The Elementary and High School Boards met with Supt. Rachell Hocheim on Feb. 24 at a special joint meeting. From left: Kathy Pasierb, Nancy McKoy, Rachell Hochheim, Paula Schaper, Ron Pitt, Cynthia Matus-Morriss, Bo Simpson, Jim Cosbey. Seated: Audrey Doles and Lorenzo Doles. Photo by Aisha Sander 

Rachell Hochheim, Superintendent and Principal for Patagonia Union High School and Patagonia Elementary, has chosen not to renew her contract this year because of family relocation. Her present contract with the school district ends on June 30.

Hochheim has been working at the Patagonia Schools since 2017. “I’m sad I can’t be the rock that Patagonia needs. I have treasured the time I have had here,” she said. “The districts are ready for someone who can commit to it long-term and invest in the community and that is not my situation.”

She will be looking to continue working in education in a leadership role in another district, but at a lower administrative level than superintendent. Before Patagonia, Hochheim was the director of community and early childhood education programs at the Tucson Unified School district.

Hochheim instituted a series of changes to the school schedule in the 2018-2019 academic year, which led to a number of teachers leaving the schools. However, in the 2019 -2020 academic year, there has been only one resignation from a teacher, due to personal reasons, and there has been 100% retention of staff.

Hochheim said one of her growth opportunities has been managing two separate boards with different needs. She would like the two boards to work together and “review the shared service agreement,” to set the next superintendent up for success. She advocated for a separate position for the Elementary School Principal rather than combining the two roles of Superintendent and Principal together. Ron Pitt, President of the PUHS

Board ,said “Rachel has been an incredible change agent for the school. She’s done many wonderful things that have made the school a better school, provided for more opportunities for our students, in particular the Career & Technological Education District (CTED) program. Also the FFA, they have done great things since they got started, and she was instrumental in developing it. They recently participated in two district events and are competing against larger schools and have done fantastically well.”

Hochheim will treasure the closeness she has had with staff, students and parents and the memories of attending events with the students. She is proud of her leadership team of Kenny Hayes, Anne Gortarez and Michael Young, and the work that they are doing for the students. “It is very different than a large school district”, said Hochheim.

The school boards voted to conduct an internal search for a new superintendent at the school board meeting held Feb. 24. (See related article in March issue.) Hochheim does not have a say in the decision but is hoping that the districts find someone soon so she can be a part of the transition.