“We’re a hands-on district; it’s a hands-on place,” said Estrada, who officially took over as Knightsen’s leader this year from longtime superintendent Vickey Rinehart. “It’s what I love about Knightsen.”
And it’s what Knightsen loves about her. For the past 16 years Estrada has been an active participant in the district’s growth and progress, first as a classroom teacher, assistant vice principal, then principal, and now as the incoming superintendent.
The married Oakley resident and mother of five is characteristically low-key about her new responsibilities, but keenly aware of her role. “We have some challenges ahead, no question,” said Estrada. “We (as a district) want to make sure we maintain the quality of education that the community expects and that we expect. There is no question we have some challenges ahead, but we’ll meet them.”
The $5 million bond measure is the district’s greatest challenge to date and is hoped to help balance its finances in the wake of recent fiscal difficulties that included the closure this year of Old River School and cuts to extracurricular programs such as music and art. The school board hopes that passage of the bond (which will impose a tax of about $30 per year per $100,000 in property value) will stabilize the district’s financial situation and lead to the eventual re-opening of Old River.
“I hope the bond passes and hopefully it will go well,” said Estrada. “It’s a difficult balance because we are looking to make due with less but want to make sure that the kids don’t feel the financial pinch. So far everyone has been very supportive.”
And although the job of superintendent is considered a part-time position (Estrada will also co-principal with Ray Witte, former principal of Old River Elementary) Estrada understands that she comes on board at a critical time to the district and its future.
Outgoing superintendent Vickey Rinehart, who had been grooming Estrada for the position since last year, said the choice for superintendent was obvious.
“She’s one of those people that is a bright, divergent quick thinker,” said Rinehart. “Kids are her first priority and she is a very, very capable person who will make the decisions that are necessary for the good of the district. She makes it very easy for me to retire knowing everything is in her hands.”
“There’s plenty to do and lots going on,” added Estrada. “At least I know I’ll never be bored. I hope to do well; a lot of people have put their faith in me and I don’t want to let them down. I’m looking forward to the coming year.”