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Principal Maestas strives to help Murray Middle School students ensure they can have the life they deserve. / Laura Austin Photo

Maestas takes the lead position at Murray Middle School

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer– Sierra Sands Unified School District’s (SSUSD) Murray Middle School (Murray) has a new principal. Angela Robbins Maestas came to the desert to assume the position of Assistant Superintendent/Principal at Trona Unified School District for the 2022-2023 school year. This school year, she joined SSUSD. During her long career, she has held educational leadership positions in Los Angeles County, Ontario, Alhambra, Apple Valley, Coachella Valley, and in Jefferson County, Colorado, where she began her career.

By moving to Ridgecrest, it seems that Maestas has come full circle. She was raised in a military family and now she is living and working in a military town. She thinks her father is probably looking down and smiling at her. Being part of a military family meant that she moved a lot. “The one consistent, stable piece was school,” says Maeasta. “My parents very much pushed that education was the access to equity, to being able to have a path where you could learn, lead a life, and have opportunity.” Education is, in part, a family legacy, “My grandfather, my mom’s dad, was a principal in a very small rural community,” she says. When the family moved her mother frequently worked in the local school.

Her introduction to Murray was very uplifting and promising, “At orientation this year, as I came in, I was excited to see that we had our students in these (branded) T-shirts that were leading the sixth-grade tours. They were leaders to take the kids around campus to show them classrooms, where the bathrooms are, and how to navigate this very large campus as a sixth grader. They spent the morning doing that with them.”

Encouraging kids to move forward in life is key to Maestas in this post-pandemic world we live in. “We have to move forward,” she emphasizes. “These kids deserve that. So many generations have gone through things. They have had to pick up and keep going. We have so many talented kids and so many resources. At some point, it’s so devastating but that’s why we’re human. We are resilient. We have to go forward.”

We spoke to Maestas after her first “Coffee with the Principal” event. She is heartened by the community’s participation. “We had a wonderful group show up. Since I’ve been here, the parents have been showing up. The Parent-Teacher Organization is growing. Our volunteers are growing and that’s what we need to get back to where community is part of the school. Our parents and our kids deserve to have the hope to continue having what they deserve. So, hopefully, I will be lucky to be a part of that. If we don’t do it, who else is going to set that tone for them?”

Maestas has support from an individual who was deeply entrenched in a community and national tragedy, Frank DeAngelis, the principal at Columbine High School during the massacre. At one time, his sister was Maestas’ secretary. “Frank was a person that I saw really persevere in really a great tragedy. He decided to continue in that role for the kids who were in kindergarten when that happened and to see them graduate. He stayed committed to them. He didn’t walk away.” She tells us he is one of many people “I’ve looked to, to give me guidance on how to be a better leader.”

With SSUSD celebrating the expansion of music in the schools, it is interesting to note that Maestas has a musical background. Her parents encouraged her to find a more “stable” career after she completed her double major in piano and flute performance. She went on to get her education degree and was qualified to teach band, choir, orchestra, “all of the above.” Since education was an experience where she found stability and success as she grew up, returning to schools to teach and be an administratorwas a good fit. “It was the place that I felt that was more home.”

Recently, she had to step in and teach the band class. She told the kids, “When we have our music events this year, it would be nice to perform and play with them.” She tells us, “I used to say there are people on the stage but you must educate people to be an audience because if you don’t build your audience, they will never support the folks that will be on stage.  People enjoy going to a concert; they love to see those folks on stage but not everybody gets to be on stage. It is really hard and it’s very competitive. And so the best thing is then to be somebody who enjoys it and supports it so that it continues.”

Asked what she does for fun, she says she was happy to learn about the Night on Balsam and local music/theater productions. She hopes to get back into training so she can once again do her late-in-life discovery of participating in 5 and 10K races. During school breaks, she would like to get back to traveling and see some of the places on her bucket list.