ALEXANDRIA, Ky. -- David Rust was remodeling his bathroom on April 5 during spring break when he received a call from Janis Winbigler, chairwoman of the Campbell County school board. She and the vice chairman wanted to meet with him immediately at a restaurant near his Independence home.
“I was in a tee shirt and jeans and covered in paint and caulk,” Rust said. “I jumped in the shower and left. My wife was freaking out because she didn’t know what was going on.”
Neither did Rust, until he got to the restaurant. It was a follow-up interview to a previous one he’d had for the district’s open superintendent’s job. The meeting lasted for more than two hours. When Rust came home, he took his wife into the garage, away from their four kids, to share a secret.
“I got the job, but because the board was leaving for a national conference in a couple days and because they had to notify the other finalists (who were on or about to go on spring break), I couldn’t tell anyone except my wife,” Rust said. “It was a long couple of weeks.”
But for his dream job, it was worth it.
Rust, 45, was unanimously hired by the board on April 18 from among 14 applicants and was given a three-year contract. He replaces Glen Miller, who retired in November.
“We’re going to enroll our kids here and eventually move here,” Rust said. “I hope to retire from this position.”
Rust had been the director of academic services in Bellevue Independent Schools the past two years. He’s been an educator in Northern Kentucky for 21 years.
“David is one of the most upstanding individuals I have ever known,” said Winbigler. “The board as a whole saw his academic strengths and the good ideas he has to continue the success we’ve had in Campbell County.”
Rust’s father, Allen Rust, has been an educator for 46 years, though the younger Rust had no intention of following in his father’s footsteps. He started as a pre-med student, but realized by his third year that it wasn’t for him.
“I went through a lot of conversations and heartache trying to figure it out,” Rust said. “My dad and mom always thought I’d make a good educator, but they never said it. They wanted me to find my own path.”
His first job was at Scott High School in the Kenton County School District, teaching in the social studies department with his dad. After six years, he was promoted to assistant principal, a job he held for two years. The father and son also coached softball and volleyball together.
“My eight years working at Scott with my dad every day is something I will always cherish and never trade for anything,” Rust said. “Those are years you don’t get back.”
Rust left Scott in 2003 to become principal of Ludlow Middle School.
“I was delighted to work with him at Scott,” Allen Rust said of his son, “but I was also delighted when he left for Ludlow because it enabled him to spread his wings.”
Rust was at Ludlow until his job was eliminated in 2007 due to the middle school/high school merger. He was hired that summer by Boone County Schools as principal at R.A. Jones Middle School, a school that had a rapidly increasing population of students below the poverty level and who didn’t speak English.
“It was my best educational experience ever,” Rust said. “It opened my eyes to things I’d never been exposed to. It made me a better educator and administrator.”
He left R.A. Jones for Bellevue in 2014 after earning his doctorate in education.
“When he started here, one of my jobs was to put him in a position to bolster his tool belt,” said Bellevue Superintendent Robb Smith, who has known Rust since they were classmates at Scott. “He has worked incredibly hard for this and is well prepared. It’s a great move for Dave and for Campbell County.”
Campbell County is one of the top districts in the state, according to test scores. Rust calls it “a small big district or a big small district.” With 4,850 students, it has one middle school and one high school, which means all students in the five elementary schools will eventually be classmates.
“I’ve worked in two of the largest districts (Kenton and Boone) and two of the smallest (Ludlow and Bellevue),” Rust said. “I consider this situation in Campbell to be the best in this area. We have the resources we need to be successful, but we’re also small enough that I will be able to get to know the kids by name.”
Rust is currently working on building relationships within the community and spending time with school staff. He will be evaluating programs, services and operations in the coming months “to look for opportunities to tweak and improve.”
So how does Rust think his dad feels about his latest accomplishment?
“I think he’s more excited than he’s likely to show,” Rust said. “I can tell he’s brimming with pride without actually saying it.”
But Dad has no problem saying it.
“I'm very happy that he has the opportunity to do what he wants to do,” Allen Rust said. “With his solid work ethic, vision and integrity, he’s going to do a lot of good things for Campbell County.”