De Bell, one of the school’s assistant principals, was named principal recently, beating out 14 applicants, including five other finalists, for the job. The school has struggled with low test scores, undergone numerous reforms and seen a string of principals. De Bell replaces Yvonne Garcia who announced her retirement last month. Under her tenure, she brought stability to the school and the graduation rate increased to 65.4 percent.
De Bell was part of the reform efforts, and already knows the staff and the community.
“It feels natural to me,” she said. “I already know what the history here is.”
She said the school will continue to use data to make decisions about instruction, offer after-school tutoring, credit recovery classes and clubs, and give students more opportunity to enroll in college courses. She said each certified staff member will be assigned 14 students they will advise. The staff member will be the contact point between the school and the student and his or her family.
De Bell seems to have the approval of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association. She met with the group earlier this week. PTSA president Jessica Farrow said parents were initially shocked when Garcia announced her departure but are pleased with the selection of De Bell. Farrow said that, although the school has gone through many changes, most have been good for the school. De Bell, she said, already knows what is going on at Rio Grande and has been on board with those changes.
“We are quite excited,” she said. “She’s been a strong advocate for Rio Grande. My interaction with her has been positive.”
The other finalists for the job were Christopher Hotchkiss, principal of the Academy of Trades and Technology charter school; Judith Martin-Tafoya, longtime principal at Truman Middle School; Michael Bachicha, principal of LBJ Middle School; Pedro Vallejo, an assistant principal at Rio Grande; and Rubén Pérez, an assistant principal at Cibola High.