Principal Profile – March 2020 – Ryan Emery

Ryan Emery


Rio Del Norte Elementary School

2nd Year as Norte Principal

5 Years as Principal

3 Years as an Assistant Principal

6 Years as Teacher

This is Mr. Emery’s second year serving Rio students as principal of Rio Del Norte Elementary School. Before working in Rio he served as principal for Alice C. Stelle Middle School in Calabasas, California, as well as working as assistant principal of curriculum and instruction. He also worked as a teacher of math and business education  and track and field coach. 

Mr. Emery earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management from Auburn University where he attended on a Track and Field Scholarship and was Captain of the Auburn University Cross Country and Track and Field Programs. Mr. Emery has earned multiple master’s degrees in the fields of Sports Marketing/Promotions, Business Education and Educational Leadership. He is currently in the final phase of a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and is scheduled to defend his dissertation in April. Mr. Emery’s  research is in the field of Social and Emotional Learning and analyzes the impact academic success has on student well-being and the impact SEL curriculums have on student well-being. 

Mr. Emery brings a diverse set of experiences as an educator and person to the role of school leadership. He knows deeply the value that educational opportunities and achievements can have in a person’s life. One recent innovation at Rio Del Norte Elementary School is a campaign to have children and families think of themselves as college going learners. This has taken a variety of forms and has connected the campus’ excellent school climate to literacy development initiatives and the growth of high expectations for all learners. Mr. Emery may be running less marathons these days in terms of road races but he is actively engaged in the ultimate marathon of transforming community through educational opportunities.    

We asked Mr. Emery the following three questions and his responses follow each;


  • What do you think matters most to children when they attend school?


School connection is an important element to a student’s learning environment and desire to attend school. I firmly believe as educators, it is our job to instill a sense of “hope” in our students and support them academically, socially and emotionally. Much of my doctoral research has been centered upon creating a positive and safe learning environment by supporting the growth of the whole child. Ensuring students grow academically and emotionally is a goal of each and every day. Making the most of the school hours has an impact on a student achieving academic success. Students want and deserve to feel a sense of success and as educators our job is to provide them with a school culture that supports students taking ownership in their learning and achieving academic success.


  • How has your leadership changed over time and experience?


My leadership has changed immensely over the years. In the beginning of my leadership journey as a school administrator, I thought it was our job to always have the answers and to ensure the school is headed in a positive direction. This sense of leadership focused immensely on only the achievements of the school. However, as time has evolved I have grown and transformed myself into a Charismatic Leader which consists of transformative, servant and authentic leadership. I believe as a leader it is important to procure staff and students have everything they need to support the academic growth of the school.

As a servant leader, I have learned to put the needs of others before myself and always strive to support the school culture in a positive way. I firmly believe you need to use the team to move the team. Empowering teachers as professionals and providing autonomy to their craft is at the root of what I firmly believe. 

I have also grown to learn that as a leader you not only need to support the academic and emotional growth of the school but you have to support the growth of the extended community as a whole. Supporting the needs of the community and the culture around the school is critical in building a community-centered learning environment. I also believe the leader needs to support the leadership growth of the team and provide staff members with opportunities to grow in the form of grassroots leadership. 


  • What has working in schools meant to you in terms of your own development as a person, husband, father, and citizen?


Working in schools has been one of the biggest enjoyments in my life. I believe education is power and by providing students with an exceptional education experience, you are providing students with the power and hope to achieve at a higher level. Working as an administrator in the Oxnard community has been the greatest experience of my educational leadership career. I am continuously amazed by the resilience of our community and it has instilled my growing passion for social justice, equity and access. I strive to advocate for others each and every day and to use my position to open doors and create opportunities for others. The Rio Del Norte Elementary learning community, much like the overall learning community of our district, is rich in passion and innovation. 

I take pride in using my position to advocate for students and the community at large. Working within the Rio School District has supported me in my growth as not only a leader but also as a husband, father and a citizen. I believe everyone has a calling to do more: more for the community, more for their family and more in the growth of education. I am grateful each and every day for the opportunity to work for such a wonderful community. 


