Hispanic principal may not be first one in the county

I enjoyed the story about the new Mountain View Elementary School principal. And I was pleased to see Jackson County has a new Hispanic principal. But is she really the first? If so, it's about time.

— Eleanor S., White City

Funny you should ask, Eleanor. We at the "Where the heck is the archive for all principals of all districts since districts began" team received a phone call from the former superintendent of the Phoenix-Talent School District, who begs to differ with Karina Rizo's status as Jackson County's first Hispanic principal.

Dr. Joseph Diamond, the district's superintendent from 1985 to 1989, said he remembers a Hispanic principal at Talent Elementary School during his tenure named Phil Gallegos.

"I'm not sure exactly when he came and when he left," Diamond said. "But he was there, and he was doing his job during the same time I was. Of course, that was almost 30 years ago."

We did not hear from any other district officials — past or present — challenging Rizo as being the first Hispanic principal in the area. As a matter of fact, several school officials confirmed Rizo as a cultural trailblazer.

Perhaps Rizo is the first female Hispanic principal in Jackson County? Or maybe, at age 31, she is the youngest Hispanic principal? By all accounts, the sources we spoke with for the article agree Rizo, a classroom teacher for 10 years before becoming Mountain View's principal in August, is doing a great job.

Rizo's path to the principal's chair began in the Los Angeles area. She first learned to read and write in Spanish, but she picked up English quickly because she had a strong grounding in academic Spanish, she said.

After Rizo's family moved to the Medford area, she attended Hedrick Middle School and North Medford High School. She also attended Southern Oregon University to get her master's degree, she said.

Rizo is not just bilingual; she considers herself bicultural, as well, a nice combination given the fact that the White City school's student body is 53 percent Hispanic and Spanish-speaking, according to district officials.

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