DANVILLE — Schlarman Academy officials will begin searching for a new leader soon.
That's because Principal Bob Rice will step down at the end of the school year after more than 43 years in education, the last six at the Catholic school.
Rice said the decision to retire wasn't easy.
"I am really going to miss the interactions with staff, coaches, parents and students," said Rice, who announced his intention to retire to the academy's faculty, staff and pastors on Tuesday. "I feel very blessed to have served in the education field for 43 years and to have had the opportunity to finish my career in the Catholic school system. Schlarman Academy truly is a family."
Rice and his wife, Dianne, live in Danville.
A Danville native and 1967 Danville High School graduate, Rice began his teaching career at the University of Illinois. After a year there and two years in Manteno, he moved to the Georgetown-Ridge Farm school district, where he taught math, health and physical education at the junior high school and driver's education at the high school, then worked as a junior high school administrator. He also coached basketball, track, cross country and baseball at both the junior high and high school levels.
Twenty-five years later, Rice went to the Danville school district, where he served as a Danville High School assistant principal for four years and as the North Ridge Middle School principal for three years.
In 2005, he became principal of the old St. Mary's School in Westville, where he also taught algebra and coached boys' and girls' track for two years. He took over as principal of Schlarman High in 2007.
Under Rice's leadership, the high school and Holy Family and St. Paul's schools — the two Catholic pre-K-8 schools in Danville — merged to form the academy, which opened in August 2011. During that restructuring process, officials raised more than $1.5 million to support the new academy, which operates at the former St. Paul and Schlarman High campuses.
"We will always be grateful for the tremendous contribution Mr. Rice has made to Catholic education in Vermilion County," the Rev. Gregory Nelson, St. Paul's Parish priest and the Vermilion County Pastors Board president, said in a release.
"His presence, interest and leadership during the formation of Schlarman Academy has been especially important, and he can always be proud of his efforts to help us steer Catholic education toward that vitality we have always been aiming to foster."
Rice was awarded a Golden Ruler Award Certificate of Excellence in Education in 1998. He also has appeared in "Who's Who Among America's Teachers."
He is a member of the Illinois Principals Association, the National Federation of Athletic Officials Association and the U.S. Track and Field Association and has been a longtime athletic official with the Illinois High School Association. He also is a past member of the Danville Family YMCA's board of directors.
Rice's two children — Chris Rice and Kimberly Norton — followed their father into education and both work in the Danville district. Chris Rice serves as principal at East Park Elementary School, while Norton is assistant principal at North Ridge and will take over as principal at Northeast Elementary Magnet School later this year.
Application forms for the principal's position are available online at http://www.cdop.org.