PLANTATION KEY -- The incoming principal at Coral Shores High School was once honored for squeezing every penny out of his budget as head of a South Florida educational institution.
It's a skill that might serve him well in these tight budgetary times.
Dr. Alberto Rodriguez, 50, was then principal of American Senior High School in Miami-Dade County. Most recently, he has served as superintendent of schools in Amherst, Mass.
He has now come full circle and says he is excited once again to be working with students and teachers, especially at Coral Shores where he credits outgoing Principal Ron Martin with paving the way.
"I know a lot of money has been stripped [from the school budget]. I have met several times with Ron Martin. I know I will be going through a learning curve," he said.
Rodriguez' voice betrays his love for his work, especially since he is going back into a school environment.
"You can affect wider change working directly with a school family, and I think interaction [with students and faculty] is where it's at," he told the Free Press. "The thing about being at a school, instead of heading a board, is you get to see an immediate effect your actions and ideas have on young people."
Rodriguez has two grown daughters and a wife who is also an educator. He plans to commute to his new school from their West Miami-Dade home.
Rodriguez says he is reluctant to make any broad predictions about prospective changes at Coral Shores until his "boots hit the ground."
"I will put forth an action plan that is tailor-made for Coral Shores," he said. "The school then becomes an incubator in that you propose and work with your own solutions to your own challenges. That, and working with kids, is exciting.
"Coral Shores is a great high school. With help from the community I want to put Coral Shores on the map statewide, so that when state educators talk about model high schools, Coral Shores comes to mind," he said.
Rodriguez says he embraces community involvement but says the key is coordinating their efforts.
"The great fallacy is soliciting the community and then concluding that they are meddling. You have to coordinate all these people so that they are not tripping over themselves," he said. "The key is having all of your resources supporting a common vision."
Martin, who is running for a seat on the Monroe County School Board, said he is impressed with Rodriguez's community focus.
"We need to preserve the cohesiveness between the school and the community," he said. "I believe Dr. Rodriguez sees how much this school is a community center."
Rodriguez, a 1978 graduate of Coral Gables High School, received his bachelor's degree in social studies education from Florida International University in 1987.
In 1993 he earned his master's degree in educational leadership from Nova University. In 2004 he received his doctorate in educational leadership from Barry University in Miami.
Rodriguez will begin his tenure at Coral Shores on Monday, June 14.