Michelle Rodriguez pvusd
Michelle Rodriguez, Superintendent for Pajaro Valley Unified School District, addresses a large crowd at the 2019 State of the District meeting at the Civic Plaza building in Watsonville. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian file

WATSONVILLE—Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez has been named Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region 10. 

The region covers 42 school districts in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.

“It is a pleasure and privilege to be recognized by colleagues and partners who daily inspire me to do the work I do to support our learners every day,” Rodriguez stated in a press release. “It has always been clear to me that to positively impact the students under our educational care, it is critical to have active engagement of students, the support of staff and families and the collaboration of community partners.”

Rodriguez began with the district in 2016. Since then she has implemented numerous programs such as Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words (SIPPS,) which district officials say has helped lead to increased literacy scores districtwide.

According to data from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, the percentage of students that met or exceeded standards increased dramatically since Rodriguez joined the district, from 30.74% in the 2016-17 school year to 69.23% in 2020-21.

She also led the district in its adoption of the Whole Child, Whole Family, Whole Community initiative, an educational philosophy that combines academic learning with several other aspects such as socio-emotional health and physical well-being.

PVUSD bolstered its Career Technical Education programs under her leadership, creating signature pathways at each of the high schools, which includes dual enrollment at Cabrillo College.

PVUSD Trustee Jennifer Holm praised Rodriguez for leading efforts to return music and art programs to classrooms after they were slashed during budget cuts in 2008.

“When my children started attending schools in the district in 2003, there were very few opportunities for music instruction,” Holm said. “Many schools had no music instruction. The majority of our schools now have music programs, and, within two years, they will have expanded to every school in the district.”

Rodriguez also led an effort to bring the Latino Film Institute to PVUSD schools, a filmmaking program led by actor Edward James Olmos.

The award comes a year after Rodriguez was fired in a 4-3 vote by the PVUSD’s Board of Trustees, a decision that they reversed days later after significant public outcry.

Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance CEO Erica Padilla-Chavez said that Rodriguez’s focus on the “whole child” aligns with current public health practices that consider social determinants of health in addressing child well-being.

“There is increased opportunity for our children to achieve academic success when they are supported in all ways, not just academically,” Padilla-Chavez stated in a press release. “Simply stated, Dr. Rodriguez understands the whole student and is aligning resources to support them to succeed.”

Rodriguez has a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and Spanish, a master’s degree in elementary reading and literacy, and a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Southern California. 

She began her career as a dual-immersion teacher followed by a reading recovery teacher, literacy coach and staff developer. She was principal at Live Oak Elementary and Harvest Valley schools in Southern California before she was selected as Director of Student Achievement with Santa Ana Unified School District.

Rodriguez will be honored at the Region 10 ACSA May 6 Annual Spring Fling to be held at the Embassy Suites in Seaside. For information, visit bit.ly/3OAytmg.

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