintendent nor appreciated the difficult position in which the late resignation put the district.
“Unbelievable, I feel like he is jumping ship just weeks before the start of school,” said board member Tom Hoffmann.
Hoffmann was especially critical of the way plans for the creation of a fitness center at the high school were handled, and how financial projections were often off target.
Board member Kendall Thistle, who has also been critical of the district’s financial planning and loss of students, said the resignation “was not a big surprise.”
Image information: Blake Peuse - Press file photo