Like so many school administrators before her, Kimberly Ritterhouse, Red River Valley Charter School Director, is diving into the 2022/2023 school year with excitement — tempered by hurdles.
By far, the biggest challenge is a lack of space. “We’re starting the school year in close proximity again.”
According to Ritterhouse, construction on a new building that will house grades 5 through 8, plus a special education resource room, is still underway. She noted that Cordova Contracting & Development, LLC out of Albuquerque experienced delays last summer and fall that meant the foundation was not poured until April. “Things were held up, for some reason; but they’re moving forward. They’re saying mid-September.””
Despite the cramped quarters, Ritterhouse is excited to introduce two new teachers. “Blake Stogner teaches first and second grade,” Ritterhouse said, “and Cora Pearson will teach third and fourth. She’ll start after Labor Day. She’s fulfilling her contract in Taos and will begin Sept. 6.”
Returning staff include Jackie McCullum, pre-K; Melissa Smith, Kindergarten; and Suzy Polk, grades 5-6. Kinsey Webb and Becca Pockrandt will be sharing grades 7-8. As parents of young children, “they’re splitting the day,” Ritterhouse said. Rounding out the staff are Sarah Parker, student services/special education director; Jayme Reger, special education teacher; Crystal Lancaster, educational assistant; Susie Northern, educational assistant; Alex Judycki, educational assistant; Tonya Lewis, office manager; Lorie Hawks; art; Teresa Mandonado, cook.
Since its initial charter, the school has focused on the “knowledge-based” teaching and curricula offered by the Core Knowledge Foundation, which was founded by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. According to its website, as an author of several acclaimed books on education, Hirsch ardently believes in cultural literacy—the idea that reading comprehension requires not just formal decoding skills but also wide-ranging background knowledge. This includes the belief that “literate citizens are better able to contribute to a democratic society.”
“We’re excited to be continuing with our Core Knowledge curriculum,” Ritterhouse said. “The program helps students learn content with a deeper perspective instead of just scratching the surface.”
Referring to the foundation’s website, Ritterhouse noted, “They have online resources.” Plus, “We’ve been purchasing Core Knowledge language arts curricula. Those integrate science and social studies.”
Anecdotally, Ritterhouse said, “We hear that when they go to high school, they have a greater wealth of knowledge. Our focus is on the individual learner and how we help them to advance. That’s what’s nice about the Core Knowledge curriculum. It provides a lot of opportunities for critical thinking and problem solving. We meet them where they are but also accelerate them to get them at or above grade level. Extra help where needed, tutoring, that kind of thing.”
Additionally for students in some subjects, “We advance them and then challenge them according to their talents. Cora, who’s joining us Sept 6, is finishing her gifted and talented certification.”
Currently 80 students are enrolled: 10 pre-K (which is the maximum) and 70 are in grades K-8.
See https://www.coreknowledge.org/ for more information about the Core Knowledge Foundation, to access its free resources or to donate.