Vesely to retire as Kyrene schools superintendent The Chandler Arizonan

Vesely to retire as Kyrene schools superintendent

October 6th, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Vesely to retire as Kyrene schools superintendent
City News

Arizonan Executive Editor

Kyrene School District Superintendent Jan Vesely is retiring at the end of the school year.

In making her surprise announcement last Friday, Vesely noted that with a new Governing Board coming into office in January, this was a good time to begin a new chapter in her life.

“After 43 wonderful years in public education, I have made the difficult decision to retire at the end of the 2020 calendar year,” she said in her statement.

“With new members joining the Kyrene Governing Board in January, it would be appropriate for a new superintendent to begin this important journey alongside the newly configured board. The board is engaged in the planning stages of a search for Kyrene’s next superintendent, and I have no doubt this board will select someone exceptional for the role.”

Vesely took over Kyrene’s top administrative job in July 2016 after spending a little more than four years as deputy superintendent of the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson.

She also had been assistant superintendent at Sunnyside from 2006-09 but left for four years to work as senior vice president for an educational services company.

She also worked for another education services company before that and also was a principal and a teacher at various points in her career.

As Kyrene superintendent, Vesely led the district through a number of changes that included the introduction of an International Baccalaureate program at Kyrene Middle School, the introduction of a broad equity program to address disparities in achievement and discipline among children of color, the introduction of a Mandarin language program, among many others.

She also actively pursued the development and leadership of a number of stakeholder groups that involved businesses, parents and even one with student representatives from all 25 of the district’s campuses.

She also provided guidance for the district’s successful budget override campaign in 2017.

Under Vesely’s leadership, Kyrene’s $705 per-pupil cost of administration was lower than the state average and the $887 spent by districts of comparable size and it consistently devoted more money to the classroom than the statewide average for all school systems in Arizona.

And under Vesely’s leadership, the district’s overall achievement scores improved to the point where the district gained stature for its academic programs and accomplishments.

But perhaps one of the biggest challenges of her career came this year when COVID-19 throttled the nation and forced the prolonged closure of schools across Arizona and the country.

Vesely was one of the first two superintendents to close campuses in March, several days before the governor order a statewide shutdown.

After that, she oversaw the quick pivot to an online learning program for the rest of the 2019-20 school year and then led the development of elaborate safety and learning efforts as the pandemic loomed over the start of the current school year.

While supervising the development of a variety of safety protocols to protect students and staff once classrooms reopened, Vesely also oversaw the development of a more thorough online learning program.

She also started the Kyrene Digital Academy, which enabled students from anyone in Arizona to enroll in a learning program that was unique to Kyrene and mirrored what students would be learning in classrooms.

About 20 percent of the district’s 16,000 students enrolled in the academy.

Vesely also guided the district into a “rolling reopening” of schools, with K-2 students returning several weeks ago, followed by students in grades 3-5. Middle schools welcomed sixth graders back into classrooms last Thursday and students in grades 7-8 can return Oct. 13.

Vesely took note of that reopening in her announcement last Friday.

With the reopening of classrooms, she noted, “Kyrene will then have children in every grade level, in every learning module: In Person Learning, Flex Distance Learning, and full-time online through Kyrene Digital Academy.

“This is the vision of safety and choice that hundreds of Kyrene educators, leaders and staff worked tirelessly to create.”

“It was important to me to see the safe return of our students to schools before confirming a big decision,” Vesely said, adding she had decided to retire “with deep emotion.”

Citing “43 wonderful years in public education,” she said “it would be appropriate” for a new superintendent to begin working with a reconstituted governing board.

At least two new members will join the board with the retirement of Michael Myrick and John King.

Incumbent Michelle Fahy is seeking a second term in the Nov. 3 election. Four newcomers also are vying for one of the three seats up for election.

Ironically, all five candidates indicated they would like to keep Vesely, who was given a three-year extension in her contract earlier this year by the current board.

“The board is engaged in the planning stages of a search for Kyrene’s next superintendent, and I have no doubt this board will select someone exceptional for the role,” she said in her announcement.

Typical of her habit to deflect any praise for her efforts and credit the people around her, Vesely also praised Kyrene teachers and staff, stating “This is an incredible district full of bright, talented, passionate professionals.”

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