The Arizona School Administrators (ASA) has selected Wickenburg Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Howard Carlson has been named 2018-19 Arizona Superintendent of the Year by the Arizona School Administrators.District, as the 2018 American Association of School Administrators National Superintendent of the Year® for Arizona.
In addition, Queen Creek Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Perry Berry has been selected as All-Arizona Superintendent of the Year for Large Districts for 2018-19, Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35 Superintendent David Verdugo has been selected as All-Arizona Superintendent of the Year for Medium Districts for 2018-19 by Arizona School Administrators and Hayden-Winkleman Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Gregorich was named the All-Arizona Superintendent of the Year for Small Districts for 2018-19.
The AASA National Superintendent of the Year® Program pays tribute to the talent and vision of the men and women who lead our nation’s public schools. The program is designed to recognize the outstanding leadership of active, front-line superintendents. This program is sponsored by First Student, VALIC and AASA.
All four men will be recognized at the Arizona School Board Association/Arizona School Administrators Annual Superintendents Conference during the luncheon on Thursday, December 13, 2017 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, and at the February 2018 AASA National Conference on Education in Nashville, Tennessee.
ASA Executive Director Mark Joraanstad said Carlson is recognized as an innovator in the use of technology to enhance the learning experience of students and the effectiveness of teachers. Under his leadership, the district has received national recognition for its technologically advanced educational practices.
Carlson has been superintendent at WUSD #9 for just over 10 years. Prior to coming to Wickenburg he was in the Sunnyside Unified School District (Tucson) and before that was a superintendent and assistant superintendent in the state of Minnesota. He began his career in the state of Washington where worked from a teacher to superintendent in one district.
The author of So Now You’re the Superintendent, a book widely used in training programs throughout the country, Carlson has influenced many aspiring leaders. Deeply involved in the Wickenburg community and various local organizations, he also advocates for public education with the state legislature and is now seeing his second book through the final stages of publication, Joraanstad said.
“(This award is) not about me but about all the work that everybody does… It’s an honor for our town. It’s not a ‘me’ award, it’s a ‘we’ award – our board, our staff, our community. You don’t have these things happen without a team,” Carlson said.
“I believe we are seen at the state level as a leader in innovation. Our piloting of adaptive learning technologies led the nation and landed us in Time Magazine. Our use of Open Education Resources (OER) was also pioneering in Arizona and now many districts in the state are using OER such as Engage NY for ELA and Eureka for math,” Carlson said.
The District was also recently selected by Gov. Doug Ducey’s office as one of two districts in the state to implement a teacher collaboration program which will potentially become a model for other Arizona school districts statewide. “So, I would say although we have been blessed to accomplish much as a team, we are most widely recognized for our innovative practices,” Carlson said.
He also credited the entire team for working to address many of the District’s most expensive capital needs for the next 15 years through the 2016 passage of the bond. Most of the District’s HVAC units have been replaced, along with the school roofs. The money also purchased a new bus fleet and was used to leverage an additional $2+ million in funding through the School Facilities Board (SFB) to expand the project beyond what was conceived when voters passed the initiative, Carlson said.
“The additional SFB funding enabled us to upgrade HVAC and roofing systems, increasing their lifespan and increasing efficiency, it converted the high school wetlands system to a town sewer connection, and pending in the next few months will be the external weatherization of all high school buildings.”
“We have also partnered with the Wellik Foundation to provide a college reimbursement program for students, offer the Grand Canyon Diploma option for students who qualify, and expand our use of technology and Open Educational Resources (OER) in classrooms. A few years back a video was made by former Arizona Senate Education Committee Chairman Richard Crandall regarding how Wickenburg had become a state leader in innovation and most of these programs were made possible through a partnership with the Wellik Foundation,” Carlson said.
Dr. Perry Berry was cited by the committee for building a vast network of business and community leaders will to support the district, establishing a Foundation for student scholarships and teacher grants. He has led the passage of Bond and Override election and a second high school will be built. One staff member called Dr. Berry a “visionary, driven, relentless, with high expectations . . . an exemplary leader dedicated to student success.” Evidently the Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce agreed, naming him the 2018 Community Star.
Mr. Verdugo received the award for “working to create a strong positive culture that has unified the schools” at SCVUSD35, said ASA Executive Director, Mark Joraanstad.
Specifically, Joraanstad credited Verdugo’s major administrative accomplishments during his 4 years as SCVUSD35 superintendent that have led to the district’s strong culture:
• combining two schools [Peña Blanca Elementary and Calabasas Middle] into one K-8,
• expanding [the district’s] Welcome Center,
• centralizing two preschools [San Cayetano and Calabasas], and
• partnering with the Rio Rico Family Resource Center.
ASA acknowledged 2018 as a prolific year at SCVUSD35, recognizing the district’s accomplishments under Verdugo’s leadership:
• The district received two national awards, AP Small District of the Year and Cambridge Small District of the Year.
• The district’s preschool program was awarded the highest possible quality rating for its preschool program, five stars, making it the only preschool program in Santa Cruz County to receive this rating.
• The district’s exemplary growth rate was cited in a national study conducted by Stanford — students’ test scores improved dramatically more, on average, between third and eighth grade than those of the average student in the U.S., placing SCVUSD35 in the top 99th percentile in growth rates among U.S. school districts.
In 2017, the high school was designated an A+ School of Excellence™ by the Arizona Educational Foundation, bringing the total number of SCVUSD35 A+ Schools of Excellence™ to four.
“The results are evident from a 5-Star preschool program to a nationally recognized high school with multiple A+ Schools in between,” said Joraanstad.
“David came into the position with a brave and bold goal for our District to simply be the best. A lofty goal and not an easy one to reach,” said SCVUSD35 Governing Board President John Hays. “David’s work on behalf of the District, our students, and our community is inspiring those working with him to give everything they can to work towards that goal.”
Mr. Gregorich was cited by the committee for leading a district to be the hub of the community by building close relationships with town councils, local police and fire and other community organizations.
He has led development of a three-year strategic plan and implemented technology into the elementary schools, all while dealing the financial crises of the last several years.
A leader among the Gila County Superintendents, he organizes and facilitates their monthly meetings.
To quote one community member, “He grows good ideas to great success.”