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Dr. April Moore, now settled into her office, is ready to take hold of her position as the new superintendent for the Sierra Sands Unified School District. Ready to Listen, Learn and Lead. / Laura Austin Photo

Dr. April Moore’s 100-Day Plan to Listen, Learn, and Lead

After 24 years of diverse educational roles under her belt, Dr. April Moore has dynamically embraced her position as the new superintendent for the Sierra Sands Unified School District (SSUSD).  She began her 100-Day Plan on July 1, which she calls “Listening, Learning, and Leading.”  Sticking to this three-phase plan, Moore has given herself rigid start and end dates, and so far, she is on target, having already completed the first phase this week.

Phase One was “listening.”  Her goal was to meet in one-on-one meetings with Ridgecrest’s elected officials, the school board members, and each of the 32 people in the administration.  She said she believes it is imperative to get to know each of the members individually and understand their needs and desired goals.  She realizes she is “coming from the outside,” and the last thing she would do is tell them, “This is how it has to be,” or “This is the right way to do things.”  During July, Moore has seen “a lot of right things happening in Ridgecrest,” but some challenges are also being “collectively identified.”  For instance, one important challenge is “getting [and retaining] highly qualified staff.”

Wasting no time in this initial phase, Moore met all the district’s school principals and held a leadership retreat last week.  She said the two-day retreat aimed to get to know one another and look at this coming year’s priorities.  She plans to model this year’s leadership theme after Stephen Covey’s book, Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others.  The main message of this book is to be aware that there is “potential and greatness inside each of us.”  Its goal is to “unleash people’s talent and potential to truly empower and inspire them, rather than to try to contain and control them.”

Having just finished her first phase, she is excited about Phase Two, which is “Learning.”  Beginning in August, this second phase involves attending all the schools’ staff meetings.  During these meetings, she will ask the staff members to help her identify three things: their strengths, their weaknesses, and “the opportunities they see in Ridgecrest.”

Phase Three, which is “Leading,” will begin at the end of September or early October. The process in this third phase is to “gather all the themes, validate them, and then present them to the [school] board.”  The month of October is perfect timing because it is the month the board renews its three-year goals.  She imagines she will say something like, “I listened and learned, and here’s what the community and our staff are saying…”  Then she can present the idea of “going forward together.”

When asked what her vision is for this school district, Moore said she feels SSUSD’s current vision statement is a great one with which she can comfortably align.  Reciting from memory, she said, “It is to engage all of our learners and our staff through innovative education to help them meet their goals and dreams and aspirations, whether it is college, career, or life.”  She said this vision statement “aligns with my passion of supporting all students to meet their goals and dreams.”

Even though the parents are not mentioned in the school’s vision statement, she said she believes parents are critical because “they’re the first teachers of our students, and we know we can’t do it alone.”  She sees the roles of the school and the parents as “a community approach.”  Looking back at some of the past controversies at our nation’s school board meetings during Covid-19, she said, “That was a fluid environment, and we were all trying to do the best we could at the time.”  She does believe “our current board and myself are all pretty much focused, and with intentionality will meet the needs of the students.”  Their charge is, to the “absolute best of our ability, to make wise decisions to support the students.”  Even though there may be disagreements on occasion between individuals or groups, “we take our job really seriously, and that is our passion and our role” to make “hard decisions on behalf of students.”

Asked what such a focused, goal-oriented school superintendent plans to do to avoid burnout, she said she would use the cycle of school systems with its “strategic breaks” for personal rejuvenation.  She looks forward to getting to know the people and the area on weekends and visiting her family members nearby in California during the longer breaks.   Having always been active with the communities in which she has lived, she looks forward to attending the local football games and school plays.  But, after those times of rejuvenation, she plans to “be fully present and ready when school is in session.”