North Valley Schools Prepared for a Return to Learning

Back-to-school season is frequently a time of anxiety for students and parents alike, and that has never been truer than in 2020. While families are weighing their options for the upcoming school year, school administrators and staff have been working diligently behind the scenes to adjust to an ever-changing landscape. But the bottom line for all parties? Creating a safe environment in which the Valley’s young learners can thrive this school year.

A safe learning environment is something that Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman homed in on in a statement in late July.

“Like all educators, I want students back in our classrooms because that’s the best place for learning and growing. However, we cannot ask schools to make decisions that will impact their teachers’ and students’ health and safety without first providing them with the necessary public health data and funding to make safe decisions.”

At a local level, superintendents at both Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVSchools) and Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) are focused on safety, and flexibility.

SUSD students will return to learning virtually Aug.10. The earliest SUSD campuses will open for full time on-campus learning is currently Sept. 8, but the school district reiterates that the date may change due to evolving health conditions, public health guidance and potential executive orders from the State of Arizona ( [Learn more from SUSD superintendent Dr. Scott A. Menzel in his August CST column on page 6.]

PVSchools will kick off the school year Aug. 5 and will conduct classes in an online learning environment through Labor Day (

“In our heart, we all wanted to start the year on-time and in-person,” says Dr. Jesse Welsh, superintendent of PVSchools. “Unfortunately, for the safety of students, families, and staff, that is not possible. As we prepare to open online in PVSchools, students should know that their teachers all miss being able to see them in-person and are looking forward to getting to start learning with them this August.”

To help students and their families make the 2020–21 school year a success — whether learning takes place in-person or online — Dr. Welsh shared these three tips:

  1. Now is a good time to start getting students into a routine to prepare them for the start of school. With many districts beginning the school year online, it will be even more challenging to get back into those daily routines. Start on a regular schedule of what time to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning. Encourage students to start their daily morning routine with some time on learning activities you can do right now, such as reading a book, or online math practice.
  2. Before in-person classes resume, parents should practice with students on how to properly wear cloth masks. Even if just for short periods of time around the home or on trips to the grocery store, it will help prepare students for wearing masks at school.
  3. While many children may be excited to get to see their classmates again when in-person classes resume, some may have anxiety about being around others, particularly if they have been isolated since March. Parents should talk with their children about how they feel about returning to school and help them understand all of the safety measures that will be in place to ensure a safe environment for them.

Dr. Welsh concluded by saying, “While things are going to look different at schools this fall once in-person instruction can begin, we have been working hard throughout this summer to be prepared and we are excited for the new school year.” |CST

SUSD Governing Board Delays Campus Returns Until September — Offers Two Back-to-School Options for Families

The Governing Board of the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) voted to provide families with two instructional choices for student learning when its 28 schools reopen.

According to a July 9 press release, at the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Scott Menzel, the Board decided to delay the return of students to SUSD school campuses until at least Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, if permitted to return in person at that time.

The District said that as a result of feedback since the Board’s July 7 meeting, leaders recommended eliminating from consideration a hybrid model of learning that would have combined on-campus instruction with distance learning. Menzel reported widespread concern among parents, teachers, counselors and principals with the complexities involved in making that proposal workable for families and staff.

Next week, SUSD families will receive additional information about the two instructional choices the District will offer:

  • Full-Time, On Campus: On a Scottsdale Unified campus five days a week, with enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols. In accordance with the June 19 Maricopa County regulation, face masks will be required of all students and staff while on campus. Face masks will also be required on all SUSD school buses.
  • Full-Time Online: Online five days a week through Scottsdale Unified’s fully accredited, age-appropriate, distance-learning program, Scottsdale Online (SOL). Classes will be led by SUSD’s state-certified teachers.

SUSD’s 2020–21 school year will begin on time, Aug. 10, with all students taking part in a virtual, enhanced distance-learning program also directed by District teachers, who will instruct, supervise and assess student learning until public health conditions permit students who chose on-campus learning to return to campus, currently planned for Sept. 8.

SUSD launched a new “Let’s Talk” online comment-collection system for members of the public, students, parents and staff to provide input on the plan. For additional information, visit

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

Dr. Scott Menzel Selected as Scottsdale Superintendent

The Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Governing Board voted unanimously Feb. 22 to select Dr. Scott Menzel as the District’s next leader. Menzel comes from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he currently serves as superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

Last month, the Board narrowed a list of 29 applications down to three: Dr. Kimberly Guerin, Dr. Shelley Redinger and Dr. Menzel. On the 21st, the Board and five advisory committees interviewed the three finalists. Each committee then provided the Board with its impressions of the candidates.

