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Contract extended for Re-1 interim superintendent

Tom Burris and his two daughters, Avie and Ellie. (Courtesy Tom Burris)
Burris will remain at the helm through 2022-23 school year

The Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to extend the contract of interim Superintendent Tom Burris through the 2022-23 school year.

Burris, a former Re-1 educator, was selected for the interim position in March, earning the role over fellow finalist Ember Conley.

“Thank you, board, it’s a lot of fun working for you,” he said after the vote, which followed an hourlong executive session evaluating Burris’s performance and contract.

Burris has been fulfilling the duties of former Superintendent Risha VanderWey, who resigned in January after receiving low marks on the board’s evaluation. She had been in the position less than seven months.

He is well acquainted with Cortez schools, having previously served as the assistant principal and then principal of Montezuma-Cortez Middle School, and later becoming the district’s business manager and human resources director.

Since then, he has served as superintendent for Roswell Independent School District and Truth or Consequences Municipal Schools, both in New Mexico. He had been in retirement for two years when he jumped into the interim position.

“The best years of my career were here,” Burris told The Journal. He added, “I would not have done this for any other district.”

Burris’ previous connections to the community have made for a more seamless transition into his new role, he said.

“The good part about this (position) is I know a lot of people, I know the community, I know a lot of people in the tribal community,” he said. “So it makes it easier for me.”

Burris has focused on Re-1’s strategic planning process and aligning policies and procedures throughout the district. When he first came into the job, he asked staff what the school district needed to focus on in order to improve.

“Overwhelmingly, what we can do to improve upon: discipline in the school district and attendance in the school district,” Burris said of staff members’ responses. These are two areas he plans to concentrate on in the coming school year.

Burris said he has recommended that the board follow the usual timeline in finding a new superintendent: advertise the position in December, interview candidates in January or February, and onboard the chosen superintendent on July 1.