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Video tells the story, recalls key supporters

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The patriotic song, “Proud to be an American,” by Lee Greenwood, might need some new lyrics in the City of Vision.

Anyone viewing Rio Rancho Public Schools’ 20th anniversary video has got to be thinking, “I’m proud to be a Rio Ranchoan.”

The district’s plight to stand on its own, virtually breaking away from Albuquerque Public Schools and Jemez Valley Schools, was a challenge and some of that road to independence was either mentioned in remarks during a celebratory dinner Thursday evening in the Rio Rancho High School cafeteria or in the video.

As Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Debbi Moore has said more tha once, “It does take a village,” and that village — Rio Rancho — should be very proud of itself for the school district it built from the ground up two decades ago.

Naturally, all 20 years couldn’t be encompassed in a half-hour video, but a supplementary commemorative history book is being compiled and is due for publication in December.

“Innovation, Partnerships, Results” is the title of the book, which will sell for $20.

“It’s a story worth telling and a story worth remembering,” said Michelle Campbell, the project manager for the book.

The book’s title is an appropriate description for RRPS.

“We didn’t have resources (two decades ago),” recalled school board President Carl Harper, terming RRPS “the best thing that has happened to public education in New Mexico in 50 years.

“Who brought us here? The list is long,” Harper added, and many of those partners and backers were among the several hundred dinner guests. Indeed, many of the Rio Rancho 2000 Steering Committee, RRPS’s “founding fathers and mothers,” also were in attendance.

Partnerships with the City of Rio Rancho, Sandoval County and Intel Corp. were key along the way, and the results speak for themselves, with the district’s high schools annually producing some of the highest graduation rates, if not the highest, in the state.

Cleveland lamented the passing of a handful of other important partners in the district’s early years: Tony Popper, who she said may have been the first to envision a high school being built on Loma Colorado; Don Chalmers; former Sandoval County Commissioner Joe Lang; Intel’s Bill Sheppard; and former school board member and school bonds advocate Richard Muenzer.

Cleveland said the video to be seen — by this time, the gathering had moved to the Performing Arts Center — was “especially meaningful” because it had been produced by district students.

Original school board member Karla Walker, paraphrasing Abe Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., noted, “Twenty years and 50 pounds ago, we had a dream,” and through the video, which included interviews with all 18 school principals, that dream had come to fruition.

“This meant so much to all of us,” Walker said. “Thank you, Dr. Cleveland, for hanging in there all these 20 years.”

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