Non-Car Drivers

This post is about pedestrians and bicycle riders, wheel-chair riders and skateboarders, scooter riders and other people in the community not driving cars. This post wants to state the obvious at first and go on from there. People not in cars who are out there navigating the community and it’s streets and intersections are just as valuable life forms as those in cars. They deserve the opportunity to not be killed or injured unnecessarily. (the obvious).

Walking and biking in the community occasionally or regularly gives a person a non-car driving experience and perspective. Like all experiences, there are upsides and downs. A T-chart- for the researcher folks out there in terms of pros and cons. One pro for sure is thanon-car drivers get a much more proximal and visceral experience of the community and it’s neighborhoods. You experience things up close and have more time to observe and sense things more difficult to perceive when conducting a large enclosed vehicle on the road. Among the many things to see and smell and even touch are the great variety and beauty of plant and animal life. 

You are also closer to and more easily sense the trash, blight, or decay that exists alongside the beauty. One thing for sure, it’s much easier to see how many people in cars are dangerously maneuvering their vehicles. They are in a rush and they seem empowered to use their vehicles in aggressive manners that (giving them credit) seems to ignore the very potentially lethal consequences of their driving. This observation is not an accusation but rather just an observation that offers the part time biker/walker moments of reflection on their own driving habits/experiences. It’s easy not to see or pay attention to non-car driving people out there crossing intersections. It’s at these intersections that non-car drivers learn the essential necessity to connect with car drivers through eye contact and other means in order to not get run over. 

The patterns of civil engineering coordinating and sequencing traffic lights is also much easier to discern or forcibly discerned when not driving cars. The rhythms of the city and roadways reveal themselves more easily to the pedestrian or bike rider. As does the conditions of the roads, sidewalks, railroad crossings, buildings and other elements of man’s suburban/urban engineering. 

We have designed our places for cars in many ways and often not that well for them. Down on the street, in direct contact or more proximal contact we’re more human or more fully human and we’re also much more vulnerable. Not only from the potentially lethal collisions with people driven cars but also from our sense of identity in these car dominated contexts. Me thinks that car driving people somehow think less of the pedestrians in many cases. The homeless are there too. Walking, sometimes biking, pushing carts, they are perceived as obstacles. The cars must go. Where to, I don’t know. To work? In a hurry? In a lethal hurry?

Repetition is a simple tool as is stating the obvious. Walkers, bicylers, other non-car driving people in their motility want to continue living. They deserve life. (the obvious).

Among the many pros on the T-chart is the general well being that physical activity provides the non car driver. For sure, there are aches and pains and other cons associated with non-car driving in terms of the body. The mind is also benefited by this non-car driving. Non-car driving gives us time to think/reflect and develop the inner voice. Car driving too might offer this, perhaps long car driving – commutes – but the local driving I often observe seems contextualized to make reflection quite difficult.

Well, the post is done I suppose. A reminder, non-car drivers are people. Love them, value them like you would a brand new car or truck driver. Maybe even consider affording them a little bit more. They might need it.     


Principal Profile December 2019

Maria Hernandez, Ed.D.


Rio Real Dual Immersion K-8 School

10 Years as Rio Real Principal

13 Years as Principal

7 Years as Teacher

This is Dr. Hernandez’ 10th year as principal of Rio Real, previously she served as principal at Rio Del Valle Middle School. Dr. Hernandez was a teacher in the Ventura Unified School District and  before entering into public schools work, Maria served as a correctional officer/youth counselor at the California Youth Authority.  

Dr. Hernandez earned her Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and Masters in Educational Administration from California State University, Northridge. She earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from California Lutheran University.

Maria enjoys traveling with her family. She grew up in Oxnard and has served her community for years. Family is central to her life both personally and professionally. Her ongoing travels with family helps her see the world through the eyes of her children.  

