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Juan Cruz has opportunity to maximize his impact

September 20, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

When he was named principal of El Centro's Harding Elementary School last week, Juan Cruz met a goal he's worked at since starting his career in education.

Though he knew he wanted to teach from early on, Cruz said he also knew he wanted to go beyond teaching and into administration someday.

"I want to impact the lives of children. I want to maximize that impact," Cruz, 32, said.

As a teacher, Cruz thought he was able to affect his students in a positive way. When he starts his first day as a principal Tuesday, he expects to affect an entire school of kids, not just one classroom.

"Schools have a critical role in providing children the foundation to a successful life," Cruz said.

"For many of our children, schools are the only place giving them the keys to get out," Cruz said.

Cruz attended Brawley schools before Imperial Valley College and San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus, from which he attained his master's degree in curriculum and instruction. He holds an administrative credential from the University of Redlands.


Cruz, who is leaving a post as a school support coordinator at the Imperial County Office of Education, sees his job at Harding as a homecoming of sorts. Cruz began his career in education by teaching in fellow El Centro Elementary School District school Lincoln Elementary.

Describing feelings of "nervous excitement," Cruz said he looks forward to continuing the work of out-going principal Pat Maruca.

Noting Harding's performance meeting and exceeding its API score the past two years, Cruz said he does not want to divert the staff "from the quality of work they're doing."

Cruz thinks he brings a richness and depth of experience to the position. While he's never been a principal, Cruz has worked at most every other level in the educational system, from teaching assistant to SDSU-IV instructor.

ECESD Superintendent Michael Klentschy said Cruz was the consensus choice of the interview panel selecting from four candidates.

Among the qualifications that made Cruz the right selection were his familiarity with the district, understanding of and grounding in the state accountability system and extensive background in standards-based instructional practices, Klentschy said.

"He's very well-suited for the position," Klentschy said.

In the meantime, Cruz has his eye on excellency.

"A great school, in my opinion, is focused on students, has a vision of what it wants to accomplish for students and has a process of constant refinement in place," Cruz said.

"A great school is not content being a good school," he added.

Cruz lives in Calexico with his wife, Norma, a teacher at Mains Elementary there, and their two children.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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