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Ogden school officials pick in-house candidate Luke Rasmussen to lead district

By Tim Vandenack standard-Examiner - | Jun 30, 2021
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Luke Rasmussen takes the oath as new superintendent of the Ogden School District on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, from Zane Woolstenhulme, the district's business administrator.

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Luke Rasmussen was formally picked to serve as superintendent of the Ogden School District on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. He replaces the departing Rich Nye.

OGDEN — Ogden School District officials didn’t have to look far to find a new superintendent.

They searched nationwide but ended up selecting a new leader from in house — Luke Rasmussen, who had served as head of secondary instructional leadership for the district and before that as principal of Ogden High School. He’ll replace the departing Rich Nye as superintendent of the district.

“I’m really passionate about helping all of our students. We have a very diverse student population and I’m excited about doing everything we can to support those students and all of our students,” Rasmussen said after the Ogden School Board formally ratified his pick at a special meeting on Tuesday. “One of the reasons why I came to Ogden is because I enjoy working with a very diverse student population and value diversity. I’ve been able to get really great outcomes for students from underserved populations and I want to continue to do that.”

The Ogden School District, with just over half of its students identifying as Hispanic, is one of the most diverse in the state, according to state enrollment data. It is one of only two school districts in Utah that are not majority-white.

Jennifer Zundel, the school board president, cited Rasmussen’s ability to connect with teachers and students alike. “His genuine concern for individual students. He’s a great mentor,” Zundel said.

Nye, appointed superintendent here in 2017, is departing after a little more than four years in the spot to lead Granite School District in Salt Lake County, much larger than the Ogden School District. In announcing his departure last April, the board lauded Nye’s efforts to bolster high school graduation rates in Ogden via implementation of NEXUS Elevated, an educational framework meant to boost literacy.

EMILY ANDERSON, Standard-Examiner file photo

Ogden School District Superintendent Rich Nye speaks at a press conference in Ogden on Feb. 23, 2021.

“We are confident that Mr. Rasmussen will lead the district with an ear to the school level and be able to streamline the efforts to continue in the Nexus Elevated Strategic Initiative while honoring the reality of the work that has led to tremendous recent improvements and student outcomes,” Zundel said in announcing Rasmussen’s selection.

In a message emailed to Ogden School District parents, Rasmussen also spoke of the importance of connecting with students.

“I believe that a positive school culture is more important than any strategy we can employ,” he said. “We need to interact with our students and our community each and every day in a way that they know they are loved and cared for. I also believe that what we focus on grows. We need to be direct and focused on the most important things in order to achieve the desired results our students deserve.”

Rasmussen started as head of secondary instructional leadership for Ogden schools in June 2020. Prior to that, he was principal at Ogden High School, earning the title as principal of the year in 2019 by the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals along the way. The recognition came for his work boosting student achievement and school growth, the district said in a statement. Before that, he served as principal of Northridge High School in Layton in the Davis School District. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Weber State University, where he played football as an undergraduate.

More than two dozen candidates applied for the superintendent post, from within the state and as far away as Texas and Illinois. A candidate review team made of members of the school board, district employees, parents and others helped narrow the list of hopefuls.

Among school officials’ aspirations going forward are continued improvements in high school graduation rates and participation in advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, said the district statement. Supporting English-language learners will likewise be a priority. “We also look forward to ongoing success in bridging the gap for our diverse population of students including racial and ethnic minorities as well as students living in poverty,” said the statement.

Rasmussen will earn a base annual salary of $175,000, according to district spokesman Jer Bates.

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