Superintendent’s corner: Reflections on the fall semester and intentions for the spring
One of my favorite things about working in our public school system is that we get two New Years: one in August and another in January. As I mentioned in my August column, “The new year [in August] 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 [school] year.” This sentiment is felt broadly across the world during the winter holidays and is another opportunity to execute our intentions.
It is during this time of year that many people across the world commit to resolutions for the New Year after reflecting on the previous year’s successes and challenges. A resolution refers to doing or not doing something with a very firm decision or commitment ahead of time, focused on the outcome. Intentions, on the other hand, are ways you choose to live your life daily based on your values.
As I approach my half-year anniversary, I want to reflect on my time as superintendent during these first 119 days. I will admit that my time thus far has felt both like it has flown by and like my tenure here has been much longer than about six months. I began this school year by sharing with staff that this year I intend to deeply listen and learn. I have carried out this intention in various ways.
I have visited every school in our district several times and for some schools, many more — our son’s school and the high schools in particular. My initial school visits were to welcome back our staff and wish them a happy new year while grounding the new year in our “why” — why we do this work. I visited schools to wish students a happy new year during the first week of school, and this semester, we set up appreciation lunches at every school where I got to know our teams and listen and learn about things that are working well, things we can do better, and anything else on their minds. I have also cheered our teams on at sporting events, guest lectured in high school, and enjoyed various student celebrations of learning, like our capstones.
I have continued the monthly Teacher Advisory Council conversations with a teacher representative from every school. We launched our first Interest-Based Bargaining meeting of the year–the first one in-person since the start of the pandemic — where we identified shared interests with the RFCEA that we will work together on throughout the remainder of the year.
I have listened and learned from experts and professionals in our community. For instance, I kicked off my summer by experiencing the equity speaker series where we heard from Dr. Alvarez about her work at Glenwood Springs Elementary through her presentation, titled: Cultivating Equity by Valuing and Integrating Students’ Culture, Language and Experiences in Classroom Learning.
I launched the coffee and chat with the superintendent series this year where we’ve had standing room only at times. I am also very proud to have launched my Student Advisory Council, which is an opportunity to eat lunch and chat with students from our four high schools and learn about the student experience.
During this short time period, our Board of Education and staff have accomplished a lot of important work. Such as, when our staff launched our Toolkit for Supporting Gender Expansive and Nonconforming Students and our Board of Education adopted the Support for LGBTQ+ Students Resolution. We have updated approximately 30 Board of Education Policies, many which are out of date from current practice and statute and have not been updated in 30 years. This is of great importance because per state statute, two of the key responsibilities of any Board of Education in Colorado are to: 1. develop policy; and, 2. hire a superintendent.
One of my key responsibilities as superintendent is to carry out policy through the development and implementation of regulations (many which have yet to be developed), so it is my intention to continue updating our policies next semester.
During the second semester of this school year, I intend to continue listening and learning as well as continue exploring the valley with my family. Additionally, early this spring semester, I intend to share a more robust synthesis with our Board of Education, and the broader public, about what I have learned so far, accompanied with some recommendations for next steps. I intend to continue leading our district with the spirit of context-sensitive design, identifying what we must preserve, where we must innovate, and developing a system for us to achieve our district mission to ensure that every student develops the enduring knowledge, skills, and character to thrive in a changing world.
I look forward to starting a new year while simultaneously beginning the second half of my new year as superintendent. I wish you all a happy new year and hope you are able to fulfill all the intentions you set this year in both your personal and professional lives.
Jesús Rodríguez is Superintendent of the Roaring Fork District schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.
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