“In our search for a new superintendent — one who will continue to move the district forward and prepare our students for success in the 21st century — we strived to create an inclusive process. We convened five committees with community members, students, educators, administrators and District staff to ensure their voices were heard,” said SUSD Governing Board president Allyson Beckham.

“After considering a competitive field of candidates, we found our district’s next leader. On behalf of the Governing Board, I am excited to extend a warm welcome to Dr. Menzel. We look forward to welcoming him to our team and introducing him to the SUSD community.”

Beckham also thanked Dr. John Kriekard for his service to SUSD. “We’re grateful to Dr. Kriekard for leading our district through a turbulent time and supporting an inclusive search process for his successor.”

Menzel will take over from Kriekard, who has served as superintendent since May 2018. His contract with the District expires June 30.

“I want to congratulate Dr. Menzel on his new post. I will do everything in my power to make the coming transition a smooth one. I look forward to seeing SUSD’s ongoing success under his leadership,” said Kriekard.

For more information, visit

From First Round Loss to First Place Win — Copper Ridge Seventh-Grader Takes Scottsdale Schools’ Spelling Crown

Emma McGreevy

Emma McGreevy was not expecting much when she walked into the Saguaro High School auditorium the morning of Jan. 24. Two hours later, the Copper Ridge School seventh-grade student was surprised to walk out with the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) 2020 Spelling Bee trophy.

Emma attributes her spelling ‘powers’ to being an avid reader, “I read. A lot.”

Emma says J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is probably her favorite book series. She says an online test identified her as best fitting into the fictional Hogwarts School’s Gryffindor House, the same as the series’ hero.

“That’s okay with me,” she said.

In 2019, Emma did not make it out of the competition’s first round. Did that early defeat change her preparation for this year?

“Not really. I didn’t start studying until this week. I think it was Tuesday. I didn’t even get through the whole list.” Her winning word was ‘truncate.’

Pictured: SUSD 2020 Spelling Bee winner and runners-up.

Emma will be joined at the Feb. 24 Region 2 Spelling Bee by the five runners-up in today’s SUSD Bee: Redfield Elementary School fifth-grader Braden Van Horne; Cocopah Middle School sixth-grader Lianna Nguyen; Mountainside Middle School eighth-grader Victoria Leung; Kiva Elementary School fifth-grader Gigi Root; and Cheyenne Traditional School seventh-grader Makenna Shenberger.

The winners of the six Maricopa County Region Bees and 14 Arizona county Bees will take part in the March 21 Arizona Spelling Bee, which can be seen on Arizona PBS Channel 8.

The Arizona Spelling Bee is a program of the Arizona Educational Foundation™.

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

Dr. John A. Kriekard, Scottsdale Unified School District

The 2019–20 school year is off and running, and our nearly 23,000 students continue to show us every day their curiosity and thirst for learning. Whether they are building a robot, their mathematics fluency or a theatrical set, Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) provides myriad opportunities that combine to prepare our learners for their future.

So, too, is the District looking ahead, with the Governing Board’s recent decision to rebuild Kiva and Hohokam Elementary schools with 2016 voter-approved bonds. To date, those bonds have rebuilt two elementary schools (Hopi and Pima), added a science lab and gymnasium to a K–8 school (Cheyenne Traditional), and replaced tracks and football fields at four high schools (Arcadia, Chaparral, Coronado, Saguaro). Bond proceeds are helping restore Navajo Elementary School from a devastating August 2018 fire and they will build the new Cherokee Elementary School, starting this winter.

SUSD’s 19 kindergarten programs will be on display the week of Nov. 11–15, when “open house” tours and events take place on each elementary grade campus. If you will be enrolling a kindergartner with us next school year, this is your opportunity to visit our outstanding early education programs to find the right school for your littlest learner. Please check for the schedule.

Every year, SUSD also welcomes students from outside our boundaries through the open enrollment process, which, for the 2020–21 school year, began on Nov. 1. Open enrollment is an option, as well, for our in-district families wishing to change their student’s school of attendance.

Regardless of residence, open enrollment is the only way to enroll students in one of our three “schools of choice,” Cheyenne Traditional School (K–8), Echo Canyon School (K-8) and Pueblo Elementary School (K–5), home of the District’s Spanish dual language immersion program.

