Rody Boonchouy takes the wheel as Winters’ newest Superintendent

Superintendent Rody Boonchouy began work last month at Winters Joint Unified School District. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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After searching far and wide, the Winters Joint Unified School District (Winters JUSD) has found its next superintendent in Rody Boonchouy. Although he’s just getting started, Boonchouy brings a litany of educational experience and ambition to his new role.

Born and raised in southern California, Boonchouy earned his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley. After graduating, he opted to travel the world while he figured out what he wanted to do with his life. He found work teaching English classes overseas and it was through those experiences that Boonchouy was bitten by the proverbial ‘bug’ for education.

After two years and a passport saturated with ink from 30 countries’ stamps, Boonchouy returned to the states and acquired Master’s degrees from UC Riverside, La Verne and then his doctorate at UC Davis. However, it wasn’t so much the pursuit of a career in education that landed Boonchouy in northern California, but his tenure as a seasonal tomato truck driver. Not only was that work how he funded his globetrotting, but how he met his wife.

“She was a tomato truck driver also and that’s how we met. I even proposed to her in a tomato field. But when we moved up here to begin our life together, I got a job teaching at Davis High and I was approached about some crazy concepts of a new school some folks wanted to start and they needed a founding staff,” said Boonchouy.

That “crazy idea” was the creation of Da Vinci Junior High and Da Vinci High schools. Both programs are part of the Da Vinci Charter Academy, which is a college preparatory program for students in grades seventh through 12th.

“I was on the founding team that built the program, the concept, and (the) model from day one. I taught there for seven years, then worked in some nonprofit organizations doing professional development around the country to spread the good news of what Da Vinci teaching and learning looked like,” said Boonchouy. “I came back and served as principal at Da Vinci, then served as Associate Superintendent at the (Davis Joint Unified School District) for the last five and a half years or so.”

From teaching abroad to earning his credentials to helping create the practical educational approach found at the Da Vinci schools, to administrative leadership and more — it all adds up to over two decades of experience that’s helped shape Boonchouy’s educational philosophy.

“I believe in educational approaches that are highly student-centered, that encourage students to take ownership over their learning where they can see the relevance of their learning and how it’s applied to the real world,” explained Boonchouy. “I believe in the power of developing the skills we know students will need to be successful in this modern world. To be able to communicate, collaborate and be creative and think critically. Public education needs to align itself with the demands of young people in our society today. Many of the jobs our young students will have one day don’t even exist yet. Particularly with the changing world with AI, machine learning, social media and advances in technology, we have to make sure students not only know fundamental academics but also have the skills to navigate a complex world.”

While Boonchouy said he is excited to be stepping into a school district filled to the gills with top-notch educators who share his fervor for education, he’s equally excited to integrate with the little town that Winters JUSD is located in.        

“I’ve learned that the community and staff — we at large own and guide the direction of our schools in the community. No one person has the answer to all of our challenges. I don’t have the answer to all our challenges,” said Boonchouy. “What we can do is create the space and trust that’s needed for us as a community to develop a shared vision for where we want to go, for what we want the schools to be, and then build our structures and systems and processes accordingly. The work ahead is creating opportunities for our community to share what vision we want for our schools.”

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