Former Bloomfield School District Superintendent Joe Rasor ready for retirement
BLOOMFIELD — Former Bloomfield School District Superintendent Joe Rasor is ready to retire for real after nearly 45 years of being involved in education and a previous unsuccessful retirement attempt.
June 30 was Rasor's last day as superintendent and the last day of work for his wife, Julie Rasor, who retired from her position as Director of Administration and Operations for Four Corners Economic Development.
"I thought since it was my turn, I thought we could retire together," Julie Rasor said.
Sitting in a Bloomfield coffee shop on his last day of work day, Joe Rasor spoke to The Daily Times about teaching at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, experiencing the death of his first wife and holding the reins of Bloomfield schools for the last five years.
Joe Rasor graduated high school in 1966 and planned to attend Eureka College in Illinois on a football scholarship until an injury he suffered working at a paper mill derailed his plans.
One of the first members of his family to attend college, Rasor learned education was important for him, leading him to pursue an education degree with an elementary school focus.
"I saw the need for men to enter elementary education because there were no (male) role models," he said.
He married his first wife Jacqueline in 1968 and graduated in 1970. After talking to a BIA recruiter, the couple relocated to Chinle, Ariz., to teach at Cottonwood Day School.
Rasor said he received a draft deferment for the Vietnam War by accepting the position.
After teaching three years in that position, Rasor and his wife moved to Tuba City, Ariz., in 1973 where he worked as a teacher and guidance counselor at Tuba City High School.
It was during their time in Tuba City that the couple's adopted daughter Michelle developed health issues with her lungs, prompting an emergency transfer to the Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle Community School. The move allowed the family to live closer to a hospital.
Joe Rasor stayed in the Bloomfield area, working at the old Rio Vista Elementary school, then as a fifth-grade teacher at Central Primary Elementary school, and then returning to Rio Vista as principal to guide its transition from an elementary to a middle school.
It was the work he did there that led Rasor to the Eunice Public School District in the southwest part of the state in 1993. Rasor helped transition the Eunice junior high school into a middle school.
While in Eunice, Jacqueline Rasor developed a form of fast-acting breast cancer in 1994 and died at the age of 48.
"My life just went to pieces for a while," Rasor said.
He stayed in Eunice for one more year before moving back to Bloomfield.
In the mid-'90s, Rasor took a job as the principal at Grace B. Wilson Elementary School in Kirtland, where he stayed for about nine years. In 1997, he married Julie.
Joe Rasor retired from Grace B. Wilson after suffering a transient ischemic attack, or minor stroke, and was looking for a new opportunity.
He joined the Bloomfield school district again a year later in 2007 as special education director. He later took the job of assistant superintendent, also serving as interim superintendent for about five months when the former superintendent, Randy Allison, resigned in October 2009.
Joe Rasor was confirmed as Bloomfield superintendent in February 2010. He told the Board of Education members he would be there for a short time but would work hard to get the district back in shape.
"The board said we needed some changes and I said 'You give me a list of things you want me to work on, I will work on them, I will put policies and procedures in place so that when I leave, whoever replaces me will basically have a clean slate to start,'" Rasor said.
Rasor said he spent a lot of time reestablishing policies and procedures for finances and personnel after seeing how departments were lax in enforcing policy.
Joe said he directed the district to use the financial audits and other reports as a guide to determine if they were in compliance and address issues that came up.
"Based on the audits, we built plans to remediate each of those areas," Rasor said. "As you dig deeper, other things come forward."
The findings from financial and Title XI audit reports led to numerous issues requiring intervention and resulted in the termination of some district staff. The reports in subsequent years indicate the district has corrected the problems.
Joe Rasor has been working with new Bloomfield superintendent Kim Mizell since April to help prepare her to take over the district, educating her about policies and procedures so she can come in and focus on academics.
"My biggest regret is not being able to focus on the academics as well," Rasor said.
Working with district officials on reestablishing policies left Rasor with less time than he wanted to focus on reading, math and other subjects.
Rasor said he was proud of his implementation of "Professional Learning Communities," which is a program designed to enable collaborative learning among teachers in each of the schools.
He said anyone could walk into a school and talk to staff about what the needs of the students are.
"I'm pleased with what I've done," Rasor said. "Sorry I couldn't do more but I'm ready to pass the baton."
Dale Maes, Bloomfield school board president, said he learned a lot from Rasor and so did the other board members.
"He left the district in a good place, it's in good hands right now with our new superintendent," Maes said. "She will carry on the good work he left."
Joe and Julie Rasor plan to visit their grandchildren, and travel to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean.
Julie Rasor said she was ready to start a new set of adventures with Joe on their seven-acre farm just outside Bloomfield among their goats, chickens, dogs and a llama.