The news of James Hauenstein's appointment by the Toms River Regional School Board found him surrounded by a large crowd of people, each waiting to personally congratulate the newest assistant superintendent.
Hauenstein, who has served 12 years in administration and 17 in teaching, smiled broadly and reciprocated dozens of handshakes, hugs and congratulations with a hearty "thank you" to each.
Toms River High School North Principal Hauenstein will serve as the newest assistant superintendent for Toms River Regional Schools.
The announcement came with a standing ovation in the school Hauenstein oversees, Toms River North, where Tuesday's board of education meeting was held.
"It will be difficult to walk out that door," Hauenstein said after the school board meeting. "It will not be easy to walk of out this building and say goodbye. It will be bittersweet."
The school district’s third assistant superintendent position has been vacant since Frank Roselli served as interim Superintendent in October, when then-Superintendent Michael J. Ritacco resigned amid scandal. Tuesday, the school board discussed who should fill the spot.
While Roselli has been holding both the superintendent and assistant superintendent positions, issues affecting the high schools and special education did not have a dedicated assistant superintendent to address them.
“Though I received tremendous support from the two assistant and high school principals, it’s not a way to run a school district,” Roselli said tonight. “We look to be proactive, not reactive, and it’s my opinion it’s in the best interest to have this position filled.”
The district has had the job posting up for about six weeks, said district spokesperson Tammi Millar. Roselli said 33 applicants applied and eight were interviewed.
“Frank Roselli has been serving as both but felt this is a position that needs to be filled,” Millar said.
After a series of screenings and interviews, the Toms River Regional School Board met in executive session Tuesday to discuss which candidate to appoint. Roselli said six candidates were from inside the district and two applicants were from outside the Toms River Regional Schools.
The assistant superintendent position is dedicated to the district’s three high schools — North, East and South — as well as the 2,100 special education students.
Millar said the assistant superintendent position did not have a search for candidates, instead the vacancy was posted and advertised.
Hauenstein said his background includes instruction and administration of high school and special education.
He started in the district as a special education instructor at Intermediate East in 1982, before becoming Cedar Grove Elementary's supervisor of instruction. He also served as an assistant principal and building principal at Toms River Intermediate East.
For the past seven years, Hauenstein was the principal for Toms River North High School, where he pointed to success in bringing up SAT scores, focusing on student's ownership of their goals, and installing specialized programs for the special education students. For example, the school recently installed a job shadowing program for its special education students, Hauenstein said.
Hauenstein said he applied for the job both because he believes in the district and because he hopes the position will challenge him.
"Toms River is a great district, an outstanding district," he said. "I hope whatever talents I have can be used in this role to continue to impact and improve the district for all its students."