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New School Superintendent Arrives “Home”

9/8/2021

Dr. Risha VanderWey, the Montezuma-Cortez School District's new superintendent, says she's wanted to settle in the Cortez area since the 1990s and looks forward to working with district faculty, staff, students and community members to prepare students for successful lives as adults. Sponsored by Choice Building Supply Ace Hardware and TruWest Auto in Cortez

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The new superintendent for the Montezuma-Cortez School District has wanted to move to the area since the 1990s. Now, she wants to make it her home. You're watching the "Local News Network" brought to you by Choice Building Supply ACE hardware and TruWest Auto. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. When Risha VanderWey saw that the Montezuma-Cortez School District was looking for a new leader, she immediately submitted her application. Living in Cortez, she said, would fulfill a 30-year dream to do what she loves, in an area she loves.

I've always loved Cortez. I've always loved the canopy trees, and I love the agriculture and the ranchers, and I love the sense of community. So I fell in love with this place in the 90s, and I've been wanting to come back for a long time. I've camped all over here, and I feel very fortunate that the Board of Education chose me as their superintendent, and I am here to bring my skill, experience and expertise to the school district, and we're going to have a great time together.

VanderWey succeeds former superintendent Lori Haukeness. VanderWey comes to Cortez with more than 20 years of experience as a teacher, principal and instructional leader, and seven years of experience as a superintendent. She served as superintendent of Coconino County Schools for five years, and most recently, served as superintendent for the Navajo Tuba City Unified School District in Northern Arizona. She completed her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. VanderWey says her experience with native and culturally diverse communities prepared her well for Southwest Colorado, and calls herself a feet on the ground kind of leader who likes to spend time in schools watching and listening to students, teachers, and staff interact. While she spent much of her first few months in Cortez getting to know the school community and preparing for the start of the school year, she says she's ready to dive into the work of educating students.

We want to strengthen the base of the educational system that we're providing our kids right now. So we have specific learner goals in Math and English. We have six priority goals and we will head towards those priority goals, and we will move forward with extending our strategic plan, as well as identifying a facility's plan. Most of our buildings are a little older, like 1954 little older. so we've got some work to do there. I think, right now we are trying to mitigate coronavirus and the Delta variant, and so right now, that's kind of what we've been focusing on.

VanderWey said that the district has an obligation to provide students with educational pathways that are meaningful, relevant, and inspire them to pursue their educations with a passion.

We have to provide kids alternative pathways. And alternative pathways can be the traditional "I'm going to a community college and then a four year college", or traditional "I'm going to go to a four year college." But we also have to provide alternative dual credit courses, which might be an Arizona term, but it's where kids can graduate with their AA and providing kids the opportunity to go into the trades, to have internships, to get culinary arts certified, to become welders, to become carpenters, there's a lot of different skills. And I don't believe that we need to put anybody in a box. I think life is long and full of choices. If I can have kids graduate being a good citizen, being able to represent Cortez and this area, and become a productive citizen of this community and/or state, and/or nation, and/or world, then we've done our job.

VanderWey will oversee 10 schools, 350 faculty and staff members, and an enrollment of more than 2,800 students. To learn more about VanderWey and the district's strategic plan, visit cortez.k12.co.us. Thanks for watching this edition of the "Local News Network". I'm Wendy Graham settle.

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