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Thu, Oct. 21

Maine Consolidated School District welcomes new superintendent

Justin Roberson is the new superintendent at Maine Consolidated School District. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Justin Roberson is the new superintendent at Maine Consolidated School District. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — In just his first few weeks on the job, Maine Consolidated School District Superintendent Justin Roberson has seen a strong sense of community in Parks.

“I like to keep the door open and provide opportunities to communicate,” Roberson said.

Roberson comes to the small district from Tuba City School District where he served first as an elementary school teacher and later as a principal.

Growing up in a small town in northeast Iowa, Roberson hit the road, after graduating with an elementary education degree from the University of Iowa, in search of new experiences and ended up accepting a job at Tuba City.

“I didn’t have a cell phone back then, and just drove out,” he said. “I applied around northern Arizona and they were like you can be 90 miles from the Grand Canyon and pay $70 for rent.”

Roberson embraced the community and ended up staying in Tuba City for 25 years, raising a family and serving the Navajo and Hopi Reservations in a variety of schools.

Fresh out of college, Roberson began his career teaching fifth grade at Eagles Nest Intermediate School. Roberson went onto teach at Tsinaabaa Habitin Elementary, Dzil Libei Elementary and Tuba City Primary School. He also spent time coaching at Tuba City Junior High.

During this time, Roberson began working to further his education by taking classes at Northern Arizona University.

“I began making the transition to principal gradually as I had a little extra cash and extra time,” he said. ‘’That was back when you couldn’t do everything completely online and I did a lot of back and forth to Flagstaff.”

While raising a young family, Roberson completed his master’s and doctorate degree in educational leadership from NAU, where he wrote a dissertation called “The Effects of Formal Music Education on Third Grade Math and Reading AIMS scores."

After 14 years as an elementary school teacher, Roberson transitioned to principal at Tuba City Intermediate School and then Tuba City Elementary.

Roberson has fond memories of living and working in Tuba City, but looks forward new experiences as he transitions to Parks.

“When I saw the job advertised, one Saturday I just drove over here and saw how amazing it was,” he said. “It’s a beautiful campus and a beautiful area — I had a meet and greet last night with the community. I think it will be a good fit.”

With the recent rise of COVID-19 positive cases, Roberson said he and the staff are prepared for any mitigation changes. As of now, per Gov. Doug Ducey’s orders, all Arizona public schools will offer in-person learning.

As an administrator with Tuba City School District, Roberson has experience teaching and leading under COVID-19 mitigation measures.

“It was challenging, but there were silver linings,” Roberson said. “Like parent involvement — we had to be constantly looking for solutions. It really gave me a realization of what the school and community means.”

Tuba City School District follows state and federal guidelines, but must also abide by the Navajo Tribal laws since it lies on the Navajo Reservation. As COVID-19 positive cases increased dramatically on the reservation last year, all schools went to online learning.

Roberson said it was challenging to reach students, especially those who weren’t able to access the internet.

“We provided on site services where kids could use the internet, and also provided MiFis and iPads to those who didn’t feel comfortable doing that,” he said. “And for some who couldn’t access the internet at all, we provided work packets that were sent out on buses.”

Roberson is looking forward to holding in person classes at Maine Consolidated, but said the district is prepared for any potential changes.

“You can only control what you have control of,” Roberson said. “We have plan a, b and c and will continue to follow what Dr. Williams (the former superintendent) had in place.”

Roberson said he looks forward to working with the MCSD staff, most who worked through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“They know the routine,” he said. “That’s really helpful, we just need to be prepared for what comes.”

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