2022 in Review: A new superintendent for the Roaring Fork Schools following Stein’s departure; Rodríguez takes the helm | PostIndependent.com
YOUR AD HERE »

2022 in Review: A new superintendent for the Roaring Fork Schools following Stein’s departure; Rodríguez takes the helm

New superintendent of Roaring Fork Schools, Jesús Rodríguez.
John Stroud/Post Independent

A major administrative change came to the Roaring Fork School District in 2022 after longtime Superintendent Rob Stein announced in January that he would be resigning at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

“I’m not leaving because the work has been completed or because I’m tired but because it’s time for me to find new ways to contribute to improving the lives of children,” Stein said in an open letter to families and school district staff in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt. He added that he planned to take a “personal sabbatical” from his long education career in Colorado.

Stein had originally been hired to become superintendent in 2012 but had to step down due to a family emergency at that time. He ultimately joined the district as chief academic officer and assistant superintendent under former Superintendent Diana Sirko in 2013, and was appointed chief superintendent in 2016.



Along the way, he helped oversee a major bond issue campaign that brought new school facilities to the district, and pushed for a mill levy override to increase wages for teachers and other district staff.

Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein speaks at the Issues and Answers Forum regarding the proposed Roaring Fork Schools mill levy override.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

Stein’s announcement brought an extensive search for a new schools chief in the spring, and in May the district’s Board of Education named up-and-coming Colorado educator Jesús Rodriguez to be the next superintendent of schools



Rodríguez, who had spent the 2021-22 school year as deputy chief academic officer for Dallas Independent School District, was chosen out of 24 applicants from 10 states, including finalists Tammy Clementi and Jose “Joe” Lopez, who also had extensive backgrounds in Colorado education.

The decision to hire Rodríguez as the district’s first Hispanic superintendent in the district where about 60% of the student population is Hispanic, was applauded by many in the community. He also holds a doctorate degree in education leadership and policy studies from the University of Denver, and, at age 36 at the time of his hiring, is also among the youngest school superintendents in Colorado.  

“Community members spoke to his thoughtful responses to their questions, his unique background and position that would allow him to bring our entire community together, and his focus on learning and gathering information from stakeholders prior to making determinations and changes,” the school board said in a statement announcing their choice.

Jesús Rodríguez talks with students at Two Rivers Community School during his April visit to the district before he was hired.
Roaring Fork School District/Courtesy photo

A $220,000 salary for the new superintendent, which was $52,772 more than Stein had been making, did turn some heads. But the board stood behind the decision, noting that he was committed to furthering his professional development, which Rodriguez elaborated on in interviews with the Post Independent.

“I believe we can all work to get a little bit better at what we do,” he said. “As an educator, I feel like there are a lot of things I’m pretty good at, but even with those things I can learn to get better.”

Rodriguez also spoke to some of the mentors in his own life after growing up in the small town of Lochbuie north of Denver who steered him to a career in education leadership. Among them was a former teacher of his, David Layne, who encouraged him to go to college after graduation.

“He was that person in my life at the time who knew me and cared about me as a human being, and cared about my wellness, and my education and my future.”

Rodríguez referenced his first time experiencing racism when he and some fifth-grade friends were falsely accused of gang affiliation because of their choice of clothing, and were suspended from school.

“We were just three Latino kids who, out of happenstance, were wearing the same color clothes that day,” he said. “But I didn’t have the language skills to articulate that to my principal and say, ‘Oh, this is just a misunderstanding.’”

He said one of his goals is to give voice to the students he encounters in his new role with the Roaring Fork Schools.

Rodríguez’s first semester overseeing the local public schools was eventful, as the district began to grasp the impacts on student learning brought on by the pandemic disruptions in schools, as reflected in the latest round of standardized test scores.The school board also took the recommendation from staff to adopt a new Toolkit for Supporting Gender Expansive and Nonconforming Students, along with the resolution of support for LGBTQ+ students, prompting some debate in the community but with broad support from most who spoke in some of the best-attended school board meetings in recent memory.

Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at jstroud@postindependent.com or at 970-384-9160.

Education

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.