Dr. Hernandez has helped guide Rio Real as Rio’s first K-8 Dual Immersion Language School and has been a leader in dual immersion  learning at the local, county, state, and national levels. Maria connects families, culture, community, and academic leadership into a quiet and reserved leadership. Her roots in the community have created countless opportunities for children and family alike and are living embodiments of the potential of local children to develop and grow to their highest aspirations while remaining deeply humble and connected to the local community. Maria is there for children and families and for the power of language and cultural identity that enriches individual and collective lives.

We asked Dr. Hernandez the following three questions and her responses follow each;


  • What do you think matters most to children when they attend school?


When a child comes to school in the morning they expect to be happy, have friends with which to play, be physically and  emotionally safe, and lastly, whether they will be able to engage in the learning process. When we create an atmosphere in our schools that meets these needs and allow these processes to happen, we provide the conditions for children to learn and grow. Children want to feel noticed, cared for and loved to them, learning is secondary.  


  • How has your leadership changed over time and experience?


Through my years in leadership positions I have learned there are several big picture priorities I have to keep in mind. 

First,  I am part of a team and a community in my organization and at my site. My work does not happen in isolation, we have a collective commitment and focus to what we do and who we serve. I have to rely on my team and let my team rely on me as part of the process of building teams.  

Second, my entire staff and I have to be committed to our school vision and goals in order for the organization to move forward and grow. 

Third, the wisdom of us together is greater than that of any one individual. We have to listen to others to lead and be led. 



  • What has working in schools meant to you in terms of your own development as a person, mother, and citizen?


Working in Youth Corrections before coming into education helped me to understand the utmost gravity of the work we do in elementary education.  Working with elementary students specifically has helped me develop relationships and see life and learning through foundational needs. I have developed relationships that have meaning and I have become a better person, mother and citizen of my community because of my work with children and families. I have a sense of commitment and a need to serve that goes beyond the 8-5.  It is my hope and dreams that I make a difference in the lives of students and my community through the work I do.  


November 2019 Principal Profile – Adeline Mendez

November 2019 Principal Profile

Adeline Mendez

Principal – Rio Lindo Elementary School

1st Year as Lindo Principal

1st Year as Principal

12 Years as Teacher


This is Ms. Mendez’s first year as principal, previously she served as assistant principal for both Rio Vista and Rio Del Valle middle schools. Ms. Mendez was a teacher at Rio Rosales  and Rio Real Elementary Schools and has served as summer science academy administrator for multiple years.

Ms. Mendez earned her B.A. in History from California State University, Northridge, her teaching credential from California State University, Channel Islands, her counseling credential and M.A. in Counseling from California Lutheran University, and her administrative credential and Masters in Leadership from California State University, Northridge.

Adeline likes to watch old movies and spend time with her family which is huge. Saturdays are for family and Sundays are for football. Ms. Mendez grew up locally in Oxnard and Port Hueneme. Her family is still very rooted here.  

Ms. Mendez is a great example of the strength and vitality of our local community. While many California communities tend towards breaking families apart and the impersonality of the nuclear family, Rio and Oxnard families commonly are able and interested in developing their community through service. Adeline has always worked in service of others and has stepped up to leadership in a variety of roles. At her heart she is a learner and this is an invaluable asset as an educator. Her humility is a sign of her supportive and forward thinking leadership style. 

We asked Ms. Mendez the following three questions and his responses follow each;


  • What do you think matters most to children when they attend school?


What matters most to children when they attend school is having positive relationships with peers, teachers and other adults on campus.  When students have positive relationships and interactions at school, it creates a sense that they trulybelong and that they matter, thus building a sense ofconnectedness to school.  I believe that students’ social/emotional well being is just as important, if not more so, than their academics needs.  In my past experiences as a classroom teacher, I found that students tried and worked harder when they knew and felt I cared about them, took interest in their likes and dislikes, recognized their strengths or areas they could improve upon.  Positive relationships with teachers and peers creates a safe learning environment where childrens’ innate curiosity, creativity and happiness are stimulated and energized.  



  • How has your leadership changed over time and experience?


