Superintendent’s corner: Happy New Year!
Over the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to personally wish nearly all 900-plus RFSD staff and 6,000 students, across our family of schools, a Happy New Year.
The beginning of a new school year is one of my favorite times. The new year gives us a chance to execute our intentions to become better versions of ourselves. As an educator, it is an opportunity to start fresh and implement new ideas after careful reflection from the previous year. I am already thinking about ways to improve my beginning of year activities to better connect with our RFSD family next year.
For many of our students, a new school year brings a lot of excitement. I recently polled social media and asked folks to share what they most looked forward to as a new school year approached. Seeing friends after several weeks or months was a very popular response. Many responses included material things like new metal lunch boxes with matching thermoses, school supplies and back-to-school outfits. Admittedly, one of the things I used to get most excited about was wearing my new school shoes. My parents would buy me new shoes for the school year, sometimes as early as July, but I could not wear them until the first day of school.
Other respondents shared they were most excited about school meals — either because of the reliability of getting at least two square meals five days a week or because of a specific meal they would only eat at school.
One respondent raved about the enchiladas that were served at their school. During my recent visit with our Nutrition Services Team, I was asked what my favorite food was when I was in school. Without hesitation, I shared that it was the breakfast pizza — which was regular pizza that was cut into rectangles and served at 8 a.m. I was told, “we still have that,” and I look forward to seeing if it has stood the test of time.
The most popular response was finding out who their teachers would be. I honor our teachers, from our toddler programs through adult education, because I recognize that their excellence made a difference in my life. I became a teacher because I wanted to have the same kind of impact that my teachers had on me. The research is abundantly clear, from experts such as John Hattie, that excellence in teaching is the single most powerful influence on student achievement.
In each of my conversations with staff at our 14 schools and with our Family Resource Center, Early Childhood Education, Transportation, and Nutrition Services teams, we engaged in an activity to know our why. Inspired by comedian Michael Jr. who expresses, “When you know your why, your what becomes more impactful because you’re walking towards or in your purpose.”
I shared my what: to positively impact the lives of our students through education; and my why: so our students graduate from our district able to pursue a career doing something they love, are good at and can make a living from. The educators in our school district each have their own personal why, but we share common themes across our organization, which is all about impact, our students’ potential, creating access to opportunity, and equity.
We have thus far survived the hardest 29 months of many of our lifetimes and, undoubtedly, the most challenging times in education. I have learned that there is a culture of servant leadership across our school district, and our staff have worked tirelessly during those two and a half years with the aim to fulfill our mission: to ensure that every student develops the enduring knowledge, skills and character to thrive in a changing world.
In the Roaring Fork Schools, the pandemic has exasperated the difference in achievement between many of our students. Our work is to narrow that difference in achievement as well as to elevate the achievement of every single one of our students. I know that our team is up for the challenge from our toddler programs through graduation, from that first greeting on the school bus to the meals shared in our cafeterias, and everything in between; it will take all of us.
I unapologetically believe in every single one of our students. I believe in their families. I believe in every single one of our staff members. And I believe in us as a community. This is why I have been so excited to wish everyone a Happy New Year! I am optimistically hopeful that the 2022-23 school year will be one our best ones yet.
Dr. Jesús Rodríguez is the new Superintendent of the Roaring Fork Schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.
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