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Westside acting principal awaits OK from school board

Superintendent Tom Westerhaus has picked Rita Humbert, principal of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School in Hastings, Minn., to be acting principal at Westside Elementary School for the 2010-11 year. The school board votes Monday night on the Humbert recommendation. She would replace Mike Ballard, who resigned earlier in the week to take a principal's job at Paperjack Elementary in his hometown of New Richmond.

Humbert was the runnerup earlier this summer for the academic services director opening that was filled by Mike Johnson, then Meyer Middle School principal.

Westerhaus told the Westside School staff Thursday that he thought very highly of Humbert.

"She was an outstanding candidate then, and one I thought I would keep in mind for future hiring," he said. "Little did I know that the future would be sooner rather than later."

With Ballard's resignation coming right before the start of the new school year, Westerhaus said there was no time to do a "full-search process."

"Rita knows that I am recommending to the board that her position be a one-year acting principal position and that she will be able to apply next spring for the full-time position, but that there are no guarantees," he said. "I feel very strongly about not doing a permanent hiring now until we have adequate time and a larger pool to choose from next year."

The search for a permanent principal at Westside and at Meyer Middle School will begin in February. Mark Chapin, who replaced Johnson at Meyer Middle School, is also an acting principal for the 2010-11 school year.

Westerhaus said Humbert brings strong credentials to lead Westside, including 11 years as principal at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, which goes from preschool to grade 8.

In addition, Humbert was a classroom teacher in the Prescott School District from 1981 to 1999, and was also that district's curriculum and staff development coordinator (1996-99) as well as gifted-and-talented coordinator (1994-97).

Humbert also has a local connection, having been director in the mid-1990s at the College for Kids and Teen University, a grades 4-9 program once offered by the UW-River Falls Outreach and Graduate Studies office.

If approved by the school board, Humbert will be eligible for the elementary school principal's annual salary of $94,388. However, since she's starting late and won't fulfill a standard 215-day contract, her pay will be slightly less.