by Blake Herzog
As the new academic year begins, Santa Cruz Union High School in Eloy is getting a new start with a principal dedicated to drawing more students in while also leading the school district which supports it.
Chrystal Reyes is the new superintendent of the Santa Cruz Union High School District, taking on a new role created this year because of a reduced budget and the retirement of part-time superintendent Orlenda Roberts.
Reyes had been with the Eloy Elementary School District for 16 years, working her way up from teaching assistant and summer custodian to principal of Eloy Intermediate School, her job for the last four years.
When the high school district job was first advertised, Reyes said, “I had not done high school, I’d only done younger grades, so when it came out I didn’t really give it any thought. And then I kept having people from the community telling me ‘Why don’t you put in? We need someone from Eloy, we need somebody who cares about our kids and knows about our kids,’” she said. “So the more I thought about it the more I started to lend myself to actually doing it.”
Her roots in the community are deep, having been raised there by a mom who taught in the local schools for 36 years and a grandmother who was in the high school’s first graduating class. Reyes started working for the elementary district while still earning her degree, then moved into teaching first grade and the principal job at the intermediate school, which includes third through fifth grade.
Many of the students Reyes taught are now heading into their freshman year of high school, so after landing her new job last spring she “made a big push at the end of the school year, and I was in (Eloy Junior High School) a lot talking to the eighth graders there, and it seems like we’re getting a lot more of those junior high kids than we usually do,” she said.
The high school’s enrollment has dropped precipitously over the last few years because of the pandemic, as well as families sending students to neighboring districts or online options.
Reyes said the school had about 230 students at the end of the last school year, but registrations in the final two weeks before the beginning of this school year Aug. 8 were approaching 300. “It’s a good sign,” she said.
Now she’s adjusting to her new principal/superintendent role.
“I was used to being in the principal position so I felt comfortable with that. It’s the new job of being the superintendent and overseeing the budgets and overseeing the whole entire staff is a little bit different, but it’s very exciting,” she said.
The high school has 16 teachers while the district has 60 staff members, including those in maintenance, transportation and food service positions.
The oldest of Reyes’ five children will be attending the high school, and she’s looking forward to watching the fourth generation of her family graduate from there: “I’m doing my part.”