Rhodes’ new principal Carlos Mendez has global vision

Source: Dr. Bessie Rhodes Magnet School

Carlos Mendez, Bessie Rhodes Magnet School's new principal, plans to take his school global.

Oliver Ortega, Reporter

Principal Carlos Mendez has big plans for Dr. Bessie Rhodes Magnet School — on a global scale, in fact.

Rhodes’ new top educator wants to teach his students Mandarin Chinese, send them to study in China and bring in an exchange group from Spain. Earlier this year, the K-8 school hosted a group of Chinese students as part of continuing efforts to strengthen its global studies program.

“I want to have our students experience the world beyond the wealth of Evanston,” Mendez said. “Can you imagine what the world would look like if all students did this type of thing? There would be so much more tolerance.”

Mendez was appointed principal of the Skokie school last month after working as interim principal since the start of the school year. Rhodes serves about 350 students and has focused its curriculum on global studies.

“During his initial year at the school, Mr. Mendez has embraced parents, teachers and students as an instructional leader and advocate for the school,” said Hardy Murphy, Evanston/Skokie District 65 superintendent, in a news release.

Mendez is originally from Cuba and moved to Miami when he was 13. He became interested in teaching because his father was a math teacher, and in college he decided to become an educator. Mendez moved to Chicago about a decade ago to pursue a master’s degree and work at a middle school in the city, where he taught science and math for five years. Before coming to Rhodes, Mendez was an assistant principle at Evanston’s Haven Middle School.

“I am committed, have been committed, since day one,” Mendez said of his time at Rhodes. “I told my teachers, ‘If you’re with me, I’m with you all the way.’”

During Mendez’s tenure, Rhodes has expanded its sports program and started an initiative that rotates teachers among the different grades once a year in an effort to build teacher-student bonds and increase retention.

Mendez isn’t the only head of a local school in his family. His wife Sarah Mendez is the principal of Nichols Middle School in Evanston.

“It gets very competitive when it comes to dinner time,” he said with a laugh.

Wendy Woodward, a Rhodes parent and member of the principal advisory committee, said parents are happy with the appointment and impressed with the work Mendez has done.

In the past five years, Rhodes has had four principles, and parents have expressed concerns about the school’s leadership. After the previous principal announced in May that she would be leaving, parents petitioned the district for an assistant principal at Rhodes, which is the only district school serving middle school students that does not have one.

Mendez said he agrees that he could use an assistant principal to help manage the school, and the district may look to hire someone for next year. But he maintains that his commitment to Rhodes is unwavering and he will not be leaving any time soon.

“I’m in it for the long haul,” Mendez said. “I’m looking forward for many years to come.”

Mendez has kept Rhodes is in good hands, parent Jennifer Phillips said.

“Everyone welcomed Mr. Mendez in the fall and wanted to see him succeed,” Phillips said. “He has proven himself to be a rising star.”

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