As Richard Rundhaug began the first day of the Brawley Elementary School District school year on Aug. 19 he was perhaps guided by a quote on a plaque overlooking his desk. The words of poet William Butler Yeats reads: “Education is not the filling of the pail but the lighting of a fire.”
The new superintendent’s first official day was July 1 and he noted it did not take long for him to begin enacting his vision throughout the campuses he oversees.
Rundhaug is an Arizona native with a plethora of experience in education. He was superintendent of Wilcox Unified School District and Liberty Elementary School District, and assistant superintendent of the Coolidge Unified School District.
“I was a superintendent in Arizona for seven years. I began as a consultant for troubled school districts. I did that for a couple years, finding districts that were in trouble and helping to get them back on course,” he recalled.
Despite a professional history of helping troubled districts, the superintendent wanted to affirm the Brawley district is not categorized as such.
Despite his lofty position he maintains a down-to-earth, easy-going approach, rides a bike to work and loves to surf when class is out for summer.
Explaining his affinity for his new home, Rundhaug said, “Brawley is the perfect spot for us to live because it is in between Yuma, where my family is, and the beach.”
What seemed like a whirlwind was underway at the district office the week before school began. Last-minute preparation felt endless for employees, but excitement was in the air for the beginning of the school year.
“We have several new (staff members) this year and we have been doing everything we can to get our second middle school built, Las Palomas,” Rundhaug explained of some of the changes in store for students this year.
Rundhaug added he already has plans to obtain grants to build more permanent classroom structures on BESD campuses.
“There is funding available after we build the new middle school to make improvements on the other middle schools and we recently began the process to seek that funding,” he said. “I plan to use those funds to replace as many of the temporary classrooms with permanent ones as possible.”
Putting his expertise in K-12 education to use, Rundhaug added he will create what he describes as a data-rich environment for the educators under his wing.
While accessing the previous year’s test scores is a common method for educators to evaluate students, Rundhaug explained his issue with that saying, “I call this autopsy data. It tells us how we did last year. What it doesn’t do is tell us how we are doing right now.”
Rundhaug explained how he plans to collect more accurate data for Brawley Elementary teachers.
“We are going to be initiating a data process that helps us to figure out how our students are preforming right and how we can respond to help those students,” he said. “The next step in the process is to develop an intervention system to help those students, which is basically a tutoring system.”
He also plans to further improve student testing scores by aligning curricula and testing databases more precisely with state testing standards.
Summing up his approach to his first year, Rundhaug explained, “We are definitely going to shoot for academic growth, but from a cultural standpoint, I am big on creating an enjoyable environment for employees.”
He then added with a chuckle, “I’ve got a silly side. Not every superintendent has pictures of himself surfing in his office.”
For more information about the Brawley Elementary district or to see a video of the superintendent delivering his annual message visit www.besd.org.