UPDATED 10 p.m. Monday
MAHOMET — The community's next school superintendent, who was approved by the Mahomet-Seymour school board Monday night, says he will begin his new job by "listening and learning."
Rick Johnston, currently superintendent at El Paso Gridley, accepted a three-year contract starting July 1.
Johnston will replace Keith Oates, who announced his departure after being named superintendent at Marion earlier this spring. Johnston's total compensation package will be around $180,000 per year, representing a decrease of about $20,000 from the current superintendent's salary.
The Illinois Association of School Boards served as consultant for the search, helping the board narrow down a slate of nearly 40 candidates for the job. School board President Terry Greene noted that over half of these candidates were sitting superintendents in other districts.
During the search process, the board, Mahomet-Seymour Education Association and members of the community indicated that they were seeking a candidate with a strong background in budgeting and finance, as Mahomet-Seymour faces a growing shortfall in its budget.
Greene praised Johnston's strong record at El Paso Gridley and said that the board felt that he was a good choice to help the district weather the current financial storms.
"When it comes to finance and the issues that this district and every other district is facing, we need a steady hand on the wheel," Greene said.
Johnston told the board that he believes strongly in the importance of team-building and cooperation. The first 90 to 120 days of his tenure, he said, "will set the direction for the district," as he does "a lot of listening and learning."
Johnston noted that there were only a handful of superintendent positions in the state that would've enticed him to leave El Paso Gridley. He said that he wanted to come to Mahomet because it's "such a well-respected district," citing its reputation for high performance and high expectations.
An Indiana native, he earned an undergraduate degree in business education from Marian College in Indianapolis, a master's degree in physical education from Purdue University, a school administration license from Oakland City College in Oakland City, Ind., and an educational education specialist degree from Eastern Illinois University.
Johnston has 32 years of experience in the field of education. Before taking the helm at El Paso Gridley in 2009, he spent 15 years in the Mount Carmel school district. There he served in a variety of roles in teaching, coaching and administration.
The El Paso Gridley district, in McLean County, is a little more than half the size of Mahomet-Seymour, at 1,293 students to 2,092 at M-S.
But Johnston said that he was looking forward to taking on the challenge of leading a larger district.
"I look at it as an opportunity to grow professionally and to grow personally," he said, adding that as superintendent of a smaller district he gained practical experience in many different areas.
Johnston also introduced his wife, Vanessa, to the board on Monday night.
The couple have a grown daughter, Brianna, who teaches high school.