On July 8, Dr. Mayra Perez granted me the privilege of having an extensive and wide-ranging conversation with her. Those two hours were both informative and pleasant. She officially started her role as the new Superintendent for the Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District on July 1, although she’s been engaged and preparing to take the reigns since May of this year. There isn’t any way to capture everything we discussed in a single article, but hopefully the highlights can provide you a sense of our new Superintendent.
Perez brings both a passion and over 34 years of experience to her current role. Born and raised in the Silver Lake east central region of Los Angeles, California; she began her career as a classroom teacher with the Glendale Unified School District. For three years, she helped fifth and sixth grade students as they moved up from elementary to middle school. Then she began her own upwards journey. First as a teacher’s specialist and then as a specialist for English as Second Language (ESL) students. Eventually that led her to the Special Education arena. For five years she worked closely to meet the individual needs of those students. She said, “I loved my job” and helping them mainstream to general education was one of the reasons she did.
Perez went on to administrative roles as an assistant principal, then a school principal. In 2016, she was recruited to move north to the bay area. San Rafael City Schools hired her as the Deputy School Superintendent where she’s worked for the last four years while living in Novato. When she heard about the opening in our school district, she was curious. She investigated and liked what she saw. She was ready and she knew it was “an opportunity to do some good work.” Working with a large school district, she learned a lot. It was a lot like working for a business. However, she’s looking forward to working in a smaller district like ours, because they are “more personal” and she’s a people type person.
Of Hispanic heritage, a child of immigrants who is bilingual; Perez isn’t shy in self identifying herself as an Equity Leader. In fact, she said all of us need to be equity leaders. However, she also said, “I want to be absolutely clear, I’m looking out for all our kids.” Her goal as superintendent is to ensure “every child gets a high-quality education.” To do that, she intends to be data driven, looking at the “whole child” and systemic in moving the district forward. Part of her vision is to improve communications, transparency, and parental involvement. She said, “we’re all in this together.” She looks forward to meeting with community members and leaders, not just staff and teachers to that end.
Starting her tenure during this challenging time, she said “the first 90 days” for a new superintendent “is critical.” She already had an entry plan ready to go. But given the current turmoil regarding reopening schools during COVID-19 and the potential funding issues, executing that plan isn’t the highest priority at this moment. She doesn’t want to sit behind a desk and make decisions, she wants to be out and about listening to staff, teachers and the community. To find out what their concerns are, what their needs are, and how they can get more involved in the education of their children. Long term she plans to invest in the staff and ensure the future of our children. She said, “when a community makes that a priority, that’s where I want to work.”
An introduction letter is posted on the school district’s website at: www.crpusd.org/news/what_s_new/dr__perez_letter_of_introduction. It’s in both Spanish and English. It discusses some of the current challenges being faced, including distance learning and racial tensions. It also outlines some of the actions Perez plans to take. In it she says, “We will continue to strive to be good leaders, learners and citizens, ensuring that our schools are welcoming and places where all children belong.” Her passion was obvious during our conversation. It was clear that when she said “I don’t give up on students” she meant it. We waited a while to find our new superintendent. It appears the wait was worthwhile.