Eppie Calderon, principal at Hobbs High School since 2002, will move to the Hobbs Municipal Schools administrative offices next month to assume new responsibilities.
Calderon replaces mentoring coordinator Marisol Cardenas and will expand on her role to also serve as liaison between parents and teachers.
HMS Supt. TJ Parks said Calderon will be the contact person for all parental concerns at each of the district’s 17 campuses and likewise will be charged with bolstering a mentoring program that has thrived in past years.
“I think we’ve done a good job in equipping our students with the tools that they need to succeed academically -- but the one area we have concern about is a lack of parental input,” Parks said. “We’ve also seen the influence a strong mentor can have on a student. We have some kids who would not have graduated without that positive role model in their life.”
Calderon is a New Mexico State University graduate who spent his early years teaching math, science and coaching before moving into administration in Carlsbad 16 years ago.
Although it’s been nearly two decades since he had his own classroom, Calderon continues to tutor chemistry and other subjects as HHS principal – inviting students to his office before school or his home on weekends. Likewise, he also has been known to knock on a student’s front door.
“What I’ve found throughout my whole career is that the best way to really get to know a student is to get to know their families,” Calderon said. “And the best way to do that is to go visit with them at their home. It seems like I’m accepted well in those circumstances and our relationship from then on has been very positive.”
The district is emphasizing the importance of parental involvement, HMS Assistant Superintendent Will Hawkins said, based on research which shows that 43 percent of student achievement is influenced by teaching qualifications while 49 percent is influenced by parents and family.
“The reality is, our students perform best when our parents and our teachers are working together,” Hawkins said.
A significant portion of those parents in Hobbs are Spanish-speaking, Parks pointed out. The fact that Calderon is caring and nurturing while also being bilingual are big bonuses, according to the superintendent.
Calderon, who said he thinks of himself as “approachable and able to listen to people’s concerns,” agrees that meeting with parents on their own territory and in their own language will give the district the ability to draw community members into a system where they have traditionally remained on the sidelines
“There’s a lot of our population that either don’t speak English or don’t speak English well,” Calderon explained. “As a result, they don’t feel very comfortable in school. Being bilingual gives me the ability to provide information to them about their concerns and simply have someone to talk to.”
In addition to the normal percentage of parents who volunteer for student activities such as athletics, band or other extracurriculars, Calderon plans to recruit parents to school events by becoming involved in a variety of community activities, including those sponsored by organizations such as the NAACP and LULAC.
“You start there, and make your contacts and then go after that whole new segment of parent population,” Calderon said. “I think there are plenty of parents out there who would like to be involved if we just ask.”
The parent-liaison position – funded by a private donation – also calls for Calderon to assume responsibilities as a suspension hearing officer and take on all student discipline issues. He is scheduled to assume his new role on Oct. 3. In the meantime, the district hopes to begin interviews for Calderon’s replacement as HHS principal sometime next week.