Anoka-Hennepin Schools' next superintendent knows the district inside and out.
David Law enrolled as a student there in fifth grade and graduated from Coon Rapids High in 1987. He worked there as a pool attendant and lifeguard in high school, earning $3 an hour. He became a math teacher and then an assistant principal there.
His mom worked for the district. So did his wife. His brother still does.
He and his wife, Kathleen, live there. And he's a parent in the district, with three sons in its schools.
On Thursday night, the school board selected Law, 44, to succeed Dennis Carlson, who will retire in June. Law, an assistant superintendent at nearby White Bear Lake Schools, was one of three finalists.
"I have roots that go back a long way," he said Friday. "I am invested in the system and I am committed to the community."
Anoka-Hennepin is the state's largest school district, with more than 39,000 students, and it spans more than 172 square miles.
The district is negotiating a contract with Law. The retiring superintendent earns a base salary of about $180,000 a year, plus up to $20,000 in incentive pay based on completion of goals.
During his final interviews and school tours earlier this week, Law said he saw familiar faces at every stop.
"Every building that I went to, there were people I have worked with and we had good working relationships," he said.
Anoka High School Principal Michael Farley taught and coached football with Law at Coon Rapids High in the 1990s.
"He is a very down-to-earth guy," Farley said. "He brings a lot of gifts to the table. Most importantly he is focused on kids and improving programs."
Law said he'll try to build on the district's accomplishments and help it maintain gains in early childhood and secondary staff development programs despite lean budget years. Recently, Anoka-Hennepin has had several successes. For example, the district exceeded goals set by the state to shrink the gap between white and minority students on reading and math proficiency tests. It also exceeded state averages on proficiency tests.
Anoka-Hennepin also drew negative national attention a few years back over problems with bullying, particularly as linked to sexual orientation. After a period that included a 2011 lawsuit by six students, the district approved an antibullying consent decree with the federal government. It had already embarked on steps of its own, as well.
"I am less informed as an outsider. I feel they are on the right track. I will be learning as I go," Law said. "I have a heart for children. … I would feel terrible if any kid's entire day was spent worrying about how they were treated."
Law, the youngest of seven children, earned a bachelor's degree in math at Hamline University and a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law while working in education. He's never worked as a lawyer.
Law has held teaching and administrative positions in Anoka-Hennepin, Mounds View and White Bear Lake Schools. He has been an assistant superintendent in White Bear Lake since 2010. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, teaching a course on special education and the law.