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RFSD superintendent candidates: Anna Cole

Courtesy photo

The school district has scheduled a Community Open House to meet the candidates on March 7th at the Carbondale District office from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.

Last week, Roaring Fork School District announced three finalists for the superintendent position. In collaboration with the school district, KDNK has statements from each candidate with details on their background as well as priorities if given the job. First up is Anna Cole, who is the interim superintendent for the Roaring Fork School District.

" I've been in the field of education for over 25 years, and so there's some themes that I think run through my, my career. One would be a deep commitment to supporting and serving highly diverse public schools. So I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, attending integrated magnet school. And then the first real traditional job I had teaching was in a rural Northern New Mexico school, only 150 kids, but we had four different languages spoken in the school for very distinct ethnic groups, those and a lot of other experiences have really helped form a really strong commitment to the value of highly diverse public schools and have I've been able to see what really high quality diverse schools can do. I think additionally, I've had a A broad experience in many different types of curriculum and program models.

So anything from international baccalaureate to place based curriculum to expeditionary learning to wilderness based learning, I've seen a lot of ways that different types of curriculum and different program models can really support kids learning. The other two themes I would just name are I've had a lot of experience in teacher education and preparation and development, working with a lot of different organizations and teacher ed.

And so I have a real sensitivity to how hard the work is to recruit and retain and train high quality teachers, especially teachers of color. And then I would say, been able to do a lot of work around elevating and strengthening partnerships outside the school with nonprofits and government organizations to really provide more resources to our kids, knowing that we're limited in schools of what we can do. And that through partnerships, we can do a lot more to support kids and families. It's been a real opportunity this last seven months of getting to serve in a role of acting superintendent, interim superintendent. I found the work very difficult and challenging, really inspiring. And I found the work incredibly engaging and I'm excited to say that I would really love to continue doing it.

Our challenges are real. The student achievement gap that we have right now, the needs of our emerging bilingual students and newly immigrated. students and students of color, we're really underserving some critical populations. Teacher retention and recruitment is a really big deal complicated by the cost of living in the valley.
But I also think that what we have in the Roaring Fork School District that is unique and distinct to us is a really strong foundation. We have great school culture and climate. We have great and strong data from our students about belonging. We also in the Roaring Fork schools have have evidence of excellence of solving problems. We look at our pre collegiate program and the outcomes of students who get access to that mentoring, to that support. I think some of our dual language programming and some of our English language programming where we have really targeted supports and really high quality interventions for our emerging bilingual students.

We see evidence of excellence that we need to just figure out how to expand and replicate. And then I would say we're also seeing some trending and really positive way around student attendance. In just the last year, we've seen a reduction in the number of crisis calls that we've made in the last say 12, 18 months.

So it feels like a very exciting time to be part of the Roaring Fork schools. And I think that's really why I'm so interested. We need a leader who can move from the 30, 000 foot strategic planning level. At one moment to the next moment, really sitting down with a parent who's concerned about their student.

Personal and professional skill that I've developed in 25 years of work in education to the work every day. And then the challenges push me to develop new skills. And I just, I love that challenge and would love to continue in the role. One of our biggest aspirations is around strengthening student achievement and growth for our emerging bilingual students, for our students of color, and for everybody.
Because some of the things that we saw in the strategic planning process were that we needed to step up in the rigorous Work that's happening in our classrooms at all times, and that we needed to really increase the number of kids who are accessing rigorous curriculum every day, and that's an everybody concern and then everybody push.

And of course, addressing that is going to help all our kids achievement and outcomes. And so I think one of my aspirations is that we can really tackle this head on and our strategic plan outlines key priorities. around centering students, working collaboratively with parents, really supporting teachers to have the skills, tools, resources, time to meet the needs of their students and really push and drive on that rigor.

And so I think that through this process, we're going to have a really comprehensive plan that we can hold ourselves accountable, that the community can hold us accountable to, to drive towards that goal that I really think is our number one goal. And then I would say the other aspiration is that we can.

Make sure that any educator or professional that wants to work in the Roaring Forks School District can stay here, can be here, and not have housing be a barrier. Opening up 50 additional units in Carbondale this summer and fall. We're so excited. I can't wait to make sure we get staff in there, but we have to go further.

And so I think another aspiration is to just remove the barrier of housing. For all of our staff. And I think we've got some great tools and we just need to continue to push on that. I'm so grateful for anybody who's even taking the time to listen to these interviews and to pay attention and to lean in.

I don't pretend that any of this is easy, but I, what I do know is that it takes collaboration and it takes teamwork and it takes. All of us leaning in. And so I guess I'm just, I'm grateful for the folks who are paying attention. And so I'm just, I'm really grateful for the opportunities and for the folks that keep showing up for their kids."

Finalist Anna Cole is from Carbondale, and Bill Wilson is from Brush, Colorado. Additionally, the third finalist Theryn Mulberry of Aspen has withdrawn his candidacy, due to leadership developments in the Aspen School District.

Bill Wilson's interview is available here.

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.