Superintendent’s Message: Dr. Debbi Burdick , Cave Creek Unified School District

Dr. Debbi Burdick , Superintendent, Cave Creek Unified School District

In these unprecedented and difficult times, here is some good news to celebrate. Please join me in congratulating the Cactus Shadows High School Graduating Class of 2020! Here is our Falcon Class of 2020, By the Numbers:

  • There are 426 grads — 216 females and 210
  • 67 were in our CS eLearning Program and 3 were early graduates.
  • 169 have been with us from kindergarten.
  • Their combined GPA is a 3.33 on a weighted scale and the highest is a 4.875 — Congrats Valedictorian Billy Mullenmeister for your effort and accomplishments! And, congratulations to Salutatorian Elizabet Cave and Colin McConnon, a National Merit Scholar Finalist.
  • 10 seniors had perfect attendance up to Spring Break and the school closure.
  • 33 seniors participated in the Superintendent’s Challenge, accruing 6926 hours of community service in four years. 25 seniors completed the Challenge. Senior Maya Bellowe had the most hours over her four years for a total of 516 hours.
  • 342 grads are going to college and 8 to the military to serve our country. 6 will be attending other types of schools. 1 is moving onto an apprenticeship and 13 onto Career Education. 12 students will move onto the world of work and 8 are taking a gap year.
  • 24 seniors received the CCUSD Seal of Bi-literacy and 39 will receive the State Seal of Bi-literacy.
  • They have been awarded over 11.5 million in scholarships to date.
  • 18 of our senior student athletes have signed letters of intent.
  • And the Class of 2020 is very ready for college, already graduating with college credits:
    • 16 seniors achieved the Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma
    • 13 seniors were in the International Baccalaureate program;
    • 8 seniors were in Paradise Valley Community College’s Early College Program;
    • 4 attended EVIT—the East Valley Institute of Technology;
    • Over 4 years, 767 took Paradise Valley Community College Dual Enrollment courses;
    • They took 1394 Advanced Placement courses in 4 years;
    • And, took 1401 Career and Technical Education courses.

Best of luck and the warmest congratulations, Cactus Shadows Falcons, Class of 2020!

To contact Dr. Burdick, call 480.575.2000. For more information on the Cave Creek Unified School District, visit

Young Artists and Authors Showcase: ‘One World: Out of Many, We Are One’

Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation’s first online exhibition, Youth Artists and Authors Showcase “One World: Out of Many, We Are One” will continue through July 31.

Members of the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association (SSCA) serve as citizen ambassadors, creating networks and partnerships with eight sister cities around the world. Their Young Artists and Authors Showcase encourages Scottsdale teens to express the SSCA mission through original artwork and literature.

This year’s theme is “One World: Out of Many, We Are One,” and the organizers shared this backdrop to the exhibition: “In these times of uncertainty, isolation and disruption, our communities struggle to maintain positive connections and optimism. Our friends and colleagues in sister cities around the world seem further away than ever. More than ever, we see the urgency for our nations to work together in harmony, lifting each other up, encouraging compassion, and defining resiliency.”

This year’s theme, “One World: Out of Many, We Are One,” asks students to “explore creative ways that we create peace through people-to-people interaction. In what ways can different nations come together during a time of physical separation? We turn to our creative youth and their forward-thinking ideals to hopefully bring us closer to a unified world.”

SSCA says that it aims to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.

The exhibition is organized in conjunction with Scottsdale Artists’ School. To view the exhibition, visit and click on the “Exhibition” link.

PVSchools to Host Virtual Job Fair July 9

For the 2020–21 school year, the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVSchools) is looking to hire certified full-time and part-time teaching positions, as well as employee support professional positions, including bus drivers who are paid based on K–12 driving experience.

PVSchools will hold a Virtual Job Fair Thursday, July 9, from 10am to 1pm.
Prior to the job fair, applicants may explore the district’s school sites and departments, view current vacancies, share their employment interests directly with administrators and apply for positions.
During the job fair, applicants may view vacancies, share their information, apply for positions, attend live meeting rooms with administrative teams and may be selected to participate in personal interviews.

To learn more about open positions and available benefits, visit

Nearly 700 Students, 30 Teachers Displaced Due to Metrocenter Mall Closure — Phoenix Conservatory of Music seeking interim and permanent space

Phoenix Conservatory of Music (PCM) announced June 20 that its nearly 700 students and 30 teachers will be displaced due to the permanent closing of Metrocenter Mall on June 30. PCM learned of the closure Friday, June 19. The organization has used the space for its school and music studios since 2011. According to the press release, PCM must vacate the premises by July 15.

Executive director Regina Nixon says that while unexpected, this transition has been something the organization has been expecting given the state of the mall in recent years. At present, PCM is functioning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so operationally it can continue to serve its students.

The school says that it plans to return to normal in-person operations as soon as it is safe to do so, but in the interim, it needs to find a place to store musical instruments and classroom/office equipment; and ultimately, a permanent home for the future.

