Superintendent’s Corner: 100+ days in, a look at some accomplishments and next steps

Jesús Rodríguez
Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Jesús Rodríguez, Superintendent of Roaring Fork Schools.
Courtesy Photo

At the time of this publication, I have been the proud superintendent of the Roaring Fork Schools for 134 days. It is hard to believe that next week I will celebrate my seven-month anniversary! As I near this milestone, I want to share with our community some of what I’ve learned during my tenure as superintendent and what I recommend as next steps for our district.

Last spring, during my visit to the Roaring Fork Valley as a candidate, I spoke with stakeholders about context-sensitive design. It is the decision-making process used to construct the highway through Glenwood Canyon that allowed stakeholders to engage in the design process by sharing what natural beauty had to be preserved if a highway was to be constructed through the canyon. Not to mention, building a highway through a canyon was once deemed impossible, so preserving the natural beauty would also require creativity and innovation in engineering.

It seemed appropriate and serendipitous to me that I would adopt a similar approach to my work this year, as superintendent, if selected.

As a candidate, I created a 100-day entry plan. Succinctly, my entry plan was, and remains, to: listen and learn about what we must preserve, where we must innovate, and to create a long-term plan that is community-informed to fulfill our mission. I have had the opportunity to hear from staff, parents, students, and community members in a variety of ways and there have been some emerging themes–both in what we must keep but also, where we must try new things.

In my entry plan, I shared my personal beliefs and core values, which are central to who I am as a person and as a leader. Since becoming superintendent, I’ve had the opportunity to formally share these with our community but also, my hope is that I have been able to demonstrate these through my actions and throughout my interactions with staff, students, parents, and community members at large.

Beliefs and core values

The following are the five goals that I set out to achieve this year:

1. Nourish a trusting, productive, and collaborative relationship with our Board of Directors.

2. Ensure a strong transition in leadership with a focus on accelerating achievement.

3. Implement listening and learning sessions in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

4. Learn about the values, norms, expectations, and culture of our three municipalities and district at large.

5. Focus on narrowing differences in achievement between student subgroups and increasing the achievement of all students.

I am proud to say that I have mostly succeeded in accomplishing the expectations and goals outlined in my entry plan. Some of the key actions that I have taken toward those goals have been:

  • Conducting small group meetings with staff vía appreciation lunches
  • Reviewing the current strategic plan and general overview of its implementation
  • Conducting 1:1s with identified key stakeholders and organizations
  • Analyzing 2021-22 academic achievement and growth data
  • Visiting every school in each community multiple times
  • Hosting community forums for parents and community members through coffee chats
  • Learning and evaluating how our current organizational structure supports the vision of our district
  • Starting instructional rounds with instructional team and campus leaders

Based on these actions and from listening to, and learning from, our community, I am recommending the following next steps for our district to our Board of Education:

  • Launch strategic planning process this spring by co-constructing a district-wide Portrait of a Graduate & District Core Values, then engaging in a more extensive strategic planning process this fall;
  • Continue our focus on policy updates, such as our graduation requirements, because as superintendent, one of my key responsibilities is to carry out policy through the development and implementation of regulations;
  • Adopt our recommended Learning Acceleration Plan that will strategically support teachers and school leaders in narrowing the difference in achievement between students and elevating the achievement of all;
  • Prioritize housing solutions for current and future staff so that we can attract and retain our talented educators
  • Identify our instructional priorities for 2023-24 to help guide our Unified Improvement Plan process for 2023-24, including informing our strategic priorities and initiatives.

Each of these recommendations come from carefully listening and learning to our community — from our community’s many anecdotes that support these recommendations for next steps.

I will present these recommendations to our Board of Education at our next Wednesday board meeting. Additionally, our Chief Academic Officer will be presenting our Learning Acceleration Plan, which the Board will take action on, at an upcoming board meeting.

Even though the days of my entry plan as superintendent have come to an end, I remain committed to listening and learning to our community and I look forward to implementing these recommended next steps with you in order to fulfill our mission that we will ensure every student develops the enduring knowledge, skills, and character to thrive in a changing world.

Dr. Jesús Rodríguez is Superintendent of the Roaring Fork District schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

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