The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Longtime Clovis schools health director retiring

 


CLOVIS — The longtime director of health services for Clovis Municipal Schools, who has overseen considerable progress in the district’s health care capabilities, will be retiring at the end of the school year.

Rhonda Sparks said she has been with CMS for 19 years, starting as a school nurse at Los Niños Early Intervention Center, Barry Elementary and Marshall Middle School before taking over as director health services director a year or two.

Sparks’ mentor and CMS board member Cindy Osborn said with Sparks leaving the district, she will miss, “just knowing that there was such a fierce advocate for any child. She’s absolutely fearless about advocating for the needs of the students.”

Born and raised in Grants, Sparks spent about a decade working in hospitals as a pediatric nurse before entering school nursing at schools in Moriarty, Tucumcari and ultimately Clovis.

“I have been a nurse since I was 19 years old and so it’s kind of hard to think of finding a stopping place for the thing that has defined who I am for so very long,” Sparks said of her impending retirement.

Sparks said her interest in nursing started as a child when her grandmother gave her a doll which the then-3-year-old Sparks would use to practice applying bandages and other treatments.

“Poor thing, she went through the mill,” Sparks said about the doll. “I would treat her and care for her and so I think I’ve always known that I wanted to be in that kind of nurturing position.”

Sparks is proud of her accomplishments during her time at CMS, including seeing the number of school nurses expanded from seven to 16 and being named the New Mexico School Nurse Association’s Administrator of the Year in 2017.

“The ratio of nurses to students has improved greatly,” Sparks said. “We have full-time nursing in all of our secondary schools. I find that very important because what we know about kids in those years is their risk-taking behaviors increase and certainly the drama in their life increases. Having a nurse there to deal with all of the health issues that come with those risk-taking behaviors is very important.”

Those that know Sparks say she worked tirelessly to advocate on behalf of Clovis students and support her employees..

“The knowledge that I have learned and gained from working with her is invaluable and I hope I can be half the school nurse she was and continue her legacy of advocating on behalf of the children of Clovis, New Mexico,” said Erica Probasco, school nurse at Sandia Elementary.

“She’s definitely a leader, she knows nursing very well, she’s definitely a professional and she puts others before her self,” said Claire Simpson, school nurse at the Arts Academy at Bella Vista

Sparks’ plans for retirement include spending time with her grandson, taking care of her parents and doing some traveling. She said she will miss working with the team she assembled at CMS and helping the students of Clovis.

“I’m going to miss the kids,” Sparks said. “I’m going to miss my team. I will miss those people horribly and the opportunity to drive health care and good decision-making for the kids of Clovis.”

Kristen Jeffcoat-Knauer, who worked as a school nurse for CMS from 2001 to 2007, said Sparks was a mentor to her and will be missed by the district in myriad ways.

“Rhonda does so much for the Clovis school system in avenues that people don’t even know about so I think she’s going to be missed in so many areas of education,” Jeffcoat-Knauer said. “Not just health but in the special education department, mental health resources, everything, Rhonda’s going to be missed in a bunch of areas.”

 

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