Throughout my experience in leadership roles I’ve learned that there is more to being an educational leader than merely managing a school site.  As a school administrator, not only are you responsible for the implementation of academic programs and instruction but also developing the capacity of 

students, parents and faculty.  In my role as a school leader, I have had to counsel, advocate, mentor and develop individual’s abilities.  I believe my success as an educational leader comes from cultivating competency in others’ capacity to lead.  Empowering others to see their own leadership capabilities is a true measurement of an educational leader.       


  • What has working in schools meant to you in terms of your own development as a person, mother, and citizen?


Working in schools has been a great privilege and honor.  I have been fortunate enough to work with amazing people and schools that have influenced my development as a person, mother, and citizen.  As a person, I have become more empathetic, collaborative, reflective and less reactive. As a mother, I am more patient, understanding and attentive to their needs.  As a citizen, I have a greater sense of purpose and responsibility to the community that I work and live in.  

Throughout, my educational journey there have been teachers, principals, counselors, peers and other school personnel who assisted and inspired me in various ways.  I now feel an immense obligation to give back to the community that has given me the opportunity to develop into the educational leader I am today.              




Post by the Supt.

John Puglisi Ph.D.

I just finished reading two books, both connecting me to a teacher I have known for some time (Judith Green) and to many other teacher ethnographers. We have many common threads that connect us all but surely ethnography is an elemental part of the weave. 

The first book ties a variety of examples of writer/educators in describing ways schools, classes, teachers can get at “deeper learning.” They offer views into dialogic learning and critical thinking for students. The second book, an older text revisited, takes an ethnographic look at what it’s like to be a school principal. Both books connect me to many well worn though processes as well as new takes on being an educator.

Deeper learning is a worthy aim in almost any context. Deeper learning certainly avails the learner of practice in unpacking complexity through simple routines; observing, taking notes, thinking, thinking with others, and thinking about thinking. In this age of layers and layers of sometimes unnecessary societal complexity, I often see deep learning and deep work as essential to barely knowing what’s going on. What’s going on? The song asks…. Who and what is burying us in unnecessary layers and shrouds of complexity? 

Who shall be practiced in weighing through the unnecessary layers? Who shall be elevated to decision making which chooses to unburden others of unnecessary complexity? Of course there is existential complexity at every level of consciousness and knowledge development. Schools and curriculum in America, though, seem so well designed in dumping the unnecessary layers and unbounded quantities of things to master. This condition often reduces opportunities to go deep and develop deep literacies which are at the core of social and economic mobility and flexibility. 

Great teachers, though, are often great at wading through the challenges to guide learners on their own paths of deep learning while building the reading, writing, speaking, and scientific practices that serve the learner at every age. Most commonly, they do so through a great reverence for the value of the individual inquirer simultaneous with life and the universe itself. 

The second book about being a principal and about the role of the ethnographer in school cultures is deeply connected with my own trajectory as an educator. From teacher to principal to superintendent and all the while with an ethnographic lens. The book, first written in 1973, brings to mind a time of my childhood while framing seemingly timeless aspects of the role of principal. Even then it suggested that principals, beyond being middle managers in school systems, were being asked to be change agents. It drew an interesting comparison between the principal and the ethnographer such that the principal worked to resolve, eliminate, and prevent problems while the ethnographer sought to find them and describe them. This really captured an internal personal conundrum. A never ending battle. It brought to mind educational leader roles in any position in the hierarchy as perhaps agents of improvement rather than change, agents of meaning making, agents of collaboration, agents of advancement of others. In its final chapters it suggested that principals are aimed more at stabilizing than changing as they provide the linkage between bureaucracy and the individual needs of all the many diverse people they interact with each day.

If we accept that everything is changing all the time. What does this ask the principal to do? If not stabilizing to sameness then perhaps helping systems, community, people find balances that too are always changing. Either way, two good books got me thinking, got me remembering, got me connecting to years of work and more than 34 orbits round the sun thinking about and acting on what schools, classrooms, teachers, teacher leaders and educators do and aim to do. 2  good books.

