Port-Saukville School Board meets again but makes no pick for superintendent

Members were expected to pick Koch or Watkins during closed meeting

The two finalists for the job of Port Washington-Saukville school superintendent — Joe Koch (left) and David Watkins — spoke during a May 24 public forum in the Port Washington High School gym. Photos by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board emerged from another closed session Wednesday without selecting the district’s next superintendent.

The board was expected to choose one of two finalists for district’s top job — Joe Koch, deputy superintendent of the School District of Waukesha and a 1997 Port Washington High School graduate, and David Watkins, who as chief of school is second in charge of St. Paul Public Schools in St. Paul, Minn. — but did not for reasons Board President Brenda Fritsch would not comment on.

When asked if the board had selected one of the finalists and is in the process of negotiating a contract or if it’s still deciding who is the best person for the job, Fritsch said Thursday, “I’m not saying anything. This is all still in closed session.”

From a pool of 36 applicants, School Exec Connect, the consulting firm hired by the board to facilitate the superintendent search, selected six semifinalists. 

The board interviewed the six candidates and chose four finalists, two of whom quickly withdrew themselves from consideration. 

The board interviewed Koch and Watkins, then met in closed session last week and again this week to deliberate.

The board is expected to meet again in the near future, but as of Wednesday morning a date had not been set.

During a public forum on May 24, Koch told an audience of about 40 people that he wants to return to his roots in Port Washington.

“This place is a very special community to me,” Koch, who like his parents Mary and the late Fran Koch taught at Port High, said. 

“This, for me, as a kid who grew up in Port, as the child of educators here, as someone who didn’t want to leave here, this is the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “I see no greater honor than serving as superintendent here for the remainder of my career.”

Watkins, who works in a district of more than 60 schools and 38,000 students, said he wasn’t looking for a new job until the pandemic.

“I love what I’m doing,” he said. “Then in March 2020 something happened that reminded us of the importance of family. We want to be closer to the Milwaukee area because of family.”

Like Koch, Watkins said he does not consider the superintendent job in the Port-Saukville School District to be a stepping stone to opportunities elsewhere.

“This is where I’ll be until my retirement,” he said.

Watkins, a Wisconsin native, began his career as a teacher in the one-school Princeton School District west of Ripon in 1993 and served as interim principal for a school year during his time there. 

He was an assistant principal and athletic director in the North Fond du Lac School District and a middle school principal in the Waupun School District before working in the Madison Metropolitan School District. There he served as a principal and college preparatory program director.

Watkins held administrative positions, including assistant superintendent for 18 months, in Minnesota’s Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District 191 before being hired as chief of schools for St. Paul Public Schools in January 2019.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Marian University in Fond du Lac.

Koch, who lives in Waubeka, began his career as a high school special education teacher, first in the Milwaukee Public Schools system in 2002, then at Kettle Moraine High School and later at Port Washington High School, where he worked from 2005 through 2010.

He went on to become an associate high school principal in the Denmark School District, then the director of special education and pupil services in the Denmark/Two Rivers school districts and the Cedarburg School District.

He has been the deputy superintendent of the School District of Waukesha since 2014.

Koch holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the UW-La Crosse, earned his teaching certification and a master’s degree in special education at UW-Milwaukee and has a doctorate in leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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