In its final meeting of the year, the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board shifted course in its search for a superintendent and indicated a desire to retain interim Superintendent John Kriekard for the foreseeable future.
The board was scheduled to review applicants culled by consulting firm McPherson & Jacobson and name finalists for the superintendent job on Dec. 20.
But after meeting behind closed doors for nearly six hours with the consultants and Kriekard, the board announced that it would take no action to select finalists and instead support Kriekard.
“The superintendent search did not meet our expectations,” governing board President Barbara Perleberg said. “We are fortunate to have an acting superintendent in Dr. Kriekard providing stability to this district.”
“The governing board met with him today and discussed a possible extension of his contract,” she said. “He has expressed interest and this board is supportive and grateful and supportive of Dr. Kriekard continuing in the role. To honor our commitment and to allow the new governing board to finalize this decision, no action will be taken today.”
The cost of Mcpherson & Jacobson’s superintendent search was $36,900.
The new board that will take office in January includes existing members Perleberg, Sandy Kravetz and Allyson Beckham along with newly-elected Patty Beckman and Jann-Michael Greenburg. They were scheduled to select a permanent superintendent from the list of finalists on Jan. 28.
Because the board took no action, Kriekard will continue to operate on an interim basis through June 2019.
“This board has said that their solution, given the applicants, is to extend my time,” Kriekard said.
Kriekard said that it will be up to the new board to make a decision about whether to extend his contract beyond June.
The new board could still look at existing applicants or decide to conduct a new search.
“As a new board, they would have a wide range of options,” Kriekard said.
Kriekard should find even more support when the new board takes office.
Beckman expressed a desire to retain Kriekard’s services in an interview with the Progress several days before the meeting and after it, took to Facebook and expressed similar sentiments.
“I have said since I was elected that unless we could somehow find a perfect candidate, that Dr. John Kriekard was the leader to see us through a successful override in Nov. 2019,” she wrote.
Kriekard also had wide community support, with many parents for months clamoring for his retention.
In August, several parents and community members – including Michael Norton, Mike Peabody, Susan Hughes and Scottsdale Parent Council Co-President Nikki Turitto – asked the board to extend his contract.
It is unclear why the current board was unhappy with the applicant pool, though previous conversations with consultants from McPherson & Jacobson could provide some insight.
Last month the board indicated it would like to hire someone “innovative, 21st century.” Consultant Dr. Steve Joel said candidates that meet that description with a long track record of success will demand a salary in the $300,000 range.
Joel said it would be difficult for SUSD to compete with districts nationally for sought-after candidates because superintendent pay is linked to state per pupil funding, and Arizona ranks poorly in that area compared to other destinations.
The board did not set a ceiling on what compensation it would offer at the time, but board members Pam Kirby and Sandy Kravetz did indicate that they were comfortable with a ceiling in the $255,000 range if it identified the right candidate.
That is above the typical superintendent’s salary in the Valley. A 2016 survey of school districts in suburban Phoenix found that superintendent compensation averaged $233,177, assuming they received 100 percent of performance pay.
If Kriekard’s current salary is any indication, it would fall well within the range those members were comfortable with.
According to information provided by SUSD, Kriekard’s original contract included pay of $20,247 for the beginning of the year through Aug. 14 and then was given a prorated salary of $171,752 from Aug. 14, 2018, to June 30, 2019.
That amounts to a base salary of $192,000, plus benefits – including a $600-per-month vehicle stipend and $3,000 doctoral stipend.
Kriekard is also eligible for up to one percent performance bonus.
In many ways, Kriekard makes sense for the job, considering his long history in Scottsdale Unified and stellar reputation in the community.
After serving in the military and graduating from ASU, Kriekard worked as an assistant principal in San Manuel, Arizona before embarking on what would become a 23-year career at SUSD.
During that time, he served a variety of leadership positions, including assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent.
He left the district in 2002 to take an assistant superintendent position at Paradise Valley Unified School District and took the job as superintendent there after a year.
He held that job for six years until he retired, but then worked as an interim superintendent in Deer Valley Unified School District and the Science Foundation Arizona.
“You spend 23 years in one place, and you gain an affinity and caring for it,” he said of SUSD.
Kriekard never openly lobbied for the job, though he did tell board members earlier this year he was open to an extension in the event they could not find a suitable candidate.
Kriekard encouraged the board’s search for a permanent superintendent when he spoke to the Progress earlier this year.
“I think a real important part of this next year is finding the right superintendent to take over that will create a stable and sustainable leadership for the district,” he said.