- Cleburne Independent School District
New Engineer for the Santa Fe Elementary Express
A familiar face greeted Santa Fe Elementary students and staff Wednesday morning—as their new principal.
Matt Ford, who spent six years as the assistant principal at the campus, is returning as the “engineer” of the Santa Fe Express following approval of the CISD Board of Trustees at their Tuesday evening work session. He fills the lead administrative vacancy following Sabina Landeros’ move into the CISD Department of Curriculum and Instruction as a Principal on Special Assignment.
Ford, who was named an assistant principal at Cleburne High School in June, is very excited to be making a return trip to Santa Fe as the new campus leader.
“I got up Wednesday morning at 4:30—I just couldn’t stay in bed any longer,” Ford said. “I made homemade cinnamon rolls for the staff and an ‘I love Santa Fe’ sign and was at the school by 6:30. I didn’t want anyone on our staff to enter this building without a hug—and to let them know how much I appreciated them and how excited I am to be here.”
“It was incredibly hard when I left Santa Fe,” he said. “It’s also hard leaving the high school team and the relationships I have built with students. I worry they are looking for Mr. Ford today—and I’m not there. But as much as I will miss them, I’m all in here at Santa Fe and crazy excited to be back.”
Ford is beginning his 19th year as an educator, solely with Cleburne ISD. His career began as a social studies teacher at Cleburne Middle School, moving to Wheat in 2007 when the district established two 6th-8th grade middle school campuses.
“Our Santa Fe students, teachers and family are fortunate to have Matt Ford return to the campus where he spent six years, to step into the role of principal,” said Dr. Kristi Rhone, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. “He brings a lot to the position, led by his love for Santa Fe, his experience as an administrator and a passion for education.”
“I look forward to watching Santa Fe thrive and grow under his leadership,” Rhone said. “He began his transition this morning, greeting families—who were all smiles to see his familiar friendly face.”
Ford decided in high school that working with children was the path he wanted for his life. His mother was a kindergarten and first grade teacher. His father was the director of Glen Lake Camp and Retreat Center in Glen Rose.
“I grew up helping my mom in her classroom and leading kids and activities at summer camp from the time I was 12,” he said. “But the moment I made my decision to become an educator was in high school. I was involved in the PALS program and was paired with a student who was blind. I was his personal aide in PE and really enjoyed helping him and working with kids.”
Ford has the unique experience of working with learners at all levels—elementary to secondary--starting with his 12 years as an eighth-grade social studies teacher, including two terms as middle school summer school principal. He says also being the parent of an elementary student provided some helpful training for his first administrative position. His son, Micah, now a Smith MS seventh grader, joined the Santa Fe Express when his father came to the campus; his first-grade daughter, Mailey, came on board in pre-K. Ford’s wife, Mauri, is a counselor at Smith.
“It’s nice to have that big picture perspective—to see students on their education journeys from all sides,” he said. “But kids are kids. No matter their age, they need to be loved and know you care. I am ready for this next step--my six years at Santa Fe have more than prepared me to jump straight back in as the principal. I know the structure of this campus, which makes it easier to hit the ground running. I know a whole lot about this campus, from where the ladder is to how we conduct our grade-level Professional Learning Communities. I know our students and their families.”
“I have never walked into a school with the feel of Santa Fe Elementary,” Ford said. “When you see all the signs and messages on the walls, and the way we celebrate kids and greet everyone with smiles—you know things are special here. We have a tight-knit family of teachers, many who have been here ten-plus years. Our Santa Fe team is passionate about working at a school where they are guaranteed to make a difference. Some describe their work as educators as a ministry, as well as a calling. I feel the same way.”