In Search of Xena- Warrior Superintendent
03/29/15- Editorial by Renee Wilkins
It was becoming ridiculous. After receiving literally a dozen consecutive emails from Rio Rancho Public Schools titled “Understanding the PARCC Exam” (Part 1,2,3, and so on…), I finally started sending them to my junk file unread. Truthfully, these lengthy emails only deepened my unease about this test. After all, if it takes two weeks of daily essays to convince us it’s good, then it must be really bad. Rumors circulated that RRPS was threatening to fire teachers who informed parents it was legal to opt out of the exam.
I’m sure the School District thought it was being cleverly proactive. Therein lies the problem.
My mind swirling amid escalating rumors and increasing public protests, I had the opportunity to visit with Kathy Sandoval, Principal of nationally-awarded AIMS Charter School. In five minutes she resolved many of my concerns. While I do believe our public schools are over-testing our kids, it has become clear to me that the growing problems of RRPS aren’t caused by the PARCC, the NWEA, the SBA exams or Common Core. The problem is leadership. Somewhere along the way, Sue Cleveland and her team got lost in their own propaganda, perpetually acting in damage control mode out of self-preservation. They lost the trust of parents and teachers.
There is a right leader for the right time. Now is the time for an energetic, straight-shooter. Someone with Chutzpah. Someone to forge us a path through the waste-deep muck that parents, students and teachers have to trudge through every day. Someone brave enough to throw out what doesn’t work, and strong enough to defend what does. Leadership is why AIMS is successful. State and national mandates aside, school boards and superintendents do have a choice in many of the policies they implement into our local schools. Often times they exacerbate the situation not so much in what they are doing, but how they are doing it. Seemingly irresistible funding sources also have undesirable strings attached.
Dr. Cleveland and her District coalition did a fine job establishing a good foundation in the early days of RRPS and should be commended for their work. But just because they built it doesn’t mean they own it. Although experience is important, people do become set in their ways after 20 years in one position, losing the ability to change and grow with the times. With two new RRPS School Board members, my hope is that our School Board will be courageous enough to search for a new “Warrior Superintendent” to reinvigorate, energize and unite our school district in a time of great uncertainty and change.