Hopi Elementary School leader named Maricopa County Exemplary Principal

Pictured from left to right: SUSD Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Dr. Ibi Haghighat, Hopi Assistant Principal Amanda Reed, Pima Traditional School Principal Alexis Cruz-Freeman, Desert Canyon Elementary School Principal Kim Mills, Navajo Elementary School Principal Matt Patzlaff, Hopi Principal Tamara Jagodzinski, Redfield Elementary Principal Christine Bonow, Anasazi Elementary School Principal Jennifer Waldron and Cochise Elementary School Principal Sheila Miller. (Submitted photo)

While in a recent meeting, Hopi Elementary School principal Tamara Jagodzinski received a call via a two-way radio.

“Mrs. J, we need some backup in the gym,” the radio blared.

That call on Wednesday, May 8 prompted Ms. Jagodzinski to excuse herself from the meeting and head to the school’s gymnasium.

When she got there, rather than finding a situation that needed handling, she discovered Hopi’s entire student body and staff, her family, fellow Scottsdale Unified School District principals, community members and Maricopa County School Superintendent Steve Watson there.

The group was waiting to celebrate her selection as one of the county’s 2019 Exemplary Principals, according to a press release.

Greeted with deafening applause, a stunned Ms. Jagodzinski was escorted to the front of the gym, mouthing the word, “Wow” when she turned to face the crowd, a group of 800 that had just pulled off a surprise assembly.

Mr. Watson’s office annually recognizes leaders from among Maricopa County’s 1,100 principals. This year, the potential candidates were whittled to 50, based on high student achievement, student growth and teacher retention data.

Thirty one principals were then invited to apply for the recognition program, kicking off a review process that included a teacher survey, evaluating evidence of a school and community culture focused on teaching and learning, video interviews with the principals and school visits.

From the 31 invitees, 11 educators have been named exemplary principals this year, a release states.

At the May 8 event, Mr. Watson called Ms. Jagodzinski an exceptional instructional leader.

“In searching for great principals across Maricopa County, Tamara stood out as a positive force in education and has created a strong school culture that has students and teachers excited to come to school every day,” he said.

In particular, he noted Ms. Jagodzinski’s collaboration with teachers and the Hopi community results in great educational experiences for Hopi’s more than 700 students.

Other speakers at the surprise gathering told of the handwritten birthday cards for students, teachers and staff that their principal hand-delivers each day.

Ms. Jagodzinski — affectionately referred to as “Mrs. J” by students, teachers and parents alike — says she is humbled by the recognition.

“There are so many principals in both Scottsdale and Maricopa County who are deserving of this recognition,” she said in a prepared statement. “This award is truly an acknowledgement of the hard work of both the teachers and students at Hopi.”

SUSD’s Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education, Dr. Ibi Haghighat, says the Hopi principal is too modest.

“Mrs. Jagodzinski is not the sort of person to take credit for anything, but I assure you, the good things happening at Hopi are tied directly to her tremendous leadership,” she said in a prepared statement.

The Scottsdale Independent publishes a free daily newsletter. A print edition is mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses each month. If you value our journalistic mission, please consider showing us your support.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment