Higley USD governing board adopts strategic initiatives

Dawn Foley, Tyler Moore
Higley USD Associate Superintendent Dawn Foley addresses the governing board about district strategic initiatives for the coming year as Finance Director Tyler Moore looks at the presentation. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Higley USD Associate Superintendent Dawn Foley addresses the governing board about district strategic initiatives for the coming year as Finance Director Tyler Moore looks at the presentation. (Screen capture from YouTube)

The Higley USD governing board approved four strategic initiatives for the coming school year at its April 21 meeting.

The initiatives will guide the district on its priorities for fiscal year 2021-22. They are:

  • Update and refine the district’s strategic plan for 2022-27, including outlining a roadmap for the district’s “portrait of a Higley graduate.”

  • Continue to ensure the safety of the district’s students and employees as they return to school for the year with a focus on their social-emotional well-being.

  • Continue to improve best practices in teaching and learning, with a focus on meaningful utilization of technology, relevant professional development and intentional use of data.

  • Continue to identify processes and accountability plans as needed, including fiscal responsibilities and oversight, and documenting, disseminating and implementing processes.

The initiatives began development during a board retreat April 10, and board members praised Associate Superintendent Dawn Foley for her work in their development. Foley will assume the superintendent role after the retirement of Mike Thomason on May 4.

“You’ve taken on a lot, for sure,” board President Kristina Reese told Foley. “I know for me that this is even more robust than what I expected coming out of our retreat, that you’ve put a lot more detail in evidence.”

Board member Amy Kaylor agreed.

“This is an exhaustive list,” she said. “The word ‘strategic plan’ alone is huge. There’s big words in here, but we know what falls under those big words, so I’m very impressed.”

Major capital projects

Support Services Assistant Superintendent Michael Fowler reviewed the district’s plan to address major capital projects and maintenance as the district prepares to put a $95 million bond on the ballot for fall.

Fowler said the district considered site capacity, facility conditions and future demographics as it determined its needs.

The projects would include potential classroom additions to handle growth in the coming five years. Gateway Pointe, Higley Traditional Academy and the district’s high schools may need additional space to accommodate growth, Fowler said. The proposed $27 million from the bond if it passes also would include upgrading facility standards, renovations and some contingency money.

The bond also would have $11 million for major maintenance, including drywells, flooring, grounds, HVAC, exterior painting, parking lots, roofing, lighting and some contingency money.

Fowler said if a bond fails, the district would have no major capital projects but would utilize annual capital budget funds allocated for support services as needed. All major maintenance, he said, would be reduced to only items covered by the state facilities board through its building renewal grant program.

Other items

  • The board will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. April 26 to consider revising or ending its face mask policy after Gov. Doug Ducey lifted on April 19 a previous executive order that all districts must have such a policy.

  • The board received an update on the district’s career and technical education, or CTE, offerings showing that the number of students enrolled in CTE classes as having grown 100% in seven years.

  • The district has 10 programs that offer industry credentials, according to the presentation from CTE Director Craig Pearson, and offers 63 credit hours in dual-enrollment courses with local community colleges.

  • Medical premiums for employees through United Health Care will increase 4% in the coming year, but the district will absorb the cost, Human Resources Executive Director Mum Martens said. There will be no change to premiums for dental or vision benefits.

  • The district has spent $540,558.75 on substitutes this year out of a budget of $1.26 million, Martens said.

  • The district has paid $1.45 million to private providers for some special education services that the district does not offer its high-need special education students, with an additional nearly $389,000 encumbered for future payments, Special Education Director Shauna Miller said. That is nearly $662,000 under budget.

  • Williams Field Assistant Principal Daniel Fox will become the principal at Sossaman Middle School under a personnel action approved under the consent agenda.

  • The board unanimously approved a revised self-evaluation instrument for itself.

By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.