Economic Impact Study - Foreward
There is no greater economic driver or workforce development strategy than public education. The Scottsdale Unified School District Economic Impact Study demonstrates just how profound pre-kindergarten -12th grade education is, and how lasting and far-reaching ripple effects are on an entire community, state and nation. That is what drove me early in my career and continues to do so today.
My path to becoming the superintendent of Scottsdale Unified School District started in the mid-1990s, when I first coordinated school-to-work transition efforts across two counties in Michigan. The School-to-Work Opportunities Act provided federal funding to support the development of purposeful pathways from school to work. This work allowed me to build partnerships between school districts, businesses, and the non-profit community to create career exploration, internships, externships, work-based learning, and technical skills training opportunities for students through career and technical education programs.
As a result of relationships built with leaders in the business community, I was subsequently selected to serve as the workforce development director covering three counties in south-central Michigan, where I was responsible for overseeing welfare-to-work, unemployment-to-work, dislocated worker programs, and school-to-work transition. Over the course of six years, we worked closely with business and education to build a system to ensure young people were prepared with the skills necