The RISD school [auth] board meets with the public after naming the district’s new superintendent, Thursday evening. Mark Wilson Photo
The Roswell Independent School District has a new leader.
Harry J. “Tom” Burris was chosen as superintendent during an RISD board meeting Thursday, to replace Michael Gottlieb, superintendent from 2004-2012, who retired June 30.
Burris, unable to attend, currently serves as superintendent for Truth or Consequences Municipal Schools.
RISD School Board President Mackenzie Hunt said Burris was ultimately chosen from a field of 25 candidates narrowed down to six finalists during a thorough interview session, a search aided by the consultant Dr. Dan Patterson. Hunt said that when it was time for the board to make a final decision, Burris was unanimously thought to be the best possible fit for Roswell.
“The vetting process indicated that he is an honest man, that he has the children’s priority number one, and that he is willing to work to improve our district in the direction we’ve been working towards,” Hunt said.
Hunt added that what stood out the most to the school board was Burris’ “humility, honesty and ability to communicate.”
RISD School Board Secretary Pauline Ponce said Burris’ experience with New Mexico’s laws and regulations factored into the selection, and will make Burris’ transition to the RISD a lot easier.
Burris started as a teacher in New Mexico before moving up the ranks to attain the T or C’s superintendent’s position, Ponce said. She added that for now, Burris is technically the RISD superintendent-elect, since the T or C school board will have up to 30 days to release Burris from his current position once he gives his board notice.
“So it could be as long as 30 days. It could be less,” Ponce said. “We’re hoping for less!”
RISD board member Dr. Peggy Brewer said that in addition to his experience in New Mexico, Burris possesses a clear desire to keep learning.
“He’s really interested in classroom instruction, and he’s willing to go in and actually take over and teach a classroom,” Brewer said. “His expertise is high school math instruction. He just seems to be a leader of leaders, and that’s what impressed me.
“He also has experience in doing school budgets, and keeping it solvent. He is also really active in doing construction, building schools. So he has the knowledge that we need.”
According to the website for T or C Municipal Schools, Burris was born in Phoenix to a Socorro County ranching family, and later attended school in Albuquerque, before graduating in 1972. He began his career as a math teacher at Farmington High School in 1976, and is now married with two children.