By John Burton
RED BANK– Though borough schools have been quiet with students and much of the staff gone for the summer, it’s still a very busy time for Jared Rumage.
“It’s an exciting time,” said Rumage, who began July 1 as the district’s superintendent of schools.
Rumage, 41, spent his first few days in the district, at the end of June, meeting with Harold Reid, who has been serving as the interim superintendent, staff and faculty, before taking over. He called Reid “one of the kindest gentleman I’ve ever met,” who helped him get a feel for the district as he prepared to take over the helm.
Since stepping into his role of superintendent of schools, Rumage said he’s spent the last almost month, “meeting the people,” who he will be working with and overseeing in their educational roles, “trying to get myself established and understanding the culture, the traditions and all the inner workings of the organization.”
He has sat down with such community leaders as Mayor Pasquale Menna, state Senator Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, and Police Chief Darren McConnell. All “have been very supportive.”
The district has a primary school and a middle school with approximately 1,300 students and about 110 faculty and staff.
“My primary goal is to make sure everybody is excited to be part of the school community,” the first-time superintendent said. “I want everyone to be energized – the kids, the faulty, the staff.”
He said his role, in part, is to be “head cheerleader” for the district, keeping everyone aware of the positive strives the district has been making.
While doing that, he will be listening and learning. “I seek advice from everyone and anyone. I try to get as many perspectives as I can,” he said.
“I think it’s unfair for me to come in and change things without first seeing” what is working, he said.
He has used that strategy before, seeking counsel in his previous postings and relying on what others have told him about lessons learned.
The job requires Rumage to be one of the primary decision makers for the district and he said it will be a learning experience.
“I could sit in my office and not make mistakes, but to be out there, trying to do the best for the kids and the district, I’ll make mistakes,” he said. “And when I do, I’ll be the first to admit it.”
The post has “a lot of challenges” with the district facing budgetary constraints, minor issues with the district’s two facilities and the limits of instructional resources. That is in conjunction with addressing the needs of a student population, 90 percent who qualify for free and reduced lunches – a traditional measure of economic need – and a large percentage of whom speak English as a second language.
The challenges don’t change Red Bank’s – or any other district’s – ultimate task. “Our job and our duty is to make sure every kid learns … in a nurturing environment, a place where everyone is treated with respect,” he said.
Rumage said he wanted to work in the Red Bank district because of the progress the district has accomplished and what he has heard about the educational community. And in just a few short weeks, “I’m encouraged I made the right choice” in taking the position, he said, “because the people are fantastic.”
Rumage, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, comes to the district from the Woodbridge school district, where he was principal of the Iselin Middle School for the past five years. Prior to that, Rumage held a number of positions in that district, including as special education teacher and athletic director.
Rumage and his wife Karen live in Fair Haven. They have two children, Jamie, who will be a freshman at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, and Dylan, who will be a sixth-grader at the Knollwood School in September.