Stephen is CHS new principal

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Easy going, polite and friendly, Robert Stephen, who has been a band director for most of his career in education, is the new principal at Century High School.

All summer, he has been interviewing Century High School students because he believes in listening to young people to understand what their needs are, the principal said, and to learn what Century High School students think of their school.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: New Mexico native Robert Stephen is the new principal at Century High School.

“I haven’t heard a single student say that something needs to change here, or that something is unreasonable. They absolutely enjoy coming to school here,” Stephen said.

Stephen also has been talking with parents of incoming freshmen about what Century High School has to offer because there are a lot of options for them to consider.

“Should my child be attending Century High School and looking at a window of (four) years, or can we look at this other option and see my child moving on faster?” he asked. “Do they want to be part of the Distance Learning Academy here at Century High School, which is a different program than the regular setting?”

The school also has a dual-credit program, so a student could feasibly graduate with a diploma and an associates degree, he said. There is credit recovery and vocational certification programs as well as an alternative program for students facing a long-term suspension from another school.

“I hold students to a very high set of expectations that I feel are within reason,” Stephen said. “As I reflect back to what school meant to me … what kept me in school, what I didn’t like about school, I know that kids learn best when the are interested, period.”

Stephen is currently completing his doctoral dissertation on the impact of music on literacy. His ambition is to close the achievement gap in literacy, he said.

After graduating Los Lunas High School, Stephen went to New Mexico State University for his undergraduate work. He began his teaching career in Hatch, he said, and from there directed band in Ruidoso for seven years.

In Socorro, Stephen began his administrative career as the principal of Zimmerly Elementary School. Next he went on to Los Lunas High School as an assistant principal, and then to Santa Fe, where he served as the assistant, interim and appointed principal of Santa Fe High School.

After retiring, he went stir crazy, Stephen said. His love of teaching and interacting with students drew him back.

“The students actually impacted me tremendously and I just didn’t realize that,” Stephen said. “Not being around young people really did not work for me at all.”

Advocating for youth and helping them succeed is in his blood, so being selected for the Century High School principal position is very gratifying to Stephen.

“I feel so honored that they allowed me to come back into the family again, because I’m right at home here,” he said. “I understand this community inside-out. I spent a significant part of my life here. I grew up in El Cerro Mission, and I’m a product of the public schools in this state, and I’m a product of Los Lunas Schools.

“It’s incredible to me how things come around full circle,” said Stephen.

The principal has an open-door policy and encourages students and parents to bring their questions or concerns to him.

He is also willing to book appointments after school for parents who work.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.