Superintendent’s Message: Dr. John A. Kriekard, Scottsdale Unified School District

Dr. John A. Kriekard, Superintendent, Scottsdale Unified School District

To say that the last two months have been “interesting” would be an understatement. Words like “unprecedented,” “unimaginable” and “challenging” barely scratch the surface for what all of us have experienced, in one way or another, since COVID-19 began to affect our nation, our state and, of course, our school district.

From our very first letter to parents in January up through our latest briefing to employees and families, the Scottsdale Unified School District has been working tirelessly to share information and be transparent. We invited television media into the district offices in February to discuss the activation of our Incident Command Team and the District’s emergency response plan. As the situation evolved, public health guidance and the Governor’s Executive Orders meant that our efforts moved from business offices to home offices and from campus classrooms to the kitchen table. While we had to close campuses, we never stopped pursuing our primary mission: to educate.

At a recent “virtual” meeting of the District’s leaders, each leader provided an update on his or her area of responsibility. After each person spoke, my only thought was, “Wow.” The workers of Scottsdale Unified have been doing whatever it takes to get our students technology, meals and support. Within just a very few days, we completely turned the District’s operations for 23,000 students into a virtual operation. I marvel at the “can do” attitude of our entire staff.

We tried and, I feel, we have succeeded, in providing high-quality education and resources for the social, emotional and nutritional needs of all students. Our district was among the first in the Valley to roll out online teaching and learning for students. We were also one of the first school districts in Arizona to make computer devices and internet hotspots available to our families to accommodate this new instructional model. Six weeks later, I can report to you that the District has made the transition from “classroom to cloud” very successfully. To achieve this, it took the collective effort of our entire workforce. From academic coaches and help desk technicians to bus drivers and web site manager, we pulled together, united by a common core purpose — that of ensuring that every student and family we serve has the highest-possible quality educational, emotional and nutritional systems supporting them. Our creative educators took on the task of constructing virtual lessons and did so with gusto. As a result, students have been able to explore their subject matters and continue to learn, using technology. The resilience of our community, our families, our students and our workforce is nothing short of astounding.

In addition to the lessons delivered through technology, Scottsdale Unified Nutrition Services, with support from the Transportation Department, prepared and distributed more than 42,000 meals to local children in just the first four weeks of the school closures. Our very first day saw more than 460 meals distributed. We were astounded when that grew in subsequent days to more than 1,000. We have since transitioned to a weekly meal distribution model in order to further protect families and our employees. On April 15, our first weekly service, we distributed 17,771 breakfasts and lunches for children. We plan for 20,000 in future distributions because we know the need in the community is so great.

Many questions remain about what education and graduation will look like, going forward. We continue to work diligently and thoughtfully on these matters to develop a new framework for delivering education and student support during these unprecedented circumstances.

As we reflect on the impact of this pandemic and national emergency on each of our lives, I hope we continue to be inspired by the amazing stories of selflessness, sacrifice and giving that are all around us. I have been fortunate to witness many of these efforts by our teachers, students and workforce. Our story of resiliency is one of many that I know exist in our hospitals, police and fire stations, local restaurants, post offices, grocery stores and healthcare settings. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for demonstrating the true meaning of community.


To learn more about the Scottsdale Unified School District’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as our meals and eLearning operations, visit www.susd.org/COVID19, www.susd.org/meals and www.susd.org/elearning.

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