To find out more about becoming part of SUSD through open enrollment, please visit Regular enrollment ( for the 2020–21 school year for resident families begins Dec. 1.

Read more about the good things happening in SUSD in the Fall/Winter edition of Showcase magazine, online at The magazine features the District’s Annual Report, provides an update on all of our current bond projects and includes articles on our unique, two-tier, middle school sports program, the role of high school clubs in student engagement and achievement and our new Challenge Coin program. There’s a handy directory of all SUSD schools, as well, and a current school year calendar. We hope you find it an informative and enjoyable read!

To reach Dr. Kriekard, call 480.484.6120. To learn more about the Scottsdale Unified School District, visit  

Scottsdale Unified School District Launches Vaping Awareness Campaign

The Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) has taken to its social media channels to share information with parents and students about the health dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes to young people’s brains and bodies.

“Vaping is becoming a national epidemic, and we know that many teenagers, and perhaps even parents, do not fully understand the many health risks of using vaping devices,” says Dr. Steven Chestnut, SUSD executive director of Support Services. “Student safety is always our top priority, so it is incumbent upon us to share this still-developing, yet already alarming, information with parents, so they can begin important conversations with their children about our expectation that students be tobacco-free.”

Through its social media channels — Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor and the District’s website — SUSD kicked off a 60-day public information campaign in October. The messaging contains links to Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources.

“There are severe consequences for SUSD students who are caught vaping or using e-cigarettes on campus,” says Chestnut, “including required participation in a diversion program, suspension and even expulsion. We also cooperate fully with our local law enforcement partners, adding another level to the consequences.”

Medical research has found that the human brain keeps developing until around the age of 25 and that using nicotine products under that age can harm the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, attention and learning. Despite that, the ADHS reports:

  • Fifty-one percent of Arizona high school students have tried a vaping device.
  • Teens who vape are nearly four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes.
  • More than two times as many Arizona youth vape than smoke cigarettes.

To view the messaging being shared through school and District social media accounts, visit For more information, visit, or contact Student Services office at 480.484.6113, or your child’s school nurse.



Anasazi Named International Baccalaureate Program Candidate School

Anasazi Elementary School, part of the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD), has been named as a Candidate School for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP). The IB aims to create global student citizens who learn to think critically and creatively about the world and its issues, and how they relate to them.

In adopting IB’s rigorous, interdisciplinary framework of study, Anasazi, located at 12121 North 124th Street, Scottsdale, joins nearby Mountainside Middle School, a Candidate School for the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) and neighboring Desert Mountain High School, which has been offering the IB Diploma Programme of study since 1999.

Anasazi principal Jennifer Waldron says she is looking forward to the journey of becoming an IB World School.

“We are on a mission to provide our students with a world-class education with the same elite curriculum you would find at a private school, but in a public education setting that is accessible to all. We embrace the role Anasazi will play in completing SUSD’s goal of offering a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade IB track of study, empowering students to meet the demands of the future that awaits them.”

In becoming an IB school, Anasazi teachers will become students themselves, and receive the intense, collaborative, professional development necessary to deliver the PYP’s inquiry-led, project-based instruction. The training gets underway later this month when IB PYP coordinators from other states fly in to work with Anasazi staff for three days. Waldron says the training is ongoing and will continue throughout the school year on early release days and in staff meetings.

One of the immediate changes ahead for Anasazi students is that they will start learning Spanish. Studying a foreign language is an IB requirement at all grade levels.

The IB certification process can take up to four years, but Waldron hopes to accomplish it in three. If successful, Anasazi would become Arizona’s sixth IB PYP school.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Principal Waldron is pursuing the IB’s rigorous requirements with determination,” says SUSD superintendent Dr. John Kriekard. “She is totally committed to raising the bar for our students, and we are excited about what this opportunity offers Anasazi. These young leaders will have a clear path in front of them, from pre-kindergarten through high school, to pursue a global education, right here in Scottsdale, Arizona.”

While Anasazi, Mountainside and Desert Mountain are part of SUSD’s Desert Mountain Learning Community in Northeast Scottsdale, under Arizona’s open enrollment education options, any parent from within and outside SUSD can enroll their child to access this unique learning track.

To learn more about Anasazi Elementary school, visit and to enroll, visit

Tavan, Mountainside Principals Named for 2019–20 School Year

New principals have been appointed to lead Tavan Elementary School in Phoenix and Mountainside Middle School in Scottsdale.

