ARIN IU 28 has a new executive director and, while he will be new to the region, he does have ties to Indiana.
James Wagner, who will take the reins from retiring Dr. Robert Coad Jr., will start Jan. 1.
Coad’s last day at ARIN IU 28 — where he has worked for nearly three decades, 16 of those as its top executive — will be Dec. 31.
Wagner is currently director of special education at the Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 in Smethport, McKean County. He has held that position for four years.
Wagner will be responsible for the public school agency’s administration and management. ARIN IU 28 provides a range of services for the 11 school districts in Armstrong and Indiana counties.
Its education, staff development, consultation, curriculum and technology services are also utilized by the area’s two technology centers, along with private schools and community agencies.
“It’s very similar in scope and size to the intermediate unit that I’m currently with,” Wagner said.
“It seems to be a very well-run intermediate unit.”
He will oversee ARIN IU 28’s $25 million-plus annual budget and a staff of more than 200. The intermediate unit’s board of directors includes representatives from each of the school districts it covers.
ARIN IU 28 also serves about 25,000 students in an area of approximately 1,600 square miles.
Wagner also previously served as director of special education for the Titusville Area School District and worked as a special-education teacher and consultant.
He also served on the Titusville Area School Board and Titusville city council.
In addition to his career in education, he worked in finance for 26 years.
The opportunity to work in the Indiana and Armstrong county region is one he welcomes.
“I thoroughly appreciate the values and philosophies found in a rural area,” he said.
A move to the Indiana area brings him closer to one of his children. Daughter Jennifer Villa lives in the borough with her family, including husband Chris Villa, IUP’s swimming coach, and their two children.
His two other children, a son and a daughter, live in North Carolina with their families.
The transition to ARIN IU 28 also, in a way, brings Wagner back to a time earlier in his life. His wife of 37 years, Diane, was a student at IUP.
It was there that he proposed to her.
“It’s kind of a sentimental thing at the moment,” he said.
Wagner said he is looking forward to getting to know the ARIN IU’s school districts and assisting them with some of the challenges in today’s world of education.
“Education overall in Pennsylvania is facing significant challenges and intermediate units in today’s world play a significant role in trying to be a conduit of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and their initiatives,” he said. “Those are all existing things that the ARIN IU is involved with currently.
“It will be certainly a significant challenge coming in after Dr. Coad has been there so many years and the respect and admiration he has across the state for his work across the state and within the intermediate unit.”
Coad said he was not part of the executive search process — ARIN IU 28’s board of directors reviewed the candidates and made the final selection. Coad said he is pleased with their decision.
“I am looking to working with Jim Wagner as he takes over as executive director,” Coad said. “Once he is aware of how we have been operating, he will begin to define how his administration will operate. I know that we have a great management team and staff for him as he enters the position.”
Amanda Mosco, ARIN IU’s assistant business manager, assisted with the executive search process. She said that two aspects of Wagner’s skill set helped him stand out — his work with special education and his more than 25 years of financial experience.
“That’s really a unique set of qualifications and we’re excited to have him on,” she said.
Wagner will visit the intermediate unit next week and will begin working with Coad during a transition period starting after Thanksgiving.