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Rivas taking over as principal at Hanford-Dole

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – Jessica Rivas began her teaching career in her 30s as an elementary dual-language teacher.

Most recently, Rivas was an assistant principal at Monroe High School. And on June 29, she took the next step forward in her career when the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education chose her as the new principal at Hanford-Dole Elementary School.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in child and family development and special education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a master’s in educational leadership from Queens University and an educational specialist from Appalachian State University.

Jessica Rivas

She was inspired to get into education by one of her sons, who began showing signs of speech and fine motor delays.

“I didn’t know how to help him, I didn’t know how to advocate for him,” Rivas said.

Rivas, who is Hispanic and grew up in Miami, was chosen out of 35 candidates for the job. She said some immediate goals are to familiarize herself with the community and greatly improve parent involvement at the school

Rivas said she will start out by getting familiar and identify its needs because she is new to the community.

“There isn’t much parent involvement at the school, and if there is it’s negative,” Rivas said. “I want to try and really change that and have parents be more involved in their children’s education, be involved in school, volunteering more and find ways we as a school can give back.”

Rivas said this year, given all the changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is challenging for all principals and especially so for her as a new principal.

“The first day I just want for the students to be able to see me,” Rivas said. “Everything is going to look different from car pools lines to bus drop offs. Everything is so unique with checkpoints, health forms, masks and temperature checks. I still want to make it, if we can, try to make it fun and welcoming to them even on the first day.”

Rivas said she is sure the students have missed their teachers and friends since March, and the school wants students to know they miss them.

Rivas said her favorite thing about education is that it constantly changes and presents new challenges to overcome while helping children find their passions, success and a sense of belonging. 

She likes to serve children and let them know someone is there that cares for them and will advocate for them.

She said there is a large hispanic population at Hanford-Dole and wants the school to be a place people feel comfortable speaking Spanish. She said families who do not speak English well may struggle to participate in their children’s education because they do not feel confident speaking English or believe they have the vocabulary necessary to ask the right questions.

“By being bilingual, I think that will open the door to many parents coming in and asking the questions they want to ask,” Rivas said.

Rivas lives with her husband, daughter and two sons. She is an avid outdoor adventurer.

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