TRUCKEE, Calif. — This month marks the two-year anniversary of Rob Leri’s appointment as superintendent for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
“Dr. Leri has a record of focusing on student achievement and making all decisions based on what is best for students in the school district,” said Kim Szczurek, TTUSD board president, in a statement around the time of Leri’s appointment.
Before joining TTUSD, Leri served as deputy superintendent of educational services at Arcadia Unified School District, a high-achieving district where he worked since 1996 in multiple roles. Prior to that, he was a member of the Ceres Unified School District for 10 years.
The Sierra Sun sat down with Leri last week to discuss his time with TTUSD and what the future may hold. Below is an excerpt of the Q-and-A:
Sierra Sun: How would you describe your first two years as TTUSD’s superintendent?
Rob Leri: My first two years have been incredible. It’s been a very positive and affirming experience. I think we, as a district, have made some great progress in many areas. I’m very pleased and happy with how well the community has welcomed me, and I feel very much a part of the Tahoe/Truckee community. In some ways — and this is in a good way — it seems like I’ve been here longer than two years.
Sun: When you first started the position, what were your goals, and of those, which ones have been accomplished and which are still ongoing?
RL: When I started here, I had six goals, and I still have six goals. Under each goal there are different objectives that have been met and not met over time to address those goals. The first goal is the most important goal, and that’s increase student learning, achievement and access to 21st century skills for all students at all levels. I would say all my goals are still ongoing goals, and that we’ve met certain aspects, but in no way do I believe that I’ve 100 percent achieved everything in any of those goals. Each of them has different layers.
Sun: Is there anything you see as potentially challenging in moving forward?
RL: Addressing the needs of all students … We have students living in poverty, and (finding) ways to make education more accessible to them, and also, parent education for populations where education may not be the highest priority. I think we also have the challenge of addressing the highest achieving kids and making sure that we have the variety of program offerings that make school attractive to at risk kids — whether they’re at risk at either end of the spectrum. GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) kids are at risk as well as kids from poverty. It’s a different risk, but I think we have to be able to address that.
Sun: What are some things that excite you in terms of the direction the district is going?
RL: I’m excited by the involvement of our teachers and the direction we’re heading with our new standards and developing new curriculum. I’m excited about the opportunities we’re going to be providing kids in new and different learning opportunities. I’m excited by the possibility of addressing our facility needs — and I do say possibility of addressing our facility needs. I’m excited that the financial picture has changed for the whole state and excited that at least this year and next, things look relatively stable for us ... I’m excited about the continuing opportunities of Measure A. Measure A, Excellence in Education, our community partners — those were all things that went into my decision to come here.
Sun: How did they influence you?
RL: Just knowing the connection of the community and the interest of the community to support education was essential for me to consider a move. I applied to one place, and I considered only one place. I was happy where I was, so the place I came to had to be pretty darn special, and Tahoe-Truckee was and is.
Sun: What’s next for the district?
RL: One will be the completion of the Pathway 2020 strategic plan, which is still in draft form. (Also), the completion of the facilities master plan. Probably the most important out of all of those, which is representative of both documents, will be the transition to the California Common Core. The change in assessment to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, as well as what I believe will be a transformation in the fundamental way we provide instruction. Distancing ourself from rote memorization, simplistic tasks to application of their learning in realistic and meaningful ways — that is huge.
Sun: What do you envision your future will be with TTUSD?
RL: … I have no date on when (I’m) planning to leave or look at other things. I’m happy here, and I feel we, as a community, as a school district, are making progress, so I’m not interested in considering anything else. My track record is I don’t go somewhere and leave. I’ve been in three school districts in 28 years. Ten (years) in the first one. Sixteen (years) in the second one. Two (years) so far in the third one. I don’t think you can come and make a difference in the short-term and run away.