What made you decide to become an educator?
I have always enjoyed school. My parents were very supportive of the schools I attended and the value education would play in my life. My Mother actually graduated from the University of Arizona in her early 40s and was the first member of her family to graduate from a college or university. At one time we had five members of our family all attending the university at the same time. I also had a few teachers growing up who really took interest in knowing me and my family. This relationship between school and home made me feel connected to school and I felt that I had a trusting relationship with my teachers to guide my success in school. When I started at the University of Arizona I was working at Tucson Medical Center in a supervisory role as I was studying to become a hospital administrator. It was my junior year that I visited a second-grade classroom to do a presentation, and what I experienced moved me in a whole different direction. What I saw in [the teacher's] classroom was pure magic. The respect and high expectations she held for her students in a caring and nurturing classroom while making learning fun and exciting while drawing from individual students' strengths changed my direction. I changed colleges and spent that year and my senior year earning my elementary education degree and was hired to teach in Tucson Unified School District in 1983. I taught and was a curriculum generalist for seven years, a principal for 18 years (at both elementary and junior high levels). [I was a] director for six years and assistant superintendent for elementary education for 10 years prior to being appointed the interim superintendent . The past 25 years have been in Chandler Unified School District and prior to that Tucson Unified and Sunnyside Unified School Districts in Tucson.
What are your goals for the district this year?
The 2020-21 school year was extremely difficult for our children, parents and staff. We learned so much about ourselves, our families and our organization that I cannot help but be excited about the opportunities this year to impact our students and staff in such a powerful way. Most would say that a new superintendent would spend the first 100 days listening; however, I have been with Chandler school district for 25 years and have been a part of the executive leadership team for over 10 years, so I have been involved in the ins and outs, understand and know our community and stakeholders. We are moving forward with our top priorities and will continue to seek our stakeholder input as we move forward as we move Chandler Unified School District to the next level of excellence. I do not take the responsibility of this position lightly. We are a district with over 100 years of a tradition of excellence. Educating over 44,000 students on a daily basis with a workforce of 5,000 employees. A district that continues to be recognized at local, state and national levels. We are committed to excellence, have students who achieve academically, athletically and in the visual and performing arts to name a few. We have amazing students and families that value education. And we have a dedicated and highly qualified work force. It is our focus to:
- provide a world-class education where all CUSD students have access to highly qualified teachers, rigorous content and instructional strategies that engage students in their learning;
- [ensure] that our buildings and grounds are clean, maintained and that they reflect the well-being and safety for our students;
- [ensure] that students are greeted every day and that they perceive CUSD adults as interested and engaged in their academic and personal success;
- through assessments and data-driven practices we work with each child to understand where their unfinished learning or learning gaps occurred during the global pandemic and provide opportunities for all students to have access to services and programs that will help support their academic growth;
- assist students, parents and teachers both emotionally and socially as many come back to in-person learning for the first time in over a year; and
- ... focus on the individual student’s needs as we keep personalized learning at the core of what we do.
How is the district planning to help students with learning loss that was a result from COVID-19 in this school year?
We just presented to the board and public our ESSER III plan which is required under the CARES Act. In this plan we discussed a few areas that we will provide to the larger stakeholder group in August. We started the work this past summer with free summer learning for all K-12 students. Some of the areas we are proposing and will acquire feedback on include:
- assessment and data analysis to determine individual students impacted by unfinished learning;
- K-12 intervention supports and materials to support classroom teachers and their students through a multitiered system of support;
- targeted intensive tutoring;
- extended learning opportunities for students who require them (extended day, week, intersessions, summer);
- embedded academic reinforcement through clubs and before- and after-school programming;
- professional development (data analysis to guide intentional instruction and high yield classroom teaching and learning strategies);
- [an] increase student access to blended learning inside and outside of the classroom through increasing technology devices and connectivity;
- K-12 school site data and instructional strategy coaches (build capacity and support through 2024); and
- increased staffing for high-intensity intervention models (co-teaching, developmental at lower grades).
What, if any, new initiatives are you planning for this year? Explain in as much detail as possible.
We are reviewing our Journey 2025 strategic plan and are looking at ways we can modify and enhance our plan to knowing we educate the whole child and that each child needs knowledge and a skill set to be future-ready. As we look toward our strategic plan updates, we have engaged with stakeholders in a variety of areas as we transform educational opportunities to meet these future-ready aspects. For example, we value collaborative leadership that will keep personalized student learning at the center of what we do. We have witnessed over the past year an epiphany as to how students engage in learning. In addition systems and educational mindsets need to be in place to assist student learning in this expanded space and time. We are looking at improvements by using the Future Ready Framework to ensure that when CUSD students engage in digital learning, they experience opportunities for both collaborative and independent learning that meets their individual needs (including time, place and ability). Through digital learning, students will access engaging content and activities, and they will interact with that content in rigorous meaningful ways. Students will demonstrate their learning through a variety of performance-based assessments as well as real-world, community-based and creative application opportunities. We will be working with our staff to enhance our practices of using data to guide instruction and to utilize research-based instructional practices that increase engagement and yield high results toward academic growth and proficiency.
Is there a message you would like to give to the community ahead of the start of the school year?
I am grateful to serve Chandler Unified School District students, staff and families in the role of interim superintendent for the 2021-22 school year. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to work with your students and support your families. Those who are new to CUSD, welcome—we have a rich tradition of over 100 years of excellence in educating students. We look forward to working cooperatively with families and the community in our journey together.