Santa Cruz Elementary students will be seeing a new face in the principal’s office this year as Gina Chaffin takes the reins from now-retired former principal John Flores.
Making the transition to a charter school by next fall is one of the challenges Chaffin will take on at Santa Cruz.
“I have already had many parents ask questions about the new charter school model that is planned for next year,” she said. “It will be important for our community to be involved in the planning process of our academic focus for 2014-2015 by attending site council meetings throughout the year.”
Chaffin’s background includes 19 years in the education field, both as a teacher for grades 2-6 and five years as an assistant principal, most recently in the Florence Unified School District. She received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Arizona State University.
An Arizona native, Chaffin was born and raised in Phoenix. “Most of my family still lives in the Valley,” she said.
For Chaffin, education was “a calling which has turned into a passion,” she said. “I believe that every child has special gifts and every child is capable of learning. I have continued in the field of education because I enjoy working the families that allow us to educate their children and I enjoy working with the teachers who are dedicated to the process.”
Another district-wide initiative, the Beyond Textbooks program, is on track to start this year at Santa Cruz.
“The adoption of Beyond Textbooks is going to be an excellent resource for our teachers as we transition to the Common Core Standards,” Chaffin said. The program is a comprehensive computer-based program where teachers can go for planning lessons according to the State and Common Core Standards, she added.
But getting to know her new students better excites Chaffin more than anything: “I am most thrilled about meeting the kids as they start off the new school year.”
Her previous work in school administration was a big plus in hiring Chaffin, MUSD superintendent Steve Chestnut said. “She has a lot of experience,” he said.
When she’s not in the principal’s office, Chaffin loves to read and enjoys kayaking, hiking, camping and yoga.
“What I enjoy most in life includes time with my daughter and grandson,” she says. “I also love spending time near water - the ocean, a lake or a river.”
As the school year kicks off this week for the Coyotes, Chaffin wants to assure parents Santa Cruz will hit the ground running.
“Parents can expect a high level of instruction and learning in a safe and secure environment,” she said. “The Santa Cruz staff is dedicated to making academic progress and modeling the importance of life-long learning for our students.”