MONTVILLE, NJ - The life story of Dr. René Rovtar is an interesting journey. It includes being born in France, growing up in her father’s hometown, marrying her high school sweetheart, working in education for 37 years, being a runner in the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 missing the finish line and bombing by only two minutes, and taking the job as superintendent of schools in Montville Township in 2015, along with many other accomplishments.
Dr. Rovtar was born in Bordeaux, France where her father was stationed. This explains the accent in her name René. The family remained in France for only a year after Dr. Rovtar was born, and then they moved to her father’s hometown of Millington, NJ. From then on, Dr. Rovtar has been a Jersey girl.
Her mother’s name was RoseAnna and father’s name was Russell, but he went by his middle name and was called Larry. Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked in the family business called Nicholas Thomas Lumber Company. She has two younger sisters Rhonda and Roxanne.
Dr. Rovtar attended her hometown school in Millington and went on to Watchung Hills Regional High School, where she was involved in the high school marching band as a percussionist.
After high school, she attended Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, where she majored in French and got her teaching degree. For her degree, she spent a semester abroad in Paris. She also continued her involvement in her college marching band as a percussionist.
After college, Dr. Rovtar taught French in Chatham and Madison on the junior high and high school levels.
Because she was involved in education and interested in her hometown, she ran for the Passaic Township Board of Education, now called Long Hill Township, and won. This experience opened her eyes to school administration, so she decided to go to Montclair State University to get her master of arts degree in education, administration, and supervision.
She eventually went on to receive an educational specialist degree from Rutgers University, the equivalent of a doctoral degree without the dissertation, and received her doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
After getting her degree in education, administration, and supervision, she got her first job as a school business administrator in Garwood in 1981 and moved about in this field for ten years and “enjoyed it.” But as business administrator, she needed to be out many night at meetings, and with two young children, she decided to look for a job that would involve less night work. Her children at this time were five and three years old.
Dr. Rovtar then got a job in 1993 as Morris County school business administrator, which is part of the NJ State Department of Education. With less night meetings, this allowed her to spend more time with her family. She did this for four years and then became the Morris County Superintendent of Schools and stayed in the NJ Department of Education for ten years.
In January of 2004, when her children were older, she became assistant superintendent in Madison and in July of 2005, left to become superintendent of schools in Butler.
Since her mother had been a Butler resident and went to Butler High School, Dr. Rovtar felt connected to the community and “greatly enjoyed” working there. She said that “it was genuinely a nice place to work.”
After three years in Butler, the superintendent job in her hometown opened up, and she applied and got the job as superintendent of Long Hill, which is the school district that includes Millington. Dr. Rovtar remained at Long Hill from 2008 to 2015 until she took the job of superintendent of schools in Montville Township.
She left Long Hill because it was a K-8 school district, and Dr. Rovtar wanted to be part of a K-12 district. She said it is gratifying to see the end result of a K-12 program.
At Montville Township, she has shown her ability by being named Morris County Superintendent of the Year for 2016-17.
Dr. Matthew Kayne, president of the Montville Township Board of Education, described why Dr. Rovtar was hired and spoke on her leadership ability.
He said, "We were fortunate enough to have a good number of qualified applicants for the superintendent search that brought Dr. Rovtar into our district. The Board interviewed what we expected were the most qualified, and amongst them, Dr. Rovtar was head and shoulders above. She continues to impress the board with her insight, intelligence, knowledge on a broad array of educational matters, and her unique ability to follow through and forge innovation forward. She has vast experience and seemingly effortlessly disentangles the most intricate of issues. Our district is fortunate to have her as our educational leader."
Dr. Rovtar has been in the field of education for 37 years and said that one never knows the challenges that one might have to face. She said, “It is always a learning experience.”
She married her high school sweetheart Peter Rovtar and has been married to him for 34 years. They have two children, a son Peter and a daughter Kristina. Her husband Peter owns an insurance agency. Her son is department manager for REI, an outdoor recreation company in East Hanover, and her daughter is a high school art teacher.
