Accomplishments and challenges, as well as a sense of progression, were central themes to Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard’s informal state-of-the-district remarks.
Dr. Kriekard used his superintendent comments at the Jan. 21 meeting to relay to the public where the district has come from and where it plans to go. He is in the midst of his final stretch of SUSD superintendency as he will retire on June 30.
“Overall, I feel like the district has corrected issues from the Attorney General’s mandates 18 months ago, when I took over, that we’re still working on and other issues while improving the teaching and the learning environment as well as community engagement, as noticed in the Hanover report,” he said.
Dr. Kriekard outlined the maintenance and operations override passage, the Hanover climate study and various grants awarded to schools as his first round of accomplishments. He said he was pleasantly surprised to see the override pass with 62% of the votes.
While the climate study did reveal some areas of concern, Dr. Kriekard said the top recommendation from the study was to maintain the course. He also lauded the rise in approval of the district and its leaders.
As for grants, Dr. Kriekard highlighted three:
• The seven-year GEAR UP grant for $320,000 a year for Coronado High School. This grant helps low-income students to improve better prepare them for college.
• Tonalea Elementary School and Coronado will receive state funding to add a full-time school social worker.
• Additional state funds for the district’s gifted programs.
Enrollment increases to improve decline in populations, 27 of the 29 school having an A or B grade and school rebuilds at Cherokee, Hohokam and Kiva elementary schools were also on the list of accomplishments.
Specifically, Dr. Kriekard pointed to Coronado jumping from a C grade to a B as well as 62% of the district’s schools garnering A grades.
Despite the list of accomplishments, Dr. Kriekard outlined several challenges on the horizon, the main one being the hiring of a new superintendent and chief financial officer and those subsequent transitions.
In AzMerit scores, the district saw improvements in English and language arts from 2015-19 in grades three through nine as well as a bump in math scores during the same stretch in all grades except eighth grade.
“But that’s not enough,” he said. “Those achievements have not been consistent. We need to continue the work that we have begun this year in rigor and instructional practices and instructional leadership. And certainly, we must begin to develop plans to change the direction of what is known as the middle school drop.”
Dr. Kriekard also called for continued improvements on students’ social and emotional wellbeing. He noted the climate study revealed a divide between students and staff on school environments. It also showed some students still experience bullying and other social and emotional challenges still active in schools.
Dr. Kriekard also called for continued efforts to solidfy partnerships, such as Arizona State University and the Scottsdale Charros, and the need for a long range budget plan.
“To me, it means the district is ripe to take significant steps forward both in academics and in social and emotional areas,” he said. “A new superintendent, a new CFO and much of the existing staff that is here can work together to continue what we have begun and really take some significant strides.”