July 1, RBHS principal Dr. Jennifer Rukstad plans to begin her position as assistant superintendent for Columbia Public Schools (CPS). Dr. Rukstad announced her departure from RBHS to faculty in a short, emotional meeting after school today.
“My whole career has been here,” Dr. Rukstad said. “I owe pretty much everything to Columbia and RBHS. It’s a really big deal for me to leave here, but it’s been a real privilege to serve this school for this long.”
Dr. Rukstad’s time at CPS spans over 20 years and five different positions, according to a district-wide email from Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark. From serving as a teacher to the athletic director, Dr. Rukstad spent the entirety of her career moving up the ranks. As assistant secondary superintendent, Dr. Rukstad will manage over 11 schools including RBHS.
Throughout her time at RBHS, Dr. Rukstad worked with secretary Denise McGonigle. McGonigle says she developed a very good friendship with Dr. Rukstad throughout the years.
“She has the most patience, and she is a very good listener, and she is very kind,” McGonigle said. “I think we all feel like we’re a family. We know we have to let her go because it’s what’s best for the district.”
Dr. Rukstad left a lasting impact on not only the people she closely worked with but across RBHS’ 112-member staff. Civics and pop culture teacher Scott Wittenborn praised her leadership ability as one of her most outstanding qualities.
“She’s probably the best principal I’ve known and worked for,” Wittenborn said. “She is very trusting of her staff and I think a lot of people here appreciate that she doesn’t try to micromanage us.”
Her non-authoritative management of RBHS gained the appreciation of students like Kiren MacLeod. He said he is impressed by her management of the school and its students.
“I admire Dr. Rukstad because being able to manage a school that has freedom with responsibility as one of its central messages is incredibly difficult,” MacLeod said. “I had tremendous admiration for anyone who’s able to do that job, honestly.”
Next week marks the beginning of the search for Dr. Rukstad’s replacement. Though Dr. Rukstad starts her job as assistant superintendent just over one month after the school year ends, RBHS has yet to choose a new principal. McGonigle said Dr. Rukstad will be involved in selecting someone to pick the new position.
“Part of her job as the secondary superintendent is she will be hiring for her [former] position,” McGonigle said. “She’ll hire [a principal] for any school. She is hiring for the new school that’s being built. On Monday, they’ll post her job and she’ll find her replacement.”
Dr. Rukstad holds Columbia and RBHS in high esteem. As a RBHS graduate, she said she finds comfort in her former high school.
“Columbia is my home, and this place has always felt like home,” Dr. Rukstad said. “I grew up in the culture of RBHS and it’s always been a fit for me.”
What are you going to miss most about Dr. Rukstad? Comment below!