There are a lot of aspects of the Boulder Valley School District that might have drawn longtime BVSD teacher and administrator Lora de la Cruz back. Sure, our scenery can’t be beat, our schools are outstanding and there is no question that her historical knowledge of BVSD and relationships throughout the organization will be helpful in her new role as deputy superintendent.
Ultimately, however, it was the opportunity to lead the district’s All Together for All Students Strategic Plan that made it feel like destiny was calling.
The district’s effort to close the achievement and opportunity gaps, by addressing disparities, is
something that she is incredibly passionate about. Raised by a single mother in Texas, after her father died in Vietnam, she knows the importance education can play in a child’s life.
“My family didn’t have a lot of resources and teachers made all the difference in the world to me, de la Cruz said. “As an educator, I have always striven to provide that kind of support to students, and I carry that in my heart.”
It was this drive to help every student succeed that became the focus of her doctoral dissertation and prompted her to embark on a leadership journey. The lessons she learned as the area superintendent in Aurora and superintendent in Lake Oswego, Oregon made her the perfect person to return to BVSD four years later and guide our work.
“I got to provide leadership for building an instructional infrastructure where none existed and then we developed professional development that was aligned across the district. This provided coherence to educators, and improved systems across the organization,” de la Cruz said.
She says returning to Boulder Valley now feels magical.
“I’m really both grateful to be back in a place that I’m so familiar with and glad to be back in a time when there is so much need for coherence and alignment, and I get to be the person to provide leadership for that,” de la Cruz said. “It Is almost like all the stars aligned.”
She felt so strongly about the opportunity that she actually declined superintendencies elsewhere.
“I weighed what is the experience I want to have as a leader. What is the impact I want to have on the system? I asked myself where I could have the most joy, learning and growth. This exact role, deputy superintendent of Boulder Valley fit the bill for what I thought was right for my next steps in my career,” she said.
As deputy superintendent, she will oversee the entire academic side of BVSD, working closely with district and school leaders to help make our strategic plan a reality.
“In terms of building the coherence and alignment that we need, it is really important to have one person overseeing all the networks, because it is really easy to get into silos,” de la Cruz said. “What I am loving about it is that I’m getting to stay really close to the layer of leadership that is our principals, our district leadership, our teachers.”
Following this summer’s reorganization, the three assistant superintendents report to her: Robbyn Fernandez, who now is responsible for all of our schools through the School Leadership department; Nativity Miller in Opportunity and Access, which includes Special Education, Gifted and Talented, MTSS and more; and Sam Messier, Strategic Partnerships and Academic Service, which now includes our equity and family partnership work, as well as assessment, curriculum and instructional materials.
As someone who spent 15 years in the classroom and says she is still a teacher at heart – she knows that it is absolutely critical that the strategic plan is implemented well and that the changes we are asking of our teachers and schools make sense and support them as professionals.
“We have such highly capable teachers in Boulder Valley. We are really fortunate about that,” de la Cruz said. “I think that even the most skilled, experienced teacher always wants to be in a continuous learning cycle and to have the very best leading-edge tools and systems available. That is what we are striving to do. We are working to provide those.”
She understands that the idea of large, systemic changes have some educators worried. She wants to put their minds at ease. The focus is alignment and coherence – not an authoritarian state.
“It’s natural for educators to have that question. The great news is that it is not an accurate perception that we are trying to have everyone on the same page at the same time,” de la Cruz said. “In order to get equitable outcomes, the experiences our kids are having in classroom A on one side of town and classroom B on the other side of town must be similar, standards-based, and focused on the priority standards that all students need to know to understand, in order to be successful in their academic career – and then to be able to have the post-secondary life of their choice.”
De la Cruz looks forward to a day when we have all the tools, resources and practices in place to best support teachers, so that they can be as responsive as possible to variable student needs.
“That is very exciting and leading-edge,” de la Cruz said.
And ultimately, she believes it will move the dial – closing the achievement and opportunity gaps.