Stein rolls up sleeves as new Re-1 assistant super
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — One of Rob Stein’s first tasks as the new assistant superintendent of Roaring Fork District Re-1 schools will be to spearhead a visioning process aimed at guiding the district in its educational philosophy and program decisions during the next several years.
A tough assignment for a newcomer to the district, perhaps.
But, with more than 28 years of experience in education, including recent work at the forefront of education reform in Colorado and across the country, it’s one Stein is ready to dive into head first.
“As educators, we want good outcomes, which ultimately means doing what it takes to make sure our kids are college ready and career ready when they leave high school,” he said.
“It’s up to the community to help develop the vision for how we get there,” Stein said of the upcoming series of public meetings and focus groups meant to engage the greater school district community of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt in that discussion.
“It’s our job, once that vision is in place, to carry it out,” he said. “It’s also about strong leadership at the district’s schools, and giving principals the authority to lead in their schools.”
Stein, 53, said he’s happy to be a part of the Re-1 administrative team that will be charged with implementing that community and school-based vision going forward.
It’s been a roundabout journey for Stein to finally join the school district.
In May 2012, Stein was tapped by the school board following an extensive nationwide search to become the new head superintendent for Re-1 schools.
Shortly after he accepted the position, his wife, Mariah Dickson, was in a serious bicycling accident near their home in Denver, prompting Stein to resign so he could tend to family concerns.
The Re-1 board selected Diana Sirko as interim superintendent just before last school year, and in January inked a two-year deal to keep her on as superintendent.
At the same time, the board invited Stein to join the district as assistant superintendent/chief academic officer starting with the 2013-14 school year, a position that had been vacant for the past year.
“The board was very generous to keep that door open,” said Stein, who officially joined Re-1 in July.
His wife has since recovered from the accident, and they’ve recently settled in Carbondale. He and Dickson have a 14-year-old son, Max, who will be going into high school, and a daughter, Eliza, 18, who just graduated high school and plans to study abroad this year.
Stein previously worked as director of one of the first expeditionary learning schools in the country, the Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning in Denver, and as a consultant with EL Schools to help implement the model at start-up and conversion schools around the country.
That experience will come in handy as Glenwood Springs Elementary School begins its transition this year to becoming an official expeditionary learning school, under the guidance of EL Schools.
“I want to be as supportive as I can with that, but at the same time there is a good team assembled to begin that transition,” Stein said. “The keys are already there to be successful, including strong community support, strong support from the staff and a distribution of leadership in the school.”
Stein formerly taught at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale in the 1980s, and was later headmaster at Graland Country Day School in Denver. He gained recognition for his work from 2007-2010 to help turn around his own alma mater in the Denver Public Schools system, Manual High School.
After years of persistent low student test scores and high dropout rates, the inner-city school was shut down by DPS in the mid-2000s. It was then reopened with Stein at the helm as principal, a new teaching staff and a new group of ninth-grade students.
Employing models similar to ones he’d used in his private and public charter school experience, Stein was instrumental in helping to improve academic performance, graduation rates and college admission test scores at the school, as a new class of students was added during the ensuing four years.
He noted that many of those same techniques are now commonplace in many public schools, including the Re-1 school district.
“We did a lot of similar things that we’re now focusing on here [in Re-1],” Stein said, noting the local district’s support of extended-day and summer school programs for students who need extra help, a data-driven approach to decisions around curriculum, assessments and instruction, and a general emphasis on building positive student character traits.
“We don’t want to let data be the only driver of what we do, because there is a lot more to it than that,” Stein said. “But it is a good indicator for a large number of these kids, and what we need to do to help them achieve better results.”
Before taking his new post with Re-1, Stein was working with the National Center on Time and Learning, an organization that focuses on ways to increase not only the quality of education, but the quantity of time devoted to educating students.
Stein graduated from Manual High School in 1978, and earned his bachelor’s degree at Middlebury College. He hold a master’s degree in education from Stanford University and earned his doctorate at Harvard University.
Stein is also fluent in Spanish, which will be a plus in a school district that has a Latino student population of about 55 percent.
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