Principal Profile – Ryan Howatt

This year I have decided to write and post a monthly Principal Profile. Principals are key leaders in their community and within the school system itself. Rio’s principals are great examples of a diversity of pathways to manegament/leadership. We ask so much of them on multiple levels and they deliver and help our District grow and improve along the way. I hope these brief profiles spark more thoughtful consideration about their work and about the individuals who step up to this middle management/ Instructional leader challenge. So goes the principal, so goes the school in many ways. Our first profile is Ryan Howatt, principal of Rio Rosales Elementary School.

Principal Profile – Ryan Howatt

Public Schools in 2019

Public schools serve multiple functions in our 2019 American society.

  • They work directly with children, families and community to foster the development and learning of children.
  • They harbor children and keep them safe during the school day while most parents are engaged in work or other related activities.
  • They offer children and families the opportunity to engage with other children and families in the community providing social and other types of learning opportunities less easily accomplished in isolation.
  • They provide adults in the community with opportunities to learn and contribute to the community at large.
  • They foster the development of the citizenry in the American democracy.
  • They provide children with opportunities for affirmation and care by adults and children other than their family.

The list of functions provided by American public schools is extensive and far exceeds the aforementioned central roles. As each new school year approaches and I interact with parents considering what school to have their children attend, there are inevitable narratives that emerge. Some highlight test scores, others that tend towards the logistics of afterschool day care and many that attempt to look far into the future and connect the early grades experience with family’s aspirations for their children down the road. It is rare, however, to have deeply informed conversations about what schools actually do and what they actually are in a societal sense. This I think is partially due to public schools often having challenges in communicating their functions beyond the cliche or superficial level. Many times, as we all likely are, parents have the individual concern for their child. They want their children “to be challenged” or to “get the help they need.” Apart from the academic side of things, they want their children to have a safe environment where they can have friends and grow and develop their well being. 

One thing to consider beyond these narratives is how their children and their family contributes to the lives and well being of others in the local community. By engaging with and in the local community schools families more readily help to construct and develop the type of community they want to live in. This is a more participative and citizen based approach than a strictly consumer based notion of school choice. Ask not what the community can do for your children but what you and your children can do for the community as JFK might have said. Of course the value to the consumer or citizen comes back to them when parents and families and children are more connected to each other in their local neighborhoods through one of the last public agoras in our American democracy (public schools). 

Rio will continue to invite all our local children and families to fully engage in co-constructing the best possible educational environments and outcomes striving to THRIVE as a system and community.


What we measure…

What we measure….


Is what we measure what gets done? All that gets done?

Is what we measure what we value?

Is how we measure what we value indicative of what we value and how much we actually value it?

How much do we actually know and care about the actual measuring?

What do our measuring tools say about what we value and how we value?


In asking these questions after thirty two years in public education, teaching, administrating, researching, and thinking I do so to stimulate thoughtfulness among fellow educators, students, parents, and community members in the hope that a deeper,better consideration of the values we assign to school related outcomes might contribute to improvements in schools and better understanding and valuing of schooling in society at large.


What and how we measure and what and how we value things in general is often under considered if not taken for granted. In many instances in both school systems and beyond, people within and outside of the systems accept the valuing and measuring designed and implemented by others. Of course, there are efficiencies in these processes as we allow others to design and implement measures and values for us so that we can consume them or utilize them for various purposes.


As an educator and citizen, I think there are several key ingredients to make sure we bake into the recipe for a proper measurement to serve the learning processes in schools. They include transparency, simplicity, and potential for depth and context. Too often, our overly standardized schools have employed measures with results and techniques that are “black-boxed” and left to statistical experts to determine values. Too often, these and other measures use complexity to barrier the student and their family and sometimes teachers from full understanding of what they measure, how they measure and what they do not measure. Too often the measures are shallowly aimed and devoid of the context necessary to fully express the learner’s knowledge, engagement, and associated skills. Too often, these measurement failings serve to bias the outcomes and their ultimate usage in selection and sorting processes towards the demographic and socio-economic gaps that are currently and long sustained in the American educational system. It seems what we value is curiously and long aligned with socio-economic strata in the society.


