BY CAROL ROEHM
When Bob Rice retired from Danville District 118 schools eight years ago, he thought he was done with the education field.
Just a couple of years later, Rice found himself back in school as the principal of Schlarman High School in 2007.
On Tuesday, Rice announced his intention to retire on June 30 — the end of the current school year — to the faculty, staff and pastors at Schlarman Academy.
This time he plans to make his retirement stick.
“I’ve been thinking about retiring for a while,” he said Wednesday morning, adding that his wife Dianne has been retired for four years.
“I feel very blessed to have served in the educational field for 43 years and to have had the opportunity to finish my career in the Catholic school system. Schlarman Academy truly is a family,” he said.
Rice has been the principal of Schlarman High School, now Schlarman Academy, for the past six years. He also served as the principal of St. Mary’s School in Westville for two years. Prior to his service to Catholic school education, Rice was involved in public school education for 35 years as a District 118 administrator.
“The decision to retire was a difficult one. After 43 years in the education field, I am really going to miss the daily interaction with the kids and teachers and watching them grow,” he said. “I refer to them as ‘my kids’ and offer them advice.”
In his retirement, Rice plans to continue being an Illinois High School Association athletic official, as he has done for 30 years.
“We don’t have any retirement plans,” Rice said of him and his wife. “I’m just looking forward to less stress and waking up in the morning and deciding what to do that day.”
Rice’s teaching days began at the University of Illinois for one year; Manteno for two years; Georgetown-Ridge Farm school district for 25 years as a teacher, coach and administrator; and Danville District 118 for seven years as an administrator.
Rice and his wife have two children, Chris Rice and Kim Norton. The younger Rice is the principal of East Park Elementary School in Danville, and Norton, who is currently the assistant principal of North Ridge Middle School, has been newly named as principal of Northeast Elementary Magnet School next school year.
Rice recalls when he was an administrator at Georgetown-Ridge Farm, his son Chris was a science teacher in the same district. When anyone would ask which “Mr. Rice” was being referred to, Bob chuckled that he had the distinction of being known as “the old one.”
Under Rice’s leadership, the restructuring of Holy Family School, St. Paul’s School and Schlarman High School created Schlarman Academy during the 2011-2012 school year. During that restructuring process, Schlarman Academy was successful in raising more than $1.5 million in support of the new academy.
Rice said the formation of Schlarman Academy was one of the highlights of his career.
“Catholic schools are closing all over the country, but through the formation of the academy, it has made Catholic education in Vermilion County stronger and ensures it will be around for a long time in the future,” he said.
Father Gregory Nelson, president of the Vermilion County Pastors’ Board, said, “We will always be grateful for the tremendous contribution Mr. Rice has made to Catholic education in Vermilion County.
“His presence, interest and leadership during the formation of Schlarman Academy has been especially important, and he can always be proud of his efforts to help us steer Catholic education toward that vitality we have always been aiming to foster.”
Rice said he would not be a part of the selection process for a new principal at Schlarman Academy.
Applications are first collected by the Peoria Diocese and then a local selection committee will review the applications and make a recommendation to the academy’s board. That board will pass the recommendation on to the pastors’ board to make a final determination.