Scottsdale Schools superintendent speaks, listens to Saguaro community

SUSD Superintendent John Kriekard (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Parents and community members in the Saguaro learning community had a chance to voice their concerns and ask questions of Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard as part of his Coffee with Kriekard series.

The conversation centered on many issues and points those in the learning community believed needed to be addressed such as better district communication, promoting the Math and Science Academy and the dual language immersion program.

Dr. Kriekard will visit the district’s other learning communities — a high school and the schools that feed into it — throughout the school year. He’ll be at the Arcadia community on Oct. 23.

Many principals from the learning community and board member Sandy Kravetz, who oversees the Saguaro learning community, were in attendance.

Parents and Saguaro learning community members met with SUSD Superintendent John Kriekard as part of his Coffee with Kriekard series. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Laurie Jackson, a mother who had children attend the Saguaro learning community, said she found the meeting beneficial because she believes it important to talk to school leaders in a more intimate setting.

“Dr. Kriekard’s answers were thoughtful and I think he certainly indicates to me that they are doing their best,” she said. “I come from a point of view that the district is well-intended. Sometimes they just don’t have information to situations that are going on.”

One point of conversation Dr. Kriekard discussed was the district’s upcoming capacity studies. He said SUSD will start in the Saguaro community.

These studies will focus on enrollment capacity, not facilities. Dr. Kriekard said they will go room-by-room and utilize class sizes to better understand the capacity limits.

“The purpose of the study is to know, in this era of open enrollment, what our capacity is and how many kids,” he said. “There have been rumors in the state legislature for schools to give unused space to charter schools and for other purposes and we want to know what our capacity is at each school.”

Dr. Kriekard said the district chose to begin its studies in the Saguaro community because Kiva and Pueblo elementary school are next up as potential bond projects.

Another recurring concern centered on school’s communication with the parents. One specific concern was about how communication seemed confusing and unorganized.

SUSD Superintendent John Kriekard speaks with community members at Saguaro High School. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Dr. Kriekard pointed to high schools using ParentVue and StudentVue to communicate and said some elementary schools will begin implementing that this year. He also said he planned to take those communication concerns to “the appropriate people” as the district tries to address them.

Another communication concern included what one commentator believed was a lack of marketing for the Math and Science Academy.

In response, Dr. Kriekard said he has full confidence in the district’s marketing team, but the challenge is finding ways to reach the students in the shifting media world.

One commentator praised the Saguaro community’s dual-language-immersion program. Dr. Kriekard said there are some plans to grow the program, which runs from Pueblo to Mohave Middle School to Saguaro.

Some potential changes include allowing jumping-on points other than kindergarten or first quarter first grade for this program or adding in a K-8 school in the community.

“What we’ve been trying to do in the last year and few months is look at programs that are solid programs and what can we do to strengthen them,” he said.

“One of the ways of doing that is to look at other programs that are successful like that in other districts or in other places and, frankly, steal their ideas. We want to give the best experience we can to our kids.”

Other topics Dr. Kriekard spoke to included potential updates to textbooks, school security, where the district ranks in regards to teacher pay — he said SUSD’s average teacher salary is higher than the state average — and efforts to find why teachers leave the district.

SUSD Superintendent John Kriekard speaks at a public meeting at Saguaro High School. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Dr. Kriekard wrapped up the meeting speaking about the impending superintendent search as his contract will conclude at the end of the school year.

He reviewed past efforts, which included the Governing Board’s displeasure with the results of the past search and requesting Dr. Kriekard stay for another year.

He said the search firm McPherson and Jacobson, which provided services to the district up to when SUSD decided to offer Dr. Kriekard an extension, indicated if the district would hire it again, the firm would only charge the reminder of the previous contract.

“I’ve also been vocal in my comments to the board individually that I believe we have three members in the current senior leadership. One who has experience as a superintendent and the other two have great potential to be a superintendent because what I believe the district needs is continuity instead of somebody coming in.”

He said the board members individually were open to the idea but wouldn’t commit to a specific idea. Dr. Kriekard said he tries to put those individuals in positions others can see what he sees in them.

“That’s my personal desire,” he said. “What the board decides is, at this time, pretty unpredictable.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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