Conversation with … Robb Rankin, outgoing East Grand schools superintendent
June 24, 2008
After a dozen years, Robb Rankin is retiring as the superintendent of the East Grand School District.
Rankin’s last official day as the chief administrative officer for the district is Monday, June 30. Nancy Karas, who has been the principal of East Grand Middle School in Granby for the past nine years, will be taking over as the new superintendent.
When he steps down next week, Rankin will be ending his 33-year career in education that included 27 years as an administrator. From 1981 to 1990, he was the principal of Granby Elementary School before serving as an administrator at Cameron Elementary in Greeley from 1990-96. He was selected as the East Grand superintendent in 1996.
What do you feel that you have accomplished in the past 12 years as the district’s superintendent?
“When I took this job in 1996, I had three goals that I wanted to accomplish ” build trust, deal with change and make sure the necessary school construction projects went forward.
“In terms of trust, I feel that overall that was accomplished. Unfortunately, not everyone in the community understands all of the issues or necessarily agrees with the decisions that were made. To build trust, you have to have understanding and agreement.
“But the thing I feel most positive about is that the more than 20 members that have been on the school board since I’ve been superintendent have understood the issues and generally agreed. I really believe that I made recommendations and decisions that were in the best interests of kids, although they may not necessarily have been so for some adults. The personnel issues are always the most difficult and most controversial that I and the board have had to deal with.
“On dealing with change, it began immediately when I started as superintendent because that was the first year of CSAP with grades four, seven and 10 being tested in the spring of 1997. So accountability in education has changed significantly. There is a lot more political influence in education at the state and federal level.
“We also had changes in our local program with choice in education being offered with the opening of Indian Peaks Charter School in the fall of 2000. Also we began providing full-day kindergarten without charging fees for attendance, and a summer school program was instituted. The mere fact of moving from a Tuesday-through-Friday school week to our current Monday-through-Thursday week as a significant change for some people. In addition, we began the International Baccaulaureate (IB) program and changed the policy governance model with the school board.
“As for school construction, we’ve had seven school elections over the past 12 years and we passed three bond issues. Over the past 11 years, this district has seen $50 million in construction. But despite all of these bonds, our mill levy is now half of what it was in 1997. Then it was 42 mills, but today it is 21. This is due to the School Finance Act.”
What is the current state of the district and what do you foresee as the challenges ahead for it?
“Overall, I think the district is in good shape. I feel comfortable handing it off to the board and our new administrative leadership. The community can help make this transition work by providing a positive climate, especially with all of the administrative changes.
“Looking ahead, I see three challenges that this district will have to handle ” implementation of the IB program; ensuring the success of all its students through Gifted and Talented, English Language Learners and Response to Intervention programs; and school finances. On the challenge of finances, this is statewide. Our increasing cost of living is not keeping up with state funding. There will be some tough decisions that will have to be made in the next few years.”
What are some of the lessons that you have personally learned in your 12 years of the East Grand superintendent?
“As superintendent, I learned that you can’t please all of the people any of the time, but you can please most of the people most of the time.
“And my admiration for the school board members has become very high. They are public figures with private information. They represent an institution where everyone thinks they know how it could be done better. All of the board members that I’ve worked with have had students’ interests first and foremost in their minds. That has made the difference.”
As you leave your position as superintendent, do you have any regrets?
“Personnel decisions are always the most difficult, but I wouldn’t change any of them. I don’t feel great about making all of them, but that comes with the territory.”
What are your plans for the future?
“My wife Molly and I will be empty-nesters with Nick a freshman at the University of Denver this fall and Ben a junior at Montana State University in Bozeman. We plan to stay in Grand County and we have no immediate plans for the future. We’ll see what the next chapter has in store for us.”