ROCK ISLAND — Friends, family and district staff gathered Thursday night to celebrate the career and impact of retiring Superintendent Mike Oberhaus, whose final day with the Rock Island-Milan School District is Friday.
Oberhaus shook hands and hugged reception attendees for about two hours straight at the Hauberg Civic Center in Rock Island. The event marked Oberhaus’ 33 years with the school district. His career spanned from his time as director of accounting and computer service in 1986, then comptroller and associate superintendent. He has served as superintendent since 2010.
New leadership for the district already has begun, with school board members appointing Robert Lagerblade as interim superintendent. This was necessitated by Oberhaus’ late December announcement that he would retire early and become the vice president for finance administration for the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. Beginning July 1, the district will be led by new superintendent Reginald Lawrence.
Thursday’s reception was filled with community members as well as current and past instrumental leaders of the district. Attendees viewed a slideshow of Oberhaus’ time with the district, including photos of him handing out his famous red pencils at the Rock Island Labor Day Parade.
Former school board member Jerry Tutsky said he had known Oberhaus since the 1980s and served on the school board that selected him to serve as superintendent.
“Mike was an outstanding representative of the Rock Island School District,” Tutsky said. “He is a tireless worker, and he worked very hard to advance the educational opportunities for Rock Island students.”
Tutsky added that Oberhaus is an extremely loyal and an excellent administrator.
Current board member Dave Rockwell said he had known Oberhaus for 30 years, both from Rockwell’s time on the school board and his years involved with the Booster Club. Rockwell said Oberhaus’ financial background helped the district through some very difficult times “and his leadership as superintendent has brought some really positive programs and changes to the district that are making a difference for our children.”
Rockwell called Oberhaus a man of great integrity, intelligence and commitment to the district. Rockwell said Oberhaus would be missed, but he is excited about the new opportunities for the district under the leadership of new superintendent Lawrence and the new opportunities ahead for Oberhaus.
“I wish him well and know that the Quad City Chamber has hired a super star. He will take the chamber financial office to a new level of expertise and effectiveness.”
Kim Jorgensen, an Edison Junior High School paraprofessional, said she had known Oberhaus for 17 years. Jorgensen is the union president for the district’s paraprofessionals and serves on the district leadership team.
“I’ve enjoyed his insightfulness in what he does for the district,” she said. “He listens; he has always listened to staff members and the kids.”
Jerry Jones, executive director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, said Oberhaus had been a great superintendent.
“He’s just a great person and human being that you are able to rely upon,” Jones said. “He’s a paragon of integrity and just someone I enjoy being around.”
Oberhaus said Thursday he was excited for his next chapter, but the change also elicited other feelings.
“I feel melancholy,” he said. “It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to a phenomenal organization that does great things every day for kids. I know they’ll continue doing great things for kids.”
Oberhaus said he had been blessed with the experiences he had had with the district and he was excited to continue his career with a great organization like the Quad Cities Chamber. He said he was excited to focus on helping the Quad Cities grow.
Oberhaus said seeing all the faces Thursday at the reception reminded him of the many people he had been fortunate to work with. He said he thanked those people and had great memories of the things they’d been able to accomplish over the years.
“I truly feel humble and blessed to have the journey I’ve had and continue to have.”