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APS superintendent finalist addresses community, board questions

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Ignacio Ruiz, assistant superintendent for the Clark County School District in Nevada, said he grew up in a community similar to Albuquerque and that’s part of the reason he wants to become the next Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent.

“I was an English learner going into school,” he said.

He playfully cited the state’s famous chile as another big draw to make the move.

Ruiz is now one of three finalists for the job after Ushma Shah, assistant superintendent of elementary schools, instruction and equity for School District U-46 in Illinois, withdrew her application.

“While I was excited to potentially make the move to New Mexico, recent personal matters have underscored the importance of remaining local at this time,” Shah wrote in a letter to the APS Board of Education dated Feb. 28.

Ruiz spent Monday night answering community questions and being publicly interviewed by board members.

Ignacio Ruiz, assistant superintendent for the Clark County School District in Nevada, spoke to the Albuquerque Public Schools community virtually on Monday night after being named an APS superintendent finalist.

The bilingual administrator, who calls himself a lifelong educator and a collaborative leader, emphasized his experience in other large, urban districts.

Ruiz said the district he is at now has 310,000 students and over 300 schools. Part of his job is overseeing an English language learner division.

“I really feel like I’d be of service to the APS community,” he said.

When asked about boosting academics, Ruiz said he wants to raise student expectations.

“Grade-level standards are the floor, not the ceiling,” he said. “Too many times, we see the grade-level standards and that’s where we stop.”

He also stressed targeting resources at students who are struggling.

Ruiz was also asked about reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to get our kiddos back in school,” he said. “We need to be able to see them and be able to support them – not only with the instructional piece but also … that social, emotional piece.”

The superintendent finalist said partnerships with local health agencies and detailed protocols are key. He also stressed community communication is a crucial aspect of successfully reopening schools.

According to an updated schedule, APS Interim Superintendent Scott Elder will go through the same process on Tuesday and Bolgen Vargas, a self-employed consultant and former superintendent of Rochester City School District in New York, will be under the spotlight on Thursday.

Community forums are 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and interviews are 7:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., all of which are livestreamed. The link is at APS.edu.

The board has been looking for a permanent leader to succeed Raquel Reedy and has already conducted initial interviews with six semifinalists. The aim is to announce the superintendent selection as early as Friday.

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