COTTONWOOD — Jon Rehder has come full circle. The 1996 Prairie High School graduate is now serving as Cottonwood Joint School District 242 superintendent and Prairie Elementary School principal.
Rehder was born and raised in Cottonwood and, following graduation, went on to Lewis-Clark State College.
“I received my degree in general studies-education(non-teaching),” he smiled. “I did not really have a clue what I wanted to do at that point.”
That same year, 2001, he married another Prairie High School graduate Renee Arnzen (Prairie class of 1997), and the couple moved to the Treasure Valley where he worked with his brother-in-law for a lumber business.
“It wasn’t long before I figured out that wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” he laughed.
He obtained his secondary teaching degree through LCSC’s Pace program, and went on to teach a variety of subjects at Meridian High School, including history, physical education, global perspectives and intro to law enforcement. He also coached boys basketball for nearly a decade, and went on to a vice principal position in the Caldwell School District.
“We would always attend the Prairie games when they made it to state, and [then Prairie principal] Carrie Nygaard would ask me, ‘When are you moving home?’ and ‘When are you going to come back to Prairie and take over for me?’” Rehder recalled.
At the time, he and his family felt content where they were, but as they discussed it more, they began to note the plusses of raising children in a small town.
“Our youngest daughter, Aubree, is kind of a free spirit and open to whatever, but when our soon-to-be eighth grader, Ali, was all for moving to Cottonwood — that was definitely a sign,” he said.
The two girls already had a pack of friends in Cottonwood from the summers they spent with both grandparents, at the county fair and when Jon came home to harvest.
Rehder took the job as Prairie High School principal in 2017, and his wife, who works for Boise State University, was able to work remotely, a position she still holds.
“It was a good move,” Rehder said. Now, Ali is a senior and Aubree a freshman at PHS.
When district superintendent Rene’ Forsmann decided to retire last year, Rehder was hired for the job. Teacher Matt Elven was hired to take his place as PHS principal.
“I’ve had a great foundation paved for me,” Rehder said. “What Rene’ did for the district in this position for 11 years is phenomenal.”
He said he appreciates the support parents, patrons and the entire community offers Prairie schools.
“They are invested in the success of the kids, and it shows,” he added.
He’s been in the office this summer preparing for the school year, and while the halls of the schools currently have the “new” smell, thanks to flooring paid for with COVID-19 funds, he said he hopes to have a “normal” year.
“Define normal,” he smiled. “We have great teachers and staff, technology, students — and we plan to be here one-on-one, learning, and doing the best we can every single day,” he emphasized.
Rehder said he has no desire to jump in and change a bunch of things in the district.
“It’s working – it’s not broken, so why fix it?” he said.
However, he wants to be transparent, he said, and is “always open to new ideas.”
“I’m open-minded and I want to hear from everyone. I have an open-door policy, and anyone is welcome to stop by,” he stated.
Contact Rehder at firstname.lastname@example.org.