After 5 months, Rubadeau hands Re-1’s keys to Carter

After serving as the Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 superintendent for just over five months, Mary Rubadeau officially turned over the district keys to incoming superintendent Alex Carter on Wednesday.

While Rubadeau has officially retired from the Re-1 district, she will continue on as an consultant through the Colorado Legacy Foundation, with a focus on literacy design collaboration or team writing.

Before being tagged to fill out the 2011-2012 school year as Re-1’s interim superintendent, Rubadeau was already working with the district as an educational consultant.

“I already had a connection with Cortez. I will go back to do my consultant (work),” she said when asked about her future plans.

Rubadeau said when asked to fill the interim superintendent position, she took time to mull over the decision and accepted the offer because she had retired eight months earlier and did not have much experience in doing nothing.

Rubadeau called her position in Cortez a rewarding experience and saw the job as a way to begin strengthening Re-1 and move it forward for the new superintendent.

She said her consulting work gave her basic knowledge about the district, and she went to the Colorado Department of Education’s website to get more information. There were no surprises regarding student achievement, Rubadeau said, and added she had a good understanding of the workings of Re-1.

The diversity and cultural makeup of the students in the Re-1, she said, was much different from the Telluride school district where she worked for 12 years, but she said Re-1 mirrored the Juneau, Alaska, school district where she also worked as a superintendent, noting a third of the students in that district were Alaska Natives.

What Rubadeau will take away from Re-1, she said, is a new appreciation for a sense of urgency when implementing education change.

When she was hired in February to replace former superintendent Stacy Houser, whom the Re-1 board had removed from office, Rubadeau was given seven goals to complete before the end of June.

At the June 12 board meeting, Rubadeau gave an update on the goals she was given in February.

The first goal she was given was to prepare a balanced budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year with input from the public. She informed the board that the goal was very close to completion and mentioned the $1.2 million in budget reductions were staggering and hard to achieve.

To balance the budget, Rubadeau and her staff shifted funding for extended-day kindergarten from the general fund to a grant, closely examined staffing ratios at each school, used staff retirements and resignations as a strategy for reductions to save jobs, reorganized the central office, and met with principals, staff and the school board in forums and work sessions to examine strategies for reductions while including a step increase for all staff.

The second priority assigned to Rubadeau was to conduct a superintendent search by employing the expertise of the Colorado Association of School Boards. The board hired Alex Carter to fill the role of superintendent.

The third goal was hiring a principal for Montezuma-Cortez High School with the vision and expertise to improve the learning outcomes at the secondary level. Two rounds of interviews took place and Carter conducted the final interviews before naming former Mesa Elementary School Principal Jason Wayman the new high school principal.

The fourth directive given to Rubadeau was to initiate planning and training in best practices to improve student achievement.

She said the focus of her work on this initiative was to create a sense of urgency for school reform and develop leadership skills among administrators and teacher leaders to improve and maintain the change initiatives outlined in the improvement plan.

The fifth charge given to the interim superintendent was to explore structural changes to support student learning, including a new secondary schedule and school calendar with increased contact days for students.

As a result of the work done toward that end, the board approved reverting back to a five-day school week, and the high school schedule includes six periods and career pathways.

Evaluating the performance of school administrators by using the new principal standards was another goal the board gave Rubadeau. That process involved teachers giving input on the performance on four of the principals and the data evaluations were provided to the Colorado Department of Education as part of the Legacy grant.

The final goal for Rubadeau focused on the BEST grant, which involves Re-1 applying for slightly more than $20 million in a 50-50 match to build a new high school. The decision on the grant recipients will be made by June 26. Michael Canzona, former chief of operations for the Re-1, will be working with board member Jack Schuenemeyer and Carter to prepare them for their BEST presentation later this month.

Her takeaways from the time spent in Montezuma County are the friendships and the rich heritage, Rubadeau said, resolving to “never say never” if another nearby school district approaches her with an interim superintendent position in the future because of the positive experiences she had during the last five months.

Reach Michael Maresh at michaelm@cortezjournal.com.