WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The News recently sat down with Williams Unified School District Superintendent Rachel Savage to find out what a typical day looks like.
How long have you been the superintendent at Williams Unified School District?
I have been the superintendent for one and a half years. Prior to that I served as principal at the Elementary-Middle School for three years. Previously to that, I was an administrative intern at a high school in Dubuque, Iowa.
What made you decide to go into education?
It was the only thing I ever wanted to be as a child. I had a really positive school experience, and I saw how powerful teachers can be in the life of kids and I thought it would be a really fulfilling career.
What's a typical day like?
A typical day as a school administrator is different every single day. There are positives and challenges that pop up all day long. My main focus is to support the students and to support the staff and to support the parents. Sometimes I meet with the principals, sometimes I visit a classroom, sometimes I will pitch in where needed, substitute for a class, supervise a lunchroom, whatever needs to be done.
So it's really different every day. It's multifaceted, that is what I think is the most interesting and exciting thing about the job. But overall the most important thing is to have the capacity to affect positive change for the school district. As a teacher you see things that are working and are not working, as a principal you see things that are working and not working and it's important to me that this district be successful. So my job is to do whatever it takes for that to happen.
What's the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being with the students. I make an effort to visit each school every day. That is my goal, it does not always happen. But I really make an effort to be in the classroom, to walk up and down the hallways, to visit with teachers, to participate in the events that are happening at the school. To me, it's very easy to get wrapped up in the political part of the job, the challenges happening at the state level with Common Core and teacher evaluation and school district funding and all of that. But the most important thing that's happening is the students' learning in the classroom. So my best part of the day is being with the kids.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The challenges are not always being able to have the resources to do the job effectively, not having additional support staff to help us with our mission and our goals. Obviously, whenever something negative happens to a student or a teacher we want to be there to assist in any way that we can and sometimes that can be a difficult task. Kids come to school with a lot of different learning barriers, and it is a very strategic game to figure out exactly what each child needs and what we can do with our limited financial resource and human resource to help that child be successful and to help every child grow no matter where they are in their learning process.
What are your goals for the district?
We definitely always have the goal of raising student achievement. We are relentlessly searching for ways to help us become an A district. We teetered on the B range for a while and I feel like we have all the potential in the world to become an A or a B district. It takes time for systems-wide change and for professional development to take effect and for other types of student interventions to take effect, but I believe we have the potential to see high academic success.
I have the goal of ensuring that all students graduate ready for post-secondary education or ready for the military or ready for a job or a career, whatever suits them best.
We have the goal of making sure that these kids grow up to become contributing members of their community so that they understand the value of community service and the value of education and getting them where they need to be so they can be productive in their communities.
We have the goal of keeping kids safe at school.
What are some of your highlights from your time as superintendent?
The most important accomplishment last year was the community support for our override. It allowed us to not have to cut programs and not have to cut positions. And from the community's standpoint we see this as an opportunity to gain trust and confidence in our ability to do our job.
The second accomplishment would be in the School Facilities Board emergency funds project that we were awarded. It was $2.5 million to fund an emergency facility improvement project that lasted over two academic years. And it was a tremendous challenge to navigate that construction under normal regular operations but that was a tremendous accomplishment for this district and for the community to upgrade the safety of the facility exponentially with regard to the ceiling and the roof of the Elementary-Middle School as well as the High School gym. That emergency state funding completely eliminated the burden from the taxpayers of this community to keep the facilities safe for our students and staff.
And finally we are doing our best to increase the academic rigor of our programs at both the K-8 school as well as the high school. We are adding more dual credit programs, we are adding more career and technical programs, and we have adopted the Common Core curriculum, which brings higher standards and a new level of rigor for our students.
Anything you want to add?
I just want to really express gratitude to the community of Williams for the support of the schools. We continue to strive for excellence, continue to find ways to meet the needs of the community, and input and suggestion is always welcome. Please stop by or call, I'd be happy to hear from you.