When Dr. Jesús Rodríguez came to visit the Roaring Fork School District (RFSD) in mid-April as one of three finalists for the district’s superintendent position, he said, “I hoped that they got to know who I was as a human being.”
He grew up in Brighton, located about 25 miles northeast of Denver, where his parents were migrant workers in a local flower greenhouse.
His parents immigrated from Mexico — his mother, the eldest in a family of nine children, arrived at the age of 15 years and his father, the second oldest of nine children, arrived at 21. Rodríguez said his father, who completed sixth grade and his mother, who finished ninth grade, knew the importance of quality education.
Rodríguez shared that his school experience wasn’t a great one.
Rewind to eighth grade and a math teacher who would become Rodríguez’s mentor. In an independent math studies class, Rodríguez did the required work but nothing beyond that, so “the teacher said to me, ‘You have so much potential, but If you just do the bare minimum, you’re never going to be able to maximize it or live up to it.’” Rodríguez recalled, “even as a teenager, I knew he was right.”
Learning that life lesson stuck with him. Rodríguez said, “I knew he cared about me, and he was right — I wanted to do the work.”
However, in high school, not one of his advisors or teachers talked to him about completing FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, or believed that attending college was even on the radar for him.
But, that eighth-grade math teacher would attend Rodríguez’s high school graduation. They talked after the ceremony, and “he asked me, ‘What are you going to do next?’ I answered, ‘I don’t know.’”
When asked about college, Rodríguez responded, “I have no idea where to start.” His former teacher replied, ‘Well, I’ll pick you up on Monday, and we’ll get it figured out.’ And we did.” He drove Rodríguez to the local community college and helped him register for classes.
He also learned about a scholarship opportunity he qualified for because his parents were migrant workers. Such opportunities, Rodríguez said, may elude many Latino students “because they don’t know the scholarship even exists.”
The University of Colorado Boulder’s BUENO Center for Multicultural Education charters the scholarship. Rodríguez recalled, “As soon as I met the center’s director, Dr. Leonard Baca, and other people like him, I immediately saw a vision for myself because I saw ‘me’ there. And so, pretty early on, I told myself I’m going to get a doctorate someday.”
He and his wife, Elle, first met at a principal preparation program in Denver and began dating after the two were working as principals in Denver public schools.
Currently, Rodríguez and his family live in Dallas. Elle works in education and, after their move, will be able to work remotely, something which factored into his acceptance of the superintendent position. “It’s something that certainly gives us flexibility,” he said. Even better, Elle already has local ties — her uncle and aunt are Steven and Mary Catherine Conger.
They have a two-year-old son named Cosme, “an old family name” and a derivative of the word cosmos. Cozy, as they call him, turned two years old just two days before they came to visit the district.
The Sopris Sun also asked Rodríguez about the family dog. “Well, he’s the sweetest kind,” responded Rodríguez. The seven-and-a-half-year-old, 100-pound American Bully called Cain is “good pals” with Cozy and, “when they stand next to each other, they’re eye-to-eye.”
Rodríguez and his family expect to be relocated here by July 1. They are excited to be closer to family, including family in the Denver area who will now be able to drive here for visits.
The RFSD superintendency was the first and only superintendent position he had ever applied for. He explained that he wanted to work in a school district where “the strengths and needs of the school district aligned well with my experiences and my background.”
As it turns out, Rodríguez shared, “the Roaring Fork School district was meant to be that place.”
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