Q&A with Tahoe Truckee Unified’s new superintendent, Carmen Ghysels
Tahoe Truckee Unified School District has hired Carmen Ghysels, currently working as deputy superintendent in the Mountain View Whisman School District, as its new superintendent chief learning officer, replacing Dr. Rob Leri, who announced his retirement in February after a 33-year career in public education, including more than eight years with Tahoe Truckee Unified.
The Sierra Sun caught up with Ghysels, who will begin work with the district in August, for a Q&A this week.
Sierra Sun: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, in terms of life away from school?
Carmen Ghysels: I like to walk, hike, read, cook, and I am an avid listener and consumer of music in all forms! I love making playlists for family and friends and have become dubbed DJ Carm! When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and young grandchildren. One of my daughters is getting married next summer and I am enjoying planning her wedding with her.
SS: What was it about Tahoe Truckee Unified that led to your interest in applying?
CG: My husband and I have had a home here since 2017, and I absolutely love the Tahoe Truckee area. I grew up in Texas, a very different place than the Sierras, and ever since I was a small child, my family and I would vacation here.
I was attracted to the amazing culture that exists with the staff and students at Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. Becoming part of the TTUSD team allows me the opportunity to combine my professional passion for supporting all students to have an exceptional educational experience with my personal dream of working and living in an amazing area.
SS: Considering you’re starting in August, how much will you be involved in planning for how the district returns to school this fall?
CG: As a member of the senior leadership team in my current district, I have been heavily involved in the planning process for returning to school this fall. I am well-versed in the unique challenges this pandemic poses to all of us. Since my appointment, I have been joining TTUSD Leadership meetings and working on a variety of things with Dr. Leri, including the district’s reopening plan.
SS: How should the district balance the need for student/staff safety and the need for in-person learning?
CG: Student and staff safety is driving all of the district’s decisions regarding returning to school. As Dr. Leri has done, I will continue to work closely with our county health officers and follow the Department of Public Health’s guidance. Our commitment is to provide our students with the best education possible, and we will do this regardless of the environment. We have a very dedicated team of professionals all committed to outstanding student outcomes and we’ve learned a great deal this past spring when forced into distance learning with very little notice.
SS: How can the district help support those who have more difficulty than others with a virtual learning environment?
CG: This past spring, our TTUSD team stayed in close contact with all of our families, and we will continue our extensive outreach efforts. Many may not be aware of this, but our school principals and other team members made (socially distanced) personal calls to families who were struggling and needed help. Individual contact was made, additional resources were delivered, to make sure we met the different needs of our students and that no one fell through the cracks.
SS: Aside from the pandemic, what are the greatest challenges educators deal with these days?
CG: An achievement gap exists across the nation, and closing the gap is one of the greatest ongoing challenges educators face. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is not helping the situation. This global pandemic is definitely one of the bigger challenges all educators have faced. These are challenging times. We want nothing more than to be back in school with our kids right now. We miss them. We’re in education because of them. Nothing about this situation is easy.
SS: What do you see as the district’s strengths/weaknesses?
CG: The district’s number one strength is the fact that students are the focus of all of our decisions. It’s our belief statement #1 and something I wholeheartedly believe. This was part of what drew me to TTUSD. We have 12 unique schools and each one offers a rigorous education for our students that focuses on the whole child. The entire team at TTUSD is also focused on continuous improvement and growth so we can be our best!
SS: What gives you the greatest joy as an educator?
CG: I believe that all students can learn and thrive and I want to meet them where they are at. Seeing students succeed gives me such joy! In my leadership role, supporting and nurturing fellow educators is one the most rewarding thing I do! I love being a mentor and helping others be the best they can be and leave a lasting legacy.
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