After a 10-year run as Superintendent of the Chehalis School District — that saw many local schools meet or exceed their performance goals — Ed Rothlin hopes to pass the baton to a new leader who will continue to strive for excellence in the mission of preparing students for bright futures as responsible, contributing community members.
“When I came to the Chehalis School District, it was a very, very good district. The challenge was to go from good to great. Our teachers and our staff and our board were all about that,” Rothlin said.
Rothlin announced his plans to retire earlier this month, and said he looks forward to serving as a recently appointed Lewis County PUD commissioner and fitting in a few rounds of golf wherever he can.
In his recent interview with The Chronicle, Rothlin, 63, said he never regretted one moment of his 42-year career in education while progressively moving up the ranks. Rothlin recounted his beginnings as a business teacher in Adna in the late 1970s, to later becoming a principal at Centralia Middle School and ultimately being hired as the superintendent of Adna’s School District in 2001. He moved to the Chehalis School District nine years later.
Rothlin listed among his accomplishments the Student Achievement Initiative (SAI), which seeks to improve student performance through quality teaching, modernizing teaching with technology and preparing students for success in college and beyond.
In his Nov. 19 retirement letter, he listed examples of how SAI is thriving, which include: The rise of graduation rates from 87 percent in 2011 to 95 percent in 2019, which far exceeds the state average of 78 percent; the percentage of students who graduate 4-year college increasing from 31 percent in 2008 to 59 percent; 73 percent of students enrolling in post-high-school education; A 28 percent rise in Chehalis students taking algebra by the 8th grade from 28 percent in the 2011-2012 to 58 percent currently; and a 2022 projection of 60 percent of graduates going beyond high school to earn an additional credential, which eclipses the national average of 30 percent.
On that note, Rothlin added other notable benchmarks during his tenure, such as the construction of two new schools and the ongoing commitment to strengthen relationships between teachers, staff, the board of directors and the surrounding community.
“There’s really something special in Chehalis and I would say it’s a real team thing,” he noted while also attributing this district’s success to the ability of adapting to change, particularly in terms of educating today’s children.
To that end, he said, the goal lies in not only seeing the teachers connecting with their students, but also allowing the youth to connect with and relate to one another.
“The world is much faster now than it used to be. When we were in school, it was a much slower pace and the way we learned was different. That’s a big piece of what our teachers are working on is our students’ need to be engaged more just because that’s the pace of life that they’ve lived since they were born,” Rothlin said. “We didn’t do (that) as much many years ago as we do now simply because of that fast pace that kids are living through and how they interact among themselves. The relationships they have are different than the way we used to form relationships.”
As for the selection of a new superintendent — slated to be hired Jan. 1 and begin work July 1 — Rothlin said that he has been “kind of in the background” in meeting with consultants Northwest Leadership Associates, who have been hired to conduct a nationwide recruiting effort. In that process, the board has reportedly taken the lead in explaining to the search firm the type of individual they’re looking for to lead the Chehalis School District.
But as for what lies ahead for Rothlin on a personal level, the happily married father and grandfather said he plans to spend quality time with his grandchildren, as well as looking forward to traveling a bit more than usual.
However, his new role with the Lewis County Public Utility District won’t allow him to totally step back into relative anonymity — and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I don’t sit still very well, so I’ll always need something to do,” he concluded.