A teacher, coach and administrator who has been with the school district for eight years is taking the leadership role at Hotchkiss High School. HHS principal Paul Rodriguez resigned the position for medical reasons, but remains supportive of the Bulldog community and Marty Rover, the new principal.
Rover was raised in Tempe, Ariz., and chose to attend Mesa State because he had a chance to play baseball there. His teammates included Blake Carlquist, Steve Morales, RJ Englehart and Curtis Englehart. "What I knew about Delta County, I learned from them," he said.
Rover said his dad was a middle school teacher for 25-plus years, which partially influenced his decision to go into education. He majored in math for the secondary level.
He student taught at Delta High School, then joined the staff in 2010 when Kurt Clay, now assistant superintendent, was the building principal.
"I always liked the challenge of teaching a high stakes subject like math," he said. "It's very results-oriented, very black and white."
To address a variety of learning styles, math teachers have to be able to get the lesson across in four or five different ways. "That's true in every subject, but even more so in numbers," Rover said.
He taught at DHS for five years, where he also coached baseball and golf. He says he grew up playing golf, but admits he wasn't "overly qualified" as a coach. He felt far more comfortable on the baseball field.
After earning his master's degree in educational leadership, he was selected as one of the assistant principals at Delta Middle School.
"I didn't consider an administrative position when I started teaching but the more I got involved -- not just in the classroom, but also in extracurricular activities -- the more leadership appealed to me," he said. "The ability to have an impact on more kids, on the entire school, is an exciting challenge. Teaching was always a challenge, and so was being an assistant principal. But this is a different type of challenge, a rewarding responsibility."
As part of his online studies at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Rover dove into a master's project that centered on the school district's calendar.
"It was enlightening to get myself into different communities, different schools, looking at their wants and needs."
He gained a great deal of insight by surveying administrators, staff members and community members. For example, he learned that the county fair "is a big thing," so starting school earlier in August would be a bad fit for Delta County.
His survey results were incorporated into a three-year calendar schedule that is now in its third and final year.
Like the broader field of education, Rover says future calendars may need some tweaks. "In education, there's a constant attempt to improve," he said.
He's looking forward to meeting new people, learning the history of the Hotchkiss community, and building relationships with students and staff. He already knows both the school and the community are tight-knit, and that the community is passionate about fighting for its students. "It's my job to take that input to the powers that be, to make sure the equity is there for our students."
He believes it's also his job, and the job of his administrative team, to make sure everyone in Hotchkiss and in Delta County knows about the great things happenings at HHS.
"School climate, school culture, that's a significant part of any school," he said.
"I look forward to celebrating the success of our students and staff and continuing the tradition of HHS being a distinguished and valuable part of this community," he said in a letter posted on the school's website.
He said he believes in holding people accountable, in supporting them, allowing them to fail quickly and to learn from those mistakes so they don't make the same mistake twice. He actively solicits feedback with an eye on continuous improvement.
As principal, he said his number one responsibility is to support staff. "If you can support and empower teachers to do what they need to do, then you can get thing pointed in the right direction."
Rover touched on the other staff changes at HHS. Angela Caldwell, a former health aide, has been hired as school secretary to replace Patty Scott, who retired. Counselor Becky Thatcher has a new role in the school district; her replacement is Resa Moran, who is also making the move from DMS to HHS. Pete Nethington will not be teaching but he will continue to coach volleyball. Hailey Taylor, the girls' basketball coach, will take over the "smorgasbord" of classes taught by Nethington.
"I'm excited to have these new people on board," Rover said, "and it's nice to have the hiring process complete going into August."
Going forward, he said HHS students will have the opportunity to take two advanced classes at Paonia High School every afternoon. In the morning, there will be AP classes at Hotchkiss the Paonia students can attend.
"We have to be creative in a school our size, trying to maximize the opportunities we can offer our students," Rover said. Enrollment at HHS is just under 200.
Rover's wife Lisa is a fourth grade teacher at Garnet Mesa Elementary. They have twin sons who are 3 1/2 years old and a 14-month-old daughter. Because of Lisa's teaching position, and grateful for the great child care they've got in Delta, the Rovers do not plan to relocate at this time.