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  • Carrie Zimmerman

Center of Focus

Focus on our Fabulous Staff

This past week the Colorado Education Initiative announced their first cohort of the Rural Superintendent Academy (RSA) which includes superintendents and principals from an array of outlying school districts in Colorado. Luis Murillo, our middle school principal, was selected to take part in this initiative. Luis was selected to represent our district as he has served for seven years as a Colorado rural school leader. Luis is a perfect fit for this opportunity and a perfect fit for our district and community. The personal experiences Luis had growing up give him a first-hand perspective of what our students and families are experiencing.

Get to know our Skoglund Principal a little bit better-

Luis was born and raised in Guadalajara, México until the age of 12. At that time he and his family immigrated to the United States, settling in Oxnard, California. From a young age, he watched his dad work several jobs in order to provide for his family. He offered to help his dad in the strawberry fields in order to help support the family but his dad told him no; that his job was to get an education so that he never had to resort to hard laborious work like his father. Luis graduated from Channel Islands High School in Oxnard California with the opportunity to play football at several D1 universities. Being that Luis was going to be a first-generation college student, and not having support from his guidance counselor, Luis passed on those opportunities, unaware of what he was giving up. Instead, Luis played football for Ventura Junior College near his hometown. After two years there, Luis decided to follow his older brother to Alamosa, CO where he attended Adams State College (university) and finished his football career playing for the Grizzlies. Luis double-majored earning a Bachelor’s degree in both Spanish and psychology and went on to pursue his degree in school counseling. Luis earned his Master’s in Counselor Education in 2008 and began his career as a school counselor and Spanish teacher at Ortega Middle School in Alamosa, CO. After serving the students of OMS for 7 years, he applied and was hired as principal of Skoglund Middle school. Luis is entering his 7th year as principal and has truly made a difference in the lives of his students in Center. His work and beliefs in equity and access for ALL have been a key driver to his successes. He believes that every child, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status deserves the best education possible and the opportunity to follow their dreams. At the state level, Luis is a delegate of CO-ALAS and has spearheaded the southwest conference in order to seek and connect LatinX leaders across the state. Nationally, Luis is a member of ALAS and a most recent graduate of SLA cohort 9. Luis has planted his roots in the San Luis Valley and has truly shown his love for his school and community. Luis is beginning to write a new chapter in his life by pursuing a doctoral degree through the American College of Education. Luis aspires to become a superintendent in the very near future and knows that he wants to position himself to be the best candidate. He has the passion and grit to be a champion for all kids.

Not only was Luis selected to take part in the RSA, but he was also awarded the prestigious Cile Chavez Fellowship. This opportunity was created to inspire diverse, underrepresented education leaders to join the RSA and bring their unique perspectives to the helm of Colorado districts. “Holding important seats of service and power are an integral part in supporting the development of equity for students and future leaders,” Luis has said. “It is important for people of color to see people like them in those seats. This begins to break the stereotypes that people of color fill classified positions in education. Furthermore, in supporting equity for students and future education leaders, I believe it is imperative to tap into the pipeline.”

We are honored to have Luis representing the district as both an RSA participant and a Cile Chavez fellow. Congratulations Luis!

Panta Villagomez- Another Fabulous Viking Staff Member

The job of a custodian is laborious and repetitive...and sometimes not much fun. At Center Schools, we have one of the best crews around and Pantaleón or Panta is an integral part of that team. Panta has expressed a love for his job because he knows that our students deserve to come into the very cleanest space possible. This is his contribution to our students, providing them with a safe, clean space so that they can learn to their fullest potential. Through Panta's hard work we see him modeling our core belief of being committed to excellence in all he does, every day. His work ethic and attention to detail are enviable. Under his mask, there is always a big, bright smile. Under that same mask and behind that big smile, there is a man who has lifted and delivered thousands of food boxes and supplies to our Center community during the pandemic. Panta is part of Promotores del Valle de San Luis and has been on the front lines helping people in need. It is not uncommon to see his white truck delivering food and supplies at our local potato warehouses. It is also not uncommon to see him dropping off a medicinal kit on the doorsteps of a community member battling COVID. Panta has been an asset not only to our students at Center Schools but also to the community of Center. Thanks for all you do Panta! We are grateful to have you on our team!

We have a lot of exciting Viking wrestling news. Congratulations to Chase Padilla. Following his outstanding high school career, we received news that he has been invited to participate in the 2021 CHSCA All-State Games for wrestling. Chase will have the opportunity to participate in this event and represent Center schools on the wrestling mat one last time! Coach Mondragon shared a moving story about Chase this year. Chase caught Coach Mondragon in the hall in January and told him he didn’t want to wrestle but instead wanted to train with the team to get ready for the Army. Coach Mondragon said okay to this, knowing that he would not push him to wrestle, and he worked with Chase to set some personal goals and some goals for the team. When the first week of competition rolled around, Coach Mondragon let Chase know that he wanted him to wrestle. He hesitantly agreed and ended up winning his first high school match. After that success, Chase worked hard and ended up losing 50 lbs. and getting into great shape. Chase’s confidence grew and he had a great senior season, placing 3rd at regionals with a broken toe. Chase ended up falling in love with the sport and having a positive impact on his teammates We are proud of Chase and Coach Mondragon for their positive work ethic! The entire Viking family salutes your commitment!

This past weekend we had another wrestling success with Jesus Valadez becoming a 2021 USA Colorado Freshman/Sophomore 182 lbs. STATE CHAMPIONS! As a team, our Viking grapplers finished 21st out of 88 teams. Way to go Vikings!


On March 22nd we had ALL of our students back on campus. We had a successful first week back and appreciate everybody pitching in to make the week a success. It was great to see full classrooms and all the activity and excitement that a regular school day entails. Thanks to everybody’s efforts we are moving closer to normal, pre-pandemic times. Thank you all for your diligence and positive attitude over the past year, getting us to this point. #VikingStrong

Thanks to our district nursing team comprised of Wendy Murillo and Randi Asbell, we were able to offer our second round of vaccinations last week. Everybody on staff that wants to be vaccinated has had the opportunity to make that happen. I appreciate Wendy’s proactive approach to everything surrounding Covid, from preventive measures to testing, to vaccinations, our district has been at the forefront of proactive pandemic procedures and efforts, and those efforts have proven successful.

A shout out to Mike and Walter Martinez for pitching in with the food services team on Thursday. When we were a little short-staffed in the cafeteria, Mike and Walter jumped into action and helped deliver food and get our kiddos fed. Sheila and Alma did a great job holding down the fort and getting everything together. Great teamwork! Thanks, Mike, Walter, Sheila and Alma!

Forward Focus

This weekend the US Dept. of Education announced that they approved CDE’s request for a partial waiver of federal assessments. This is great news and means that we will have a little bit of a reprieve in state testing. Thanks to Dr. Stephanie Hensley’s hard work as the District Assessment Coordinator, our district is in great shape and prepared for whatever may come our way in regards to testing. This recent news, will definitely lessen the load and allow us to focus our time and energy, these last few months, on quality instruction for our students.

This Thursday will be an ICAP/PLC day.

Volleyball is off to a great start. Our JV girls have a game in Sierra Grande tonight. Varsity girls play at home tomorrow night against Sargent and travel to Custer County on Thursday. Good luck lady Vikings!

Here's to a great week!

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