Interim school superintendent ready to re-retire

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

When former Clovis schools superintendent Neil Nuttall accepted a position as president at North Central Missouri College last winter, retired assistant superintendent of instruction G.C. Ross was recruited to serve as interim superintendent.

Ross, with more than three decades of experience under his belt, seemed a natural fit, according to school board president Terry Martin.

“Mr. Ross has been a blessing in disguise. He has the respect of teachers and the community,” said Martin, “and you don’t find those individuals very often — he was the steadiness we needed at the time of Nutall’s departure.”

But the month of June will end Ross’ interim and usher in yet another change for the district. Rhonda Seidenwurm officially steps into the role of superintendent June 1. Ross, on the other hand, will once again enjoy the perks of retirement.

“I am going to go back to the golf course to work on my handicap. I haven’t played one round in the last month so I’m getting rusty,” said Ross from school district’s central office, chatting about the many things he has missed in the last months — long walks with his yellow Labrador, his wife, and of course — the 18 hole golf course.

“I might come by some school board meetings just to make sure everyone is behaving themselves,” joked Ross, whose contract will cease June 30.

He said there will be at least a three-week transitional period.

“A lot of times,” said Ross, “you don’t have the luxury of a transition like this. When I came we had one day to make a transition. It wasn’t as critical because I was so knowledgeable about the district and about the people who worked in the district. With her (Seidenwurm) coming in new, it will be a real positive.”

Ross said his successor, however, will face two particular challenges.

The first, he said, is a three-tiered salary system, which boosts the minimum salary range between $30,000 and $50,000 depending on experience and licensure, according to Ross.

“The reform is great because it allows New Mexico to catch up with other states in terms of salaries. But it is creating some funding problems. We are OK for the 2005-2006 school year because of categorical state funding, but we could have been short half-a-million dollars,” Ross said.

The second hinges on the possible closure of Cannon Air Force Base. The district stands to lose thousands in government aid if students from military families leave the district.

Seidenwurm remains confident and eager.

“I’m winding down here,” said Seidenwurm from her Las Cruces office, where she will step down as deputy superintendent of instruction, “and I’m gearing up in Clovis. I am visiting with administration on a daily basis and I’m eager to get there and feel like I can get settled and start working with people.”

In early May, Seidenwurm, who said she plans on staying with the district for the remainder of her career, visited each of the schools in the district to meet with staff.

Seidenwurm said the little things — observing children practicing for a play and seeing camaraderie among staff members — impressed her most.

“It was very heartening,” Seidenwurm said, “to visit firsthand with some fine teachers and principals. Having spent six days in Clovis, I know we have a very good staff.”