Its basic and immediate needs include 6–10,000 sq. ft. of space with classroom, performance and office areas, ideally — but not limited to — the City of Phoenix boundaries. PCM is looking for a partner who is willing to donate in-kind facilities to support our nonprofit educational mission. PCM is a 501(c)(3) organization.

In addition, the school will need logistical help to facilitate a move at the end of June.

Base needs include:

  • 4–6 Lesson Rooms (approx. 80–100 sq. ft. each)
  • 4–5 Music Classrooms (approx. 400–600 sq. ft. each)
  • 1 Parents/Student Waiting Area (approx. 2 sq. ft. each)
  • 1 Large Admin Space (or two classroom sizes)
  • 1 Private Office or 1 classroom space dedicated as an office
  • Storage (2 classroom spaces or 500-plus sq. ft)
  • Access to Restrooms
  • Ability to install phones and internet
  • Access to performance space preferred

PCM added, “In addition to this, we are needing to raise monies to help us with this unplanned move. We have a go fund me page set up.”

For additional information about PCM, visit

Imagine Your Story: Maricopa County 2020 Summer Reading Program

Homes across the country transformed into classrooms as students left their schools two months before the traditional summer break this year. Now, as the weather warms and the official academic year has come to an end, many worry the impact of the “Summer Slide” — the learning loss experienced while transitioning between school years — may be steeper than normal.

Maricopa County officials are encouraging residents — especially young readers — to continue their at-home learning and reduce the “Summer Slide” by including the County’s annual summer reading program into their summer plans. The online platform encourages reading all summer long, while earning great prizes and participating in fun challenges all from the comfort of home at (English) or (Spanish).

More than 60 libraries across Maricopa County participate in the summer reading program, in which people can log their reading online, complete challenges, and attend virtual performances to win prizes.

“Our summer reading program is not only fun, but it is also one of the County’s major community literacy efforts,” said Cindy Kolaczynski, Maricopa County Library District director and County librarian. “Summer reading keeps literacy and comprehension skills sharp through challenges and experiences that spark excitement about learning and reading.”

This year’s theme is “Imagine Your Story” and encourages readers of all ages to read 20 minutes a day. Participants earn one point per minute for reading physical or electronic books (including graphic novels) or listening to audiobooks. Additional points are earned for attending virtual programs and completing online challenges.

Prizes include a free personal pizza from Peter Piper Pizza, free lemonade from Raising Cane’s, and an Arizona State Park pass. Grand Prize drawings will also take place at each participating library for the chance to win family passes to Legoland Discovery Center/Sea Life Aquarium. Readers who achieve 1,000 points can choose a free book for their home library or can donate it to a local Head Start classroom. Last year, Head Start classrooms in Maricopa County received more than 1,500 books thanks to the generosity of summer readers.

The program runs through Aug. 1. Participating North Valley libraries include Desert Foothills Library, Phoenix Public Library and Scottsdale Public Library.

Superintendent’s Message: Dr. Jesse Welsh, PVSchools

Dr. Jesse Welsh,
Superintendent, Paradise Valley Unified School District

The COVID-19 pandemic has been shaping the situation across our country in all aspects of life. We are all continuing to adjust to find the right balance of interaction, social distancing and health precautions in our work and personal lives. Those impacts have been felt in our schools also and continue to ripple out as we plan for the upcoming school year. While guiding students on their journey of learning continues to be our goal, our focus for this fall must also be on ensuring the health and safety of our students and staff, to the greatest extent possible. When we open schools in the fall, it will be with additional measures in place; sanitizing of surfaces, increased handwashing and sanitizer stations, health precautions and other safety measures.

While there is hope that the pandemic may subside, there is also uncertainty. Much like the 1918 Flu Pandemic, we cannot be sure if there will be a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases. Nothing like this has occurred within our lifetimes. We continue to plan for multiple scenarios so that we can be ready, whatever the outcome. In addition to a traditional opening, this includes options both for delaying opening or moving to a distance learning model if necessary.

The events of the last several months have weighed heavily on families and our students. We know that, when school resumes, we must address the mental health of our students as well. The uncertainty, disruption, stress and financial strain many have experienced cannot be allowed to impact learning.

Yet, in spite of these challenges, we remain resilient. In March, when our schools closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, teachers pivoted to distance learning within a week. Our students rose to the challenge and, with support from families, continued to learn at home. Whatever challenges we may face this school year, we will be prepared and adapt, maintaining the safety of our students, staff and families.

To contact Dr. Welsh or learn more about the Paradise Valley Unified School District, call 602.449.2000 or visit

This editorial was originally published in the JUNE 2020 issue of CITYSunTimes. Read it here.

