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RR school district celebrates 20 years

Rio Rancho Public Schools executive director of human resources Sue Passell directs the district choir during a 20th-anniversary celebration at the Santa Ana Star Center Monday. The choir is made up of teachers, administrators and other staff members.

(Elaine Briseno/Journal)
Rio Rancho Public Schools executive director of human resources Sue Passell directs the district choir during a 20th-anniversary celebration at the Santa Ana Star Center Monday. The choir is made up of teachers, administrators and other staff members. (Elaine Briseno/Journal)
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Rio Rancho Public Schools eighth- through 12th-grade students will return to class today. Monday, the district welcomed back its teachers during a 20th anniversary celebration at the Santa Ana Star Center. Each year RRPS holds a meeting for teachers a few days before students return. This year officials decided to turn the annual meeting into a celebration. The three-hour event featured a video, slide show and several speakers highlighting milestones from the district’s last 20 years. In 1993, the city was allowed to start its own school district, which was split between Jemez Springs and Albuquerque. It began operating in 1994 with seven schools, none of which was a high school. Those students were still mostly attending Cibola High a few miles away but Superintendent Sue Cleveland said they were spread out around Albuquerque. “All our schools were bursting at the seams,” Cleveland said. “The day we opened, we needed five more schools.” Intel paid for and built Rio Rancho High in 1997. The district now has 19 campuses, one of which is another high school. Cleveland recalled the first staff meeting, which was held in the gymnasium at Lincoln Middle School. “When the first bus with Rio Rancho Public Schools on the side rolled into sight,” she said. “There was not a dry eye in the house.” Other speakers included first RRPS board president Karla Walker, current board president Carl Harper, who was also served on the first school board, retired RRPS teacher Helen Romero-Johnson and three district graduates. “It was a daunting task to create a functioning district,” Harper said. “But we had wonderful community support.”

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