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John Thein is returning to a familiar role as interim superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools.

Thein, who served a year at the helm of the state's second-largest district until current schools chief Joe Gothard was hired in 2017, now is set to succeed him before a permanent successor is named, under a contract approved by the school board Wednesday night.

Board Chair Halla Henderson cited Thein's passion and enthusiasm in pushing for his hiring at an annual salary of $230,000 beginning May 20. Thein also is expected to serve "as needed" in a transition role from April 29 to May 17, Gothard's departure date, and would be paid $111 an hour during that time.

Thein is best known as the longtime superintendent of the Roseville school district and was credited with being a steadying influence in St. Paul following the board's ouster of Superintendent Valeria Silva. He faced a $27.3 million budget deficit going into the 2017-18 school year, but managed to push through the late hiring of 10 full-time equivalent English language learning (ELL) instructors.

Gothard, who recently was recognized as the 2024 National Superintendent of the Year, is heading to his hometown of Madison, Wis., to be that district's new schools chief beginning May 20.

"Passing the baton back to Dr. Thein is a familiar feeling after I received it from him in 2017," Gothard said in a news release. "Dr. Thein knows St. Paul Public Schools well."

The district has yet to announce a timeline for the hiring of a new permanent leader.