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

Superintendent’s Message: Scottsdale Unified School District

By Dr. David Peterson, Interim Superintendent, Scottsdale Unified School District

SUSD accomplished many things in 2011: Pima Elementary became a National Blue Ribbon School; Arcadia High School won the University of Arizona University Cup; 80 percent of our schools received state labels of A’s and B’s; our middle school construction projects remained ahead of schedule and under budget; and Chaparral and Saguaro High Schools won their division football championships

The National Center for Educational Achievement (NCEA) placed nine SUSD schools on its 2011 Higher Performing (HP) Schools List: Chaparral, Cherokee, Cochise, Hopi, Laguna, Pima, Sequoya, Tonalea and Yavapai. HP schools have consistent improvement in student growth and/or achievement.

Open Enrollment is currently underway. Open enroll your child at one of our 31 schools, and give your child the gift of an extraordinary education. Please visit our website,

During the past month, I had the privilege of attending several school events, including Ground Breaking Ceremonies at Cocopah, Ingleside and Mohave. I truly enjoy meeting parents, staff and community members during my office hours at the schools. For a complete schedule, please visit our website.

Our Middle School Task Force is developing an action plan for successful understanding and implementation of our ideal Middle School structure. For more information, please visit the Middle School Task Force webpage.

Dr. David PetersonSincere thanks to all who gave Tax Credit donations to an SUSD school in 2011. Your contributions will significantly expand educational opportunities for our students. To find out how to donate for 2012, visit our website.

The Governing Board members and I look forward to 2012 and all it holds.

To contact Dr. Peterson, call 480.484.6100. For more information on the Scottsdale Unified School District, visit

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