Bob Callaghan

A former Iowa school superintendent will be El Campo ISD’s new district chief, selected as the final candidate Wednesday. Robert Callaghan was chosen by the ECISD school board in a unanimous vote, and plans to transition from a Newton Red Bird to an official El Campo Ricebird by July 2.

“I’m excited,” Callaghan said. “(In ECISD) there’s great traditions, a lot of community and school pride. How could anybody be anything other than fully excited to be joining such a great organization?”

Callaghan served most recently as superintendent for Newton Community School District in Iowa and has 11 years of superintendent experience.

“We really feel like that experience will come in handy to have here in El Campo, and it’ll be an asset for El Campo,” Board President James Russell said.

The board reviewed 21 applications and conducted in-person interviews with five candidates during the last two weeks. A variety of applicants with different types of experience were considered before the board opted for Callaghan.

“His personality, I think, would be a really good fit,” Russell said. “He’s engaging and somebody that we feel like will be a trusted leader of the district.”

A native Iowan, Callaghan moved to Texas after graduating college. He went on to earn master’s degrees in health education at Pan American University, school administration at the University of Houston and received superintendent education at West Texas A&M University. He is currently a doctorate student at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Callahan served as district chief for Rogers Independent School District in Texas in 2009 before moving home to Iowa for family reasons in 2013. He was previously a health education teacher, an assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and coached basketball, track and cross country.

He resigned from NCSD in October 2019, according to the Newton Daily News, and served as superintendent for the district for the remainder of the school year. His NCSD resignation is effective June 30.

Having dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic at NCSD this year, Callaghan hopes that experience, coupled with his background in health education will help him prepare for a potential COVID-19 outbreak this fall.

“Working with a great team of school administrators, nurses, county officials and city officials we hope to treat this virus with respect and also to handle it so we can continue to provide educational opportunities for kids,” Callaghan said.

Looking to prepare the district for future COVID-19 outbreaks, the ECISD school board plans to engage Callaghan in a consulting contract before officially hiring him in about three weeks. Texas law requires school boards to wait 21 days before officially hiring a lone finalist as superintendent.

“We feel like it’s just going to be important for our new superintendent to just get boots on the ground here and get a feel for what we need to do as far as planning for the start of school,” Russell said.

Part of a superintendent’s job is to address goals set by the school board. The board plans to officially set goals for Callaghan in the future, after he’s signed a contract with the district, Russell said.

“We’ve definitely talked in detail about our district and the good things that we have going on here,” he said. “We’ve talked about some of the things that we think may need attention.”

As for Callaghan’s salary and benefits, ECISD’s attorneys are still figuring out those details and drawing up his contract. Russell said the board will be sure to make that information available soon. Outgoing ECISD Superintendent Kelly Waters’ annual salary was $147,805, as of March, 2019. Her starting salary in 2015 was $140,000.

Waters resigned May 4 and will serve in the position until June 30. She will start as the assistant superintendent of curriculum for Vidor ISD July 1.

Russell said he was proud of the job the board did to find the district’s next superintendent.

“It was a very challenging task and they did a good job of putting the district in the best possible position to get the best possible candidate,” he added.

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