Tavan assistant principal Julie Ballard will take over from longtime principal Margaret Serna, who moves to the administration side of the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) as executive director of Title 1 Schools. Ballard has served as Tavan’s assistant principal for the past five years and has been a member of the Tavan community since 2001, starting as a special education teacher. She co-chairs Tavan’s Intervention Planning Team, serves as Leader of the Multi-Disciplinary Team and is a member of the school’s Literacy Team and Teaching and Learning/Leadership Committee.

Ballard calls the opportunity to lead Tavan an honor. “If we work to ‘do whatever it takes’ to develop kind, self-confident and growth-minded scholars who are able to see greatness in others and themselves, we have not only done our job, but also made the world an even greater place.”

The new principal says her predecessor, Serna, has been a great mentor, preparing her well for her new post. “Margaret has shown me that great school leadership requires the ability to build respectful relationships by listening, understanding and acknowledging others’ input.”

Tavan, part of the Arcadia Learning Community and located at 4610 East Osborn Road, Phoenix, is a Pre-K – 5th grade, Title 1 school with approximately 660 students.

Adam Kohnen will be the new principal of Mountainside Middle School, located at 11256 North 128th Street, Scottsdale. He takes over from retiring principal Terri Kellen, who has led the 575-student institution for the past seven years.

Kohnen comes most recently from an assistant principal’s post at SUSD’s Chaparral High School, which he has held for the past two school years. Previously, he taught history at Desert Mountain High School and was part of the school’s Pre-Diploma International Baccalaureate (IB) Program teaching staff. Mountainside is currently an IB Middle Years Programme Candidate School. Kohnen holds a B. A. in Fine Arts and M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Arizona State University.

“Professionally, I was born and raised with Scottsdale Unified School District, and I am thrilled to now be a part of the Cougar Nation in the Desert Mountain Learning Community,” says Kohnen. Although he has enjoyed his time at Chaparral, Kohnen shares that he is eager to serve SUSD in a new capacity. “I am excited to connect again with the community where my career began.”

“Parents, the community and staff at both Mountainside and Tavan provided input into their respective new principal’s selection,” says SUSD superintendent Dr. John Kriekard, and they were selected from a pool of high-quality candidates.

Superintendent Kriekard says he could not be more pleased with the Ballard and Kohnen appointments.

“It is especially gratifying when we have quality candidates from within our own District who have grown in their previous posts to become our next leaders.”

Ballard and Kohnen join Amy Palatucci and Todd Dreifort, who were both recently affirmed as the principals at Coronado High School and Chaparral High School, respectively, with the same community-driven process. Both served their schools as interim principals during the 2018–19 school year. All four principals officially start their new SUSD roles July 1.

For additional information, visit


Scottsdale Schools Board Hires Dr. John Kriekard as Superintendent

Dr. John Kriekard

Last week, the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Governing Board approved a contract naming longtime Valley educator Dr. John Kriekard as SUSD’s Superintendent through June 30, 2020. Kriekard has been serving as the district’s Acting Superintendent since May 2018.

“I am pleased the Governing Board unanimously voted to hire Dr. Kriekard as Superintendent for the 2019–20 school year,” said Governing Board president Patty Beckman. “Dr. Kriekard’s experience and considerable esteem for SUSD students and community make him the ideal candidate for this role. I believe in his leadership and look forward to our continued relationship.”

Since taking the SUSD helm last spring, Kriekard has overseen thorough reviews of the district’s hiring and procurement practices, initiating changes to strengthen those operations and address public concerns about them. Collaborative efforts by the district’s Human Resources department with certified and classified staff have resulted in updates to employee handbooks that clearly re-establish the district’s commitment to professionalism in the classroom and in the workplace. Kriekard has also been working diligently to re-open lines of communication between the district and SUSD parents, community and staff, and involve them in district initiatives.

Kriekard is a past SUSD principal, assistant principal and assistant superintendent, and most recently served as superintendent of Paradise Valley Unified School District. He came out of retirement last spring to return to SUSD.

“SUSD is my home,” said Kriekard. “It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to continue implementing significant initiatives we have undertaken these past nine months with the Math and Science Academy at Saguaro High School and the Success Initiative in the Coronado Learning Community. I also look forward to overseeing the continued expansion of the district’s International Baccalaureate, Gifted and STEM programs, working with the revitalized Scottsdale Parent Council and helping restore SUSD’s good name. This community deserves the best.”

For more information, visit

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