Welcome back, Kriekard: Lauded administrator returns to SUSD

Dr. John Kriekard (photo by SUSD)

Acting Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard has only been on the job for a few weeks, but for him, returning to Scottsdale Schools feels like going home.

The interim leader has taken the helm of Scottsdale Unified School District during a time when immediate changes are badly needed, Governing Board President Barbara Perleberg says.

Dr. Kriekard was hired as SUSD’s acting superintendent on May 14. His employment is for 123 days — or through Sept. 13.

He agreed to a contract of $64,000 for the four months, records show, with a prorated annual $3,000 doctoral stipend and eligibility for a 1 percent base salary raise.

The school district is in the midst of an interim superintendent search to carry it through school year 2018-19, with the goal of hiring a permanent superintendent for school year 2019-20.

Dr. Kriekard is no stranger to SUSD.

“This was my home — a place where I grew up, professionally speaking — and there are so many people that are still here from when I left the district to go to Paradise Valley that are friends and acquaintances,” Dr. Kriekard said of rejoining the Scottsdale Schools team.

“It’s great to be home, great to be back, and great to be able to help Scottsdale after some of the past issues. People have been very supportive, and the board has been great to work with. All are very sincere in their desire to improve Scottsdale Schools.”

Ms. Perleberg says the Governing Board has confidence in the retired educator partially because of his former position within the district.

“It was important at this time to have the experience and historical perspective that Dr. Kriekard brings to the position,” Ms. Perleberg said.

“Our district is tackling not only immediate challenges but also various issues that have been growing within for well over a decade. We value Dr. Kriekard’s knowledgeable lens and appreciate the positivity and passion he brings to the vision of a strong, vital SUSD moving forward.”

Dr. Kriekard has 40 years of combined experience as both an educator and administrator, spending more than half of his career — 23 years — serving Scottsdale schools. Most notably, he served as principal in three of the five learning communities.

He went on to lead the Paradise Valley Unified School District as superintendent.

Dr. Kriekard is the recipient of the All Arizona Superintendent of the Year Award, as well as the Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award, the district website states. He earned his doctorate from Arizona State University and his master’s degree from Western Michigan University.

Governing Board President Barbara Perleberg

“Dr. Kriekard and his team are focused this summer on hiring critical administrators in our human resources and finance departments, as well as making sure all our schools have the leadership and staff needed to start the 18/19 school year off strong,” Ms. Perleberg said.

“A thorough review and analysis of our bond expenditures and project status will inform, after the summer break, our district’s discussions determining next steps. Critical work will also resume as staff continues conversations around best employment practices and professional standards.”

Dr. Kriekard is focused on assessing the district and correcting small aspects of day-to-day work.

“I’m looking at a lot of little decisions that can be made to make this ‘more efficient’ but also more responsive to the community and to needs of the kids, that’s important,” he said.

“Right now we’re spending quite a bit of time in just assessment mode.”

Improving practices to be more modern and efficient, enhancing parent communication and hiring staff are all steps undertaken this summer, Dr. Kriekard says.

“You take the roll of the superintendent, which is all encompassing, and break it into a million pieces,” Dr. Kriekard said. “I’m taking it one piece at a time — or probably 50 at a time — to bring them up at least to what I expect.”

Dr. Kriekard has only been on the job for three weeks, but he says it’s been a great experience.

“This is the only job that I would leave retirement for at this point in my life,” he said.

“The reason is because I think my leadership style is what is needed at this time to bring some stability and some calmness, and instill confidence in the district with what we’re doing … and trust that we are as a district, truly focused on the students and their learning environment.”

“My style, I think, is more relationship building,” Dr. Kriekard said of his philosophies.

“It is more of a calmness — not getting too excited one way or the other — and being like a duck: underneath peddling really fast with their feet, but gliding along the surface. Working hard but making it look easy.”

Ms. Perleberg says parents can expect Governing Board discussion on the interim and permanent superintendent in August.

Scottsdale Unified School District is scheduled to return to school on Tuesday, Aug. 7. Dr. Kriekard says seeing children return to their classrooms has always been — and continues to be — his favorite part of education.

“I like to visit schools during school days, see activities, see teachers doing what they do so well and kids learning. That’s exciting, it’s rejuvenating to me after a long hot summer, working through these decisions,” he said.

“When kids come back to school it makes it all real, and something that I actually do look forward to every summer.”

Scottsdale Schools’ administration has been embattled with several public outcries regarding school construction projects, teacher employment agreements, a hired architecture firm, procurement practices, nepotism, conflicts of interest and overall lack of community trust for several months.

SUSD Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell was placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 21 following a public rally prior to a Feb. 13 Governing Board meeting. The board severed all ties with Dr. Birdwell in April.

The Governing Board has had discussions on how, when and where to go about finding the right superintendent. In April a community discussion created a list of various wishes and desires — and one was to not consider the interim superintendent for the permanent superintendent.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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