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Meet New Dublin School District Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Keith Rogenski

August 20, 2014

Dublin Unified School District Keith RogenskiThe commencement of the 2014-15 academic school years is just around the corner. The explosion of enrollment growth has resulted in 80 new teaching hires for the Dublin Unified School District. Additionally, there are new employees in leadership roles. OneDublin.org recently had the opportunity to sit down with the new Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Mr. Keith Rogenski.

Keith’s predecessor, Val Williams, recently accepted the role of Superintendent of the Albany Unified School District. With the aforementioned increase in student headcount in this district, this particular role has gained added importance. Keith is a Bay Area product and was educated in Pinole from primary through secondary education. He cited that at an early age, he was inspired by the subject of mathematics and envisioned that he would someday teach it – perhaps to high school students. Upon graduation from Pinole Valley High School, Mr. Rogenski enrolled at the University of California Berkeley for undergraduate studies. After 1.5 years, he was somewhat shocked and dismayed that the math major that he was pursuing was being dissolved due to lack of enrollment. He quickly shifted to the subject of Economics where math was still an essential element.

While he still had visions of teaching high school mathematics, an opportunity arose at an elementary arts magnet program in North Berkeley in a 4/5/6 combination class. While initially reluctant, he was immediately hooked by working with elementary students. His future path had been forged. Subsequent to graduating from Cal with an A.B. in Economics, he also completed a Multiple Subject Credential from Cal State University Hayward. He then followed this by attaining an Administrative Credential and a M.S. in Educational Leadership from the same institution.

Personally, he has been married to wife, Jan, for 20 years. Their daughter, Jenna, will attend San Diego State University in the fall and their son, Matthew, will be a junior at Benecia High School.

While initially working as a classroom teacher, Mr. Rogenski seized upon opportunities that would come his way in the direction of leadership. At the ripe age of 27, he was appointed as an Assistant Principal at Crystal Middle School. Three years later, he became the Principal at Bransford Elementary School. Shortly thereafter, he elevated to a Human Resources Administrator in Newark. While he may not have initially envisioned this track, it has been an uncommon whirlwind that has taken him back to Benicia and then to Antioch. We found his comments to be insightful and profound as it relates to quickly climbing the career ladder.

OneDublin.org: During our visit, you mentioned that your earliest career goals centered on someday teaching high school math.  Your undergraduate degree is in Economics.  What stimulated your career thought process and your passion for mathematics?  

Keith Rogenski: “My inspiration and passion for education were instilled by the many amazing teachers I had during my years growing up in Pinole. The fire I developed for mathematics was fueled by three outstanding math teachers I had in the 80’s at Pinole Valley High School – Mrs. Esther Oswalt, Mr. Don Linstad, and Mr. Robert Barrows. They were all very interesting and very different personalities. From my perspective, their love and fascination for their subject was both infectious and awe-inspiring. They demonstrated for me the powerful influence a teacher to inspire a student’s interest in a subject. In the fall of my junior year when I enrolled in Education 197 Field Studies, there wasn’t a need for any new math tutors at Berkeley High School. However, a tutor was needed in a 4/5/6 combination class at the Berkeley Arts Magnet Elementary School. So of course, I took it. Little did I know that working with younger students would be so much fun that I’d later decide to switch my focus from teaching high school to elementary school.”

OneDublin.org:  While you were succeeding as a classroom teacher, your administrative career track was moving in a highly accelerated pace.  It couldn’t simply be good fortune.  To what do you attribute to this upward arc?  

Rogenski: “I took advantage of opportunities early on in my career to develop and demonstrate my leadership potential as a teacher both at my school and at the District-level. I vividly remember hearing at my first faculty meeting that there was a vacancy on our school’s Site Council for a classroom teacher and that a primary teacher was most desired. My master teacher had served on Site Council during my student teaching the previous year, so I was familiar with the opportunity that this responsibility would provide me as a new 3rd grade teacher at the school. So, I jumped at the opportunity and was elected to serve.

“A few months later, again during my first year in the classroom, I saw a job posting opportunities to serve on the District’s Expulsion Hearing Panel. It was an after-school job that paid extra money. I was interested and poor, so I applied and was selected to serve. As a member of the Expulsion Panel, I got the opportunity to meet several other teacher leaders and administrators in the District. At the beginning of my second year teaching, our school needed a building representative for the local teachers’ association, so I volunteered to serve. This gave me the opportunity to meet many colleagues involved in Association work at several school sites, to learn how the Association worked with the District, and to serve on various joint District-Association committees, including the Calendar Committee, the Master Teacher Selection Committee, and the Evaluation Committee. By the time I began my fourth year in the classroom I’d earned my administrative credential, had gotten to know lots of teachers and administrators in the District, and had become involved in activities that allowed me to cultivate my leadership and show what I could offer as a leader. This paved the way for me to land an administrative position early in my career.”

OneDublin.org: The statewide shift to the Common Core Curriculum will take full form in 2014-15.  There remains significant curiosity from students, their families and staff as to how our district will support these goals.  As the Assistant Superintendent of HR, how do hope to support the educators in our district to maximize their efforts in the first year of implementation?

