Administrator of the Year: Helping students to grow

July 16, 2018 Staff Writer

Rhonda Buss grew up in a small town in Oklahoma with a population of about 2,000, and you could drive for long periods of time without seeing another car. She credits small town life with allowing her to dream big.

“I envisioned myself as someone who would help others find joy in life. At the time, I thought this dream would lead me to the position of a cruise director. I was going to be Julie McCoy from the TV series, ‘The Love Boat’. As I matured, my vision became clearer, but I still saw myself as someone who would help others find joy and meaning in life,” Buss said.

As the director of Secondary Schools in ABC Unified School District and winner of the 2018 Career Technical Education Administrator of the Year award, one could say she has made the dream a reality.

Buss began her career teaching CTE courses to help students realize their potential and learn skills that would directly impact their future careers. After several years, she transitioned to work as a counselor and teacher trainer, focused on best practices for helping students to discover their vocation.

She was encouraged to become an administrator and dove in. Her vision and tireless efforts have resulted in significantly increased opportunities for students to pursue their interests and build the skill sets necessary to compete in today’s global markets.

Buss is an active ACSA member who began her leadership as the Region 14 Middle Grades Council Representative. She was a new middle school principal at the time and the council provided an avenue to learn from experts in the field.

“It was such a meaningful experience that when I began my first year as a high school principal, I eagerly served on the Secondary Education Council,” Buss said. “I still have mentors and confidants to this day, who served on both the Middle Grades and Secondary Education Councils with me. It is nice to pick up the phone and call someone from another ACSA region, who can help you think through new programs or issues.”

She has also served as the ACSA Region 14 Women’s Network Chair and attended the Curriculum and Instruction Academy. Buss currently serves as the Region 14 president and as an online coach for ACSA’s Leadership Institute.

“As the online coach, I am able to help new leaders discover their element and hopefully inspire them to move to the next level of excellence,” she said. “Undeniably, without ACSA’s inspiration, through the work of countless ACSA mentors, I would not have ventured into a district-level administrative position.”

As an accomplished education leader, Buss is quick to give the credit to teams that have worked with her to carve a pathway for students which she sees as her greatest accomplishment to date. By writing grants and working with teams of people to bring opportunities to life for students, Buss and her colleagues have added 22 new CTE courses, which led to new pathways in ABC USD.

When asked what inspires her the most in her work, Buss was quick to reply.

“What inspires me is when a student or a colleague says, ‘thank you for helping me discover my Element.’ I have been blessed to receive letters from students, who indicated that my guidance helped them find a successful career they love,” Buss said. “As an added bonus, I have been fortunate to be a part of several successful new administrative journeys.”

As one of ACSA’s #LadiesWhoLead, Buss is clear about the role of mentorship and guidance through ACSA connections.

“It is my great honor to work beside and coach the secondary school principals in ABC USD,” she said. “My hope is that they say, ‘Rhonda leads by encouraging deeper thinking and asking questions that motivates me and to understand all I have to offer our students.’ Fortunately, I have been mentored by Mary Sieu, who was recently named ACSA’s Superintendent of the Year and was a finalist for National Superintendent of the Year. She is a cheerleader when someone is trying something new and asks questions to help you think beyond what was initially envisioned.”

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