Literacies and the command of the English language are pre-eminent in our measures and valuing. Consideration of the place that literacy achievement, targets, standardized and age-based level determinations is one area of great potential for the broader understanding of the measuring and valuing of education. Along with finding the best place to position literacy measurement and valuing, recent trends in education that have begun to value what have come to be named “21st century skills; communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity offer educators, learners, and families the opportunity to include life skills and practices into the mix of what school values while the society at large has fully valued these for many years.


To my mind, the ideal measuring and valuing system is one that is at least understood and accepted by the learners that it measures and values. At best, the measuring and valuing would be designed and created by the learner as guided by their educators and their families.

Who Do We Learn From?

Who Do We Learn From?

This is a question we educators need to ask and re-ask. Do we learn from teachers? Do we learn from peers? Do we learn from our parents? Our coaches? Our elders? Television? Computer? Experience? The list goes on. As humans, we have realized that we are learning all the time and thus we have named ourselves life-long learners. Over time, we tend to learn that we have learned things that before we had not realized we learned. Our new selves learn about our past learning and learn from our past learning as new selves.

On this day, August 31st, I am reflecting on what I have learned from my father. He was born on this last day of August some 82 years ago. He has been gone from the physical earth for 31 years about the same amount of time I have been married and about the same amount of time I have worked as an educator in public schools in California. I am some 5 years older than he was when he passed now and still he is still 82 years old for me. I am fortunate enough to continue to interact with colleagues and mentors from my father’s era and in one case with someone that shares a very similar life path and origin as my father.

In working with Rio’s children in grades Kinder to 8th grade I wonder whether they are cognizant of what their fathers are teaching them or what they are learning from them. I’m not sure I was at their ages. Still I think it has some utility to reflect on what one son has learned from their father or perhaps many sons from many fathers. Of course the same is equally true for mothers as sources of learning, teachers, grandparents, etc.. My father teaches me now when I think of him. He reminds me of what great coaches do and how teaching is like coaching in some ways. My father was a coach. He knew how to develop and lead teams and how to develop and guide individuals. He knew how to blend the human aspects of performance and observation with the numbers of statistics.

My father taught me the importance of relationships and family and at the same time taught me how alone we all are in the human condition. Many of these lessons were not conveyed through discussion, this rarely occurred. For the most part, he taught by example. An example that took me years to understand in some cases. My father taught me to be calm in emergencies and to help people when they need it most.

There are many lessons I have learned from my father in which I seek to do better in areas that were not his strengths. Areas I often struggled against him in my youth. Later, I see the seeds of these things in myself and how I must consciously seek to develop and improve and learn to be a new self.

My father taught me many things, but perhaps, the deepest lesson was his love for and great appreciation for family and children. He was orphaned by the loss of his mother and father in his first year of life and was raised by a caring extended family of first generation American immigrants. Even as he was unable to keep his family together later in life, family was the deepest root in his life.

Getting autobiographical is not my first direction or preference when pondering writing about learning. Today, however, on this 31st day of August in the year 2017, it is meaningful to consider what our children in our classes are learning from their fathers, their mothers, their teachers and what they will learn later from them when they re-think their learning as older selves. It is also meaningful to appreciate and further develop how Rio’s classrooms and teachers are becoming more and more open to bringing the wealth of learning and resources into school learning that come from our students’ lives and families. This ethnographic and student centered approach is alive and developing. It is as natural as learning itself and helps to transform our learning environments from the factory models that have long alienated young, immigrant, and often low-income children and families such as my father was in 1940 when he first entered school.

I am excited to be part of a process some 31 years later that is learning to incorporate the “lessons of our fathers” as it might be called into the learnings of school. For me, they are a life long resource that seem to unpack themselves more and more as I am fortunate enough to spend more time in this wondrous world.