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, and

Superintendent’s Message: Dr. Debbi Burdick , Cave Creek Unified School District

Dr. Debbi Burdick , Superintendent, Cave Creek Unified School District

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely reconfigured not only life as we have known it, but also school as we have known it. We know that our families across the nation are adjusting to many situations, including students learning at home whether through virtual school or in some districts, packets of materials dropped off by school buses. For families with younger children, some parents may still be going to work and not able to assist with schoolwork until evenings or weekends; some parents may be working from home and also not able to help with schoolwork until evenings or weekends. Some families are dealing with illness and schoolwork may take a backseat when health is the priority. All families may feel like they are now homeschooling and stress levels for guardians and students alike are high with this new dimension of what school looks like in the 2020 pandemic.

We are also hearing from our educators that they, too, are feeling this stress and anxiety. Many of them have children themselves and are juggling preparing lessons virtually in new formats, connecting with all of their students and then also trying to guide their own children through “school at home” with school days that then seem to never end. In our “new normal,” we all need to take a breath and realize that we are all doing the best we can in this crisis. That may look different for every household depending on their own situations. Things to remember are:

  • Family health is paramount. Keep everyone in your household protected and supported, including yourself. Many have used the analogy of the putting on the oxygen mask on a plane first — then helping others. The same goes here. Keep yourself well and calm as best as you can and then help your children.
  • Pay attention to stress that your child exhibits with school lessons and expectations. When a student hits the frustration point, it is time to take a break. Take a walk with your student, have them eat a snack, do some yoga together — but don’t keep working on lessons when your student becomes stressed and perhaps you do as well. It is okay to take a break. Our teachers are masters at noticing the signs of student frustrations and then switching gears, picking up with what has become frustrating later in the day or the next day.
  • We have heard from families where parents are working out of the home or in the home, that they cannot assist their students during the “school day.” Again, this is where educators understand that parents and guardians need flexibility that fits their own family situation. Let your teachers or principals know if your household needs an alternative scenario and let them know when you can assist with schoolwork. It may be that the weekend is the time that you are able to assist with work assigned during the week.
  • Finally, although I advocate for flexibility as we move forward, I also know that trying to develop some type of a consistent schedule for “school” at home with your learners may help to keep things moving along and less difficult for guardians and students. Find a place in your home for your student that is conducive to “school” with a place to write, good lighting and a comfortable chair. Who knows, you may get the teaching bug and re-career!

To contact Dr. Burdick, call 480.575.2000. For more information on the Cave Creek Unified School District, visit

Scottsdale Names Student Art Contest Winners to Celebrate Earth Day 2020

When the City of Scottsdale announced a youth art contest to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, more than 100 students responded with submissions to celebrate the April 22 global event.

The contest’s theme — “The Art of the Tree” — coincides with Scottsdale’s 38th consecutive year as a “Tree City USA” and other virtual tree-related activities, social posts and videos hosted by the city to recognize Earth Day 2020.

Students could submit art in any medium. The winning artwork was selected by the Environmental Advisory Commission based upon creativity, use of the theme and originality. One grand prize winner each from elementary, middle and high school was selected.

Artwork: Nina Prairie Schwimmer

Elementary School Category
Grand prize winner: Nina Prairie Schwimmer, Redfield Elementary

  • Richelle Natchatra Daniel, Basis Scottsdale Primary East
  • Aditi Dillibabu, Basis Scottsdale Primary East
  • Girl Scout Troop 4317
  • Aydin Chellam Daniel, Basis Scottsdale
  • Allie Klimes, Our Lady of Perpetual Help
  • Joy Denne, Scottsdale Country Day School

Artwork: Cadence Figura

Middle School Category
Grand prize winner: Cadence Figura, Mountainside Middle School

  • Norah Schwimmer, Desert Canyon Middle School
  • Selena Cardenas, Ingleside Middle School
  • Shreyaan Nath, Basis Scottsdale

Artwork: Sarah “Nikki” Wolin

High School Category
Grand prize winner: Sarah “Nikki” Wolin, Chaparral High School

  • Mo Lalumendre, Chaparral High School
  • Kristine Rahden, Chaparral High School

Winners were recognized Monday, April 20, in a video conference with Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane.

“More than 100 talented students from schools throughout Scottsdale responded to our tree-themed Earth Day art contest, which made choosing our grand-prize winners and finalists especially challenging,” Mayor Lane said.  “I hope the efforts our student participants — the future of our city — will inspire others to be environmentally conscious, appreciate the beauty of Scottsdale and join us in our efforts to protect valuable resources for generations to come.”

Residents can view grand prize and finalist submissions on the City of Scottsdale website.

PVSchools Will Change Meal Distribution Hours Beginning April 13

Beginning Monday, April 13, hours for PVSchools’ meal distribution sites will change to 8am–10am in order to help families balance distance learning schedules. (See graphic below or download the PDF.)

PVSchools Nutrition & Wellness Department will provide free meals to any child 18 or younger, regardless of application status or school enrollment.

For additional information, visit



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