SUPERIOR, AZ — As the uncertainty surrounding back to school continues, students and staff in the San Carlos Unified School District will start the new year with heavy hearts.
They are mourning the loss of Roy Chavez. The former mayor of Superior and teacher died from COVID-19 last week.
"It was just a shocker," said SCUSD Superintendent Dr. Deborah Dennison. "We had heard that he was ill and that he was on the ventilator and we were just all praying and hoping."
Chavez served as a long-term substitute for the small K-12 district for years and was planning to return this upcoming school year. He had a talent for connecting with students, a passion for the environment and a deep love for the Apache people.
"He could have gone to any other school district because there's several between Superior and San Carlos that he could've stopped and worked in, but he chose the children in San Carlos Apache," said Dr. Dennison.
Meantime Chavez's own children are remembering the traits they loved most.
"He was a kind soul and that he would give the shirt to you off his back," said Chavez's daughter, Andrea Cruz.
"He had a huge impact on a lot of people and he's going to be missed, but he always fought for what was right," said Josh Cruz, Chavez's son.
Chavez's sister, Kimberley Byrd, also died of COVID-19 late last month.
She was a beloved teacher in the Hayden-Winkelman School District and her death is getting national attention. It is also fueling this family's frustrations as the debate over reopening schools rages on.
"We have no consistencies from school to school, from district to district," said Jesse Byrd, Kim's husband. "We need to get it together.