Laura Toenjes named Kyrene superintendent The Chandler Arizonan

Laura Toenjes named Kyrene superintendent

December 1st, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Laura Toenjes named Kyrene superintendent
City News
33

By PAUL MARYNIAK
Arizonan Executive Editor

To no one’s surprise, Kyrene School District Governing Board last week unanimously approved Laura Toenjes as its next superintendent, effective Jan. 1.

The vote came after the board fast-tracked the process for replacing retiring Dr. Jan Veseley by the end of the year after she surprised members with her retirement notice in October.

Board members again alluded to the need for looking first internally for a replacement and the fact that Toenjes, a Chandler resident who has been Kyrene’s assistant superintendent, was the only candidate to submit a resume for their consideration.

But they also stressed that they had given more scrutiny to Toenjes’ qualifications than they probably would have given an external candidate and reiterated the need to replace Vesely with a qualified candidate who knew the district at a time when COVID-19 has presented myriad challenges.

“We probably put you through a harder process than an outside candidate because you were an inside job candidate,” board President Michael Myrick told Toenjes.

Toenjes in a brief thank you told the board, “2020 has been an unprecedented year in so many ways and I really am looking forward to being a partner with all of you – the board, the community, our staff – in this journey as we move forward with during these unpredictable times.

“I just want you all to know from the bottom of my heart that I really am committed to bringing the continuity that you seek and compassion that is consistent with the tradition of excellence in Kyrene. Now, the work begins,” she continued.

The contract carries a base pay of $145,000 annually and lasts 30 months, a district spokeswoman said, adding it will be signed this week.

Toenjes began her 26 years in education as a teacher, first in Gilbert from 1994-2000 and then in the Stanfield School District. From there, she held positions with the Maricopa County Superintendent’s Office for six months, then an elementary principal for a year in Union Elementary School District in Tolleson.

She also worked two separate stints in the state Department of Education – including deputy associate superintendent for school improvement from 2011-15 – before she landed a job as director of school improvement in Sunnyside Unified School District, the same Tucson district where Vesely had been assistant superintendent.

Before Vesely hired her shortly after becoming superintendent in Kyrene, Tjoenes commuted 100 miles a day between Chandler and Tucson.

In an interview with shortly after her hiring, the Gilbert native said she worked closely with Vesely when she was in the state Education Department, stating, “I was very impressed with her leadership.”

Together at Sunnyside, Vesely and Toenjes helped four district schools improve test scores and strengthen teacher’s support systems through the University of Virginia’s School Turnaround Program.

In her resume, Toenjes describes herself as a “student-centered and purpose-driven leader with diverse experience in all levels of the public education system providing strategic leadership and day to day operational and fiscal oversight through the lens of access, equity and excellence.”

She also says she is “well-positioned to further establish the organizational goals of the district, not only because of diverse background and strong knowledge of supporting organizational systems with continuous improvement, but more importantly because of a keen ability to effectively blend the big-picture with strategic actions to inspire, build trust and achieve growth.”

When she takes over the district’s reigns, Toenjes will be working with a newly constituted board that includes two new members – Wanda Kolomyjec of Ahwatukee and Margaret Wright of Chandler.

The new board will include two Chandler residents, including Kevin Walsh, two Ahwatukee residents, including Margaret Pratt, and Tempe resident Michelle Fahy, who appears likely to become the next board president because she has the longest tenure on the board after winning reelection to a second four-year term.

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