She began her interest in running when she was close to 40 years old when she was asked to participate in a 5K run in Randolph, along with other dignitaries such as the mayor and freeholders. She said that she was the only one to come in sneakers. She had never run a race before, and it was a challenge. But she said that she had a “phenomenal time.”
Dr. Rovtar was impressed with the support she got from everyone as she ran the race. Since then, she has been hooked. Because she became serious about running, she began to train herself and began training to run marathons. Since then, she has run 24 marathons, including the Boston Marathon 11 times, the Marine Corps Marathon 3 times, and the New York Marathon once. She is proud to have run a marathon with both of her children.
She said that she became interested in sports later in life because when she was in school there weren’t many opportunities for girls in athletics.
Dr. Rovtar spoke about her experience at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings. It was the date of her father’s birthday. She explained that at this point in time, her mother and father were both deceased. She truly believes that there was heavenly intervention for her and her family on this day, and when the facts are presented, one can see why she believes this.
She explained that her husband was ill and did not come with her that day to wait for her at the finish line. Her daughter, who would always see her mother at Heart Break Hill and then meet her at the finish line, did not go to the finish line that day because her father wasn’t there.
Dr. Rovtar also stated that she never carries her cell phone when she runs, but on this day she did. She explained that even though the race was timed, she became warm and took the time to take off her jacket and tie it around her waist. All were important factors on this day because when she was only two minutes from the finish line, the bombs exploded. If she had not stopped to take off her jacket to tie it around her waist, she would have been at the finish line at the time of the bombings. And if her husband had not been ill, he and their daughter would have been in the crowd waiting at the finish line.
Having her cell phone also was a blessing. Since she had her phone, she was able to call her family to tell them that she was not injured and explain what was going on.
She described herself as being frightened that day and happy to have gotten back to her hotel. She was able to get her car and leave the next morning.
Dr. Rovtar did go back to Boston in 2014 to run in the marathon and cross the finish line. She said that she needed to do this to have some closure.
When asked what she is most proud of since becoming superintendent of Montville Township public schools, Dr. Rovtar said it is her part in spearheading OneMontville, which is a committee of diverse people in Montville Township who help guide the community towards greater acceptance and unity. She said, “It is a solid group with a much needed purpose.” She explained that most of the 2015-2016 year was spent organizing the group, developing a mission statement and bylaws and completing the paperwork to have OneMontville recognized as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit organization. She has been excited about the organization’s progress and involvement in local activities, such as the Fourth of July Parade and TowacoFest. She is assisting with the planning of the group’s first Day of Respect and Community Service on Martin Luther King Day, January 16, 2017.
She is also proud of her work in developing Montville’s five year strategic plan which will lead the school district in an “exciting direction.” She stated, “The strategic plan is being developed with input from the community through a series of open meetings. The final input meeting will be held on January 12, 2017. At that point, the participants will establish goals in several areas including student achievement, culture and communications, and technology. Once the goals are identified, the administrative team will develop an action plan to guide the district towards their accomplishment over the next five years."
Another of her accomplishments is developing and expanding the world language program in the middle school and high school. She is excited about expanding the world language program to the elementary schools also.
She said that keeping up with technology also is an important goal.
Her hobbies include traveling and reading. She said one of the things on her bucket list is to visit all 50 states, and she only has about seven more states to visit. As for her reading preference, she said she reads a lot of different type of books.
When asked what is one thing most people do not know about you, she said it is that she was the drummer in a rock band when she was in high school. The band played at restaurants and was simply referred to as Stan and Mike, the names of the two lead singers of the group.
Dr. Rovtar is an exceptional woman who has dedicated her life to education. She has accomplished much in Montville Township since the summer of 2015, and she is planning on accomplishing much more. She indicated that even though she has been working in the field for decades, there are always new challenges that present themselves. She stated, “It is precisely these new experiences that make the job interesting. Education is a unique profession in that there is constant change and a perpetual need to find ways to enhance student achievement. It is also a career that provides great satisfaction when you can step back and celebrate the difference that you have made in the lives of children.”