Rural Marana's first charter school, Open Doors Community School, opens on Aug. 5, and Principal Douglas Roe said he's most excited about the chance to dispense with bureaucracy and connect directly with students and parents.

Formerly superintendent of the Altar Valley School District west of Tucson, Roe accepted the job in January. Since then he has hired staff and recruited about 100 students to attend the K-4 school, founded by the nonprofit Arizona Youth Partnership, at 13644 N. Sandario Road.

The school plans to add one grade level a year until it becomes a K-8 school four years from now.

Roe said the school's small staff and class sizes - the school has one teacher for each grade and Roe wants no more than 25 kids in each class - will give the school an intimate feel. He said the school will offer free before- and after-school tutoring, full-day kindergarten and extracurricular clubs.

Roe's goal is to know every student and parent on a first-name basis.

"He brings so much experience," said Open Doors outreach coordinator Heather Bruning. "He's just amazing. He brings something to Marana that is going to be, I think, a legacy. He's been working so great with the teachers and has a heart for the students."

Roe, 59, earned a master's of education in educational administration from Northern Arizona University, as well as superintendent certification at the University of Colorado. The Continental Ranch resident is a widower with a grown daughter and two grandchildren.

In 2010 he was recognized as the Small District Superintendent of the Year by the Arizona School Board Association.

We caught up with Roe to talk about opening the doors of Open Doors.

Q: Where are your students coming from?

A: It's going to be a mixture of Continental Ranch kids, and some from down toward Picture Rocks. We're also getting kids from the Red Rock area whose parents will drop them off on their way into town, going to work.

Q: How did you get this job?

A: I was superintendent for over 20 years, until 2011, at Altar Valley School District. I retired, and Arizona Youth Partnership became interested. They were going to open a school that embraced the concept of the small school: A lot of parent involvement, and everybody knows everybody; a lot of personal attention for kids and their parents. That interested me. In a bigger district, there's a lot of bureaucracy. It was appealing to me to go to a much smaller setting with less bureaucracy.

Q: What sort of involvement with the students do you want to have?

A: I should know every kid and every parent. We have five teachers at the school. We can really have active involvement with each and every kid and what they are doing. We'll also be working with their parents directly.

Q: What's the advantage of less bureaucracy?

A: Having been a superintendent, by the time the issues get up to that level, it's hard to really make a lot of changes to the initial problem. In this instance it's not going to have to go through multiple layers of people before we try to get something done.

Q: What sort of education do you plan on emphasizing at the school?

A: I think our main emphasis is not a certain, specific curriculum that's been adopted. That's not our guiding principle. It's just about fostering a small, caring school environment. It's kind of like the old one-room schoolhouse everybody knows, where everybody cares about each other and wants to help each other out.

Q: Has that recruiting pitch resonated with the community?

A: I think for a lot of people it does. A lot of people value kind of some old-school, old-time values, with principals really getting to know people and being a part of what's going on. They will have input on things that affect their lives and their children's lives. Some people are disgruntled, not feeling they have any power or their thoughts are valued.

Q: What do you offer that distinguishes you from Marana Unified School District schools?

A: We're not trying to compete with Marana. I know a lot of people in Marana, and I think they are a very strong school district. But we are just something different.


• What: Open Doors Community School.

• Where: 13644 N. Sandario Road.

• Notes: School begins Aug. 5. Registration is open until classes are full. There are openings in first through fourth grades.

• Call: 744-2484.

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or