Rogenski: “School districts throughout California and much of the country have been working tirelessly over the past few years to prepare for and build the capacity of their teams – teachers, classified employees, and administrators – to successfully educate students in a Common Core environment. As you already know, I was a teacher and a site administrator for over 14 years before I began my work in Human Resources administration, so I’ve dealt directly with the challenges and opportunities that these kinds of shifts present at the school site and District levels. Although I’ve personally experienced some major paradigm shifts in education over the last 25 years, none compares in magnitude with the shift to Common Core.

“The primary function of a Human Resources Department within a school district is to attract, hire, train and retain the most promising and highest caliber employees possible to serve the needs of the students in the community and to collaboratively work with major constituencies to minimize the barriers to systemic progress and improvement. This applies whether a District is operating in a Common Core environment or not. As Dublin’s new personnel administrator, I’m going to dedicate my efforts to putting structures in place and modifying processes that may need some tweaking to ensure that effective recruitment and hiring practices are used, employee supervision and evaluation is managed well and taken seriously, decisions about employee retention are deliberate and well thought-out, initial training and induction are top quality, employee excellence is recognized and acknowledged, and that a culture of employee satisfaction and positive labor relations is developed and maintained. I believe that these efforts will best support our Common Core implementation in the coming school year and for many years to come.”

OneDublin.org: Unfortunately, some school districts in the Bay Area have been in the news – for all the wrong reasons.  There have been some questionable tactics by Board of Trustee members and some allegedly poor behavior by specific educators. Given your experience with the most serious accusation that a teacher could ever face what did you learn about how school districts need to respond to both respect fair process and to ensure student safety?

Rogenski: “Most of us know that public education in the Bay Area has faced increased scrutiny and negative press in the recent past for a variety of reasons, some of which are probably justified, others of which are not. A number of high-profile cases which have recently been documented in the local media about alleged employee misconduct toward students have caused some to question whether the public schools are safe places for children. Some criticism has even also been lodged against schools for seemingly supporting and defending their employees at the expense of protecting the health and safety of their students. I believe these concerns are ill-conceived and unfounded. Have there been transgressions in employee conduct toward students in the past? Yes. Will we continue to hear about such accusations or allegations in the future? Most likely. Will we ever be able to ensure that such actions against students or allegations against staff members won’t happen in our schools? Probably not.

“To be clear with you, in my experience and with very rare exception, people who choose to work in schools and dedicate themselves to public education are good people who care very deeply about working with kids and developing them into educated, well-adjusted, and contributing members of society. For that reason, I consider schools in general to be really safe places for kids. My experience with serious issues of the nature you’re asking about have emphasized for me the importance of ensuring that all staff maintain a clear distinction between their personal and professional lives with students, have a firm understanding of what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate interactions with students, demonstrate good judgment at all times, and receive regular, consistent, and high-quality training in their professional, ethical, and legal responsibilities for reporting known or suspected cases of suspicious or abusive conduct to the appropriate authorities. Moreover, when incidents of concern do occur and allegations of impropriety surface, they need to be addressed immediately so that any threat to student health and safety is removed and allegations are investigated in a thorough and impartial manner and with respect to due process under the law.”

OneDublin.org: Earlier, we discussed taking on a leadership role at a comparatively younger age.  For many, that might be a high hurdle to carry.  You shared a very funny anecdote when you were meeting some staff members when you ascended to Vice Principal at Crystal Middle School.  You came upon a teacher that happened to be a septuagenarian.  Please frame the context of this meeting and share the comment that she made to you.

Rogenski: “I’d love to. It’s probably one of my earliest and funniest memories I have as an administrator. It was on my first day as Vice Principal at Crystal Middle School in Suisun. I was 27 years old, a serious administrative neophyte! The school’s Principal, Lois Campbell, was walking me around to various areas on the campus where teachers congregated before school to introduce me to them. When we got to the library, just a few feet from my office, there were a few teachers from the 7th grade team meeting in the hallway. Lois interrupted them by saying, “Ladies, I’d like to introduce you to Keith Rogenski, our new Vice Principal.” The most senior teacher on campus, Roberta Wilsey, who was 70+ and couldn’t have been more than 4 ½ feet tall standing on a stepstool, eyed me quickly and doubtfully from head to toe, and blurted, “Vice Principal? I have clothes older than you are!” We broke out in great laughter as my face turned various hues of red. However, those words spoke volumes to me, because they helped me to understand right there on my first day that while I was now a supervisor, an authority figure, I had lots to learn. As I learned in my role as a new administrator for months and years to come at that school, there was lots of virtue in listening to and seeking to learn and understand from those who had more experience than I. I realize now, 21 years later, more than ever how important it is as a leader to ask lots of questions, seek clarity and understanding, and never assume that you know more than everyone else does about something, because someone will eventually cross your path and prove you wrong.”

So, career paths are never certain. Goals may be established and yet may ultimately give way to a different path. In the particular case, the career track for Keith Rogenski may have been preordained – without his personal awareness or knowledge. Nonetheless, the continuity of this vital position has been retained. OneDublin.org would like to congratulate Keith on his newly adorned post and we wish everyone a successful 2014-15 academic year.

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