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New Superintendent Sets Goals for Upcoming School Years

Mike Rockwood, Ph.D. emphasizes the importance of communication and unity to bring future success to the district.
Photo by O.S. Keijsers Koning
Superintendent Mike Rockwood is welcomed by high school principal Jeremy Gilbert.

The district welcomes its ninth superintendent, Mike Rockwood, Ph.D. Rockwood didn’t always dream of becoming a superintendent, but after working in a public school system in his twenties, he realized his true passion was education.

“I don’t see how you can’t be excited to come to work knowing that what you’re trying to do is make people better, whether it’s a student or a coworker or a community member,” Rockwood said. “And that’s why I love public education.”

Rockwood has jumped at the chance to attend as many school events as possible, granting him the ability to share his excitement for the new year.

“He is highly energetic and very relational,” principal Jeremy Gilbert said. “He certainly values the people that he works with, [and] he has been on campus a lot.”

Principal Gilbert admires Rockwood’s dedication to the district and the enthusiasm he brings. With Gilbert’s support, and by listening to the community, Rockwood believes he can figure out the best course of action to improve the district.

“For me, it’s really important that I come in and listen to all the people that make up the Park Cities and Highland Park ISD,” Rockwood said. “We’re going to try to figure out what are the things that are really important that we want to protect and what are some things we might want to improve upon or change.”

Along with prioritizing the community, Rockwood also believes that becoming a friendly face to people in the community goes a long way. He emphasizes the importance of forming a personal connection with everyone he meets.

“It’s important to tug on my shoulder or say hello or wave at me because I want to hear from all the people in the organization,” Rockwood said.

The first step in Rockwood’s goal of improving the district is identifying the large problems. From there, he will be able to address the concerns of all community members.

“[We’re going to] identify what the big priorities are for Highland Park ISD over the next three or five years, whether that’s in areas like academics, operations, communications and community engagement or staffing and support,” Rockwood said.

By creating a 3 to 5-year plan, a strong framework can be developed for all school subjects. That includes improving the professional developments and materials, as well as supporting teachers. Another addition Rockwood has implemented is administrative walkthroughs in classrooms.

“[There’s] six administrators and we are committing to 10 walkthroughs a week. So that means that every week we will be in at least 60 classrooms,” Gilbert said. “Just having a heavier presence there, I really like that.”

With an administrative presence in classrooms, the staff can create a more personal relationship with students. Rockwood is also attempting to form a deeper connection with his students through social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

“I know that [with] social media, he has come in and ramped up for our district,” Gilbert said. “[It’s] been a great way for us to connect with our students.”

In addition to the expansion of social media for the district, Rockwood continues to make plans for other ways to improve the district, including budgeting additional money for district improvement projects. He is collaborating with the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Scott Drillette. Rockwood has expressed amazement by the amount of funds and support that the district receives.

“There is no other district like Highland Park ISD when it comes to donations and contributions from our affiliated organizations,” Rockwood said. “Our booster club is not only impressive, but it is unheard of.”

With the monetary support from the district, Rockwood is sure that the district schools will continue to thrive. This budget allows the school district to access some of the best resources for its students.

“I think probably the overarching goal is to ensure that we are in a strong financial position so that we [can] pay competitive salaries to our staff,” Drillette said. “We do make decisions and have systems in place that allow us to provide the best environmental systems and campuses for the most quality educational experience for students.”

Drillette emphasizes the importance of financial stability for a school district in providing vast learning opportunities for students. With new systems implemented, members of the district are looking forward to seeing the successes the new superintendent may bring.

“It goes back to being a superintendent and setting up the system and the structure and the pathways to success,” Rockwood said. “I’m inspired by the work that happens here every single day.”

About the Contributor
OS Keijsers Koning
OS Keijsers Koning, Reporter
What are you looking forward to on the staff this year? Expanding my writing skills and hanging out with the Newspaper staff. What are your favorite TV shows/movies? Knives Out and New Girl What are your hobbies? Running, archery, and my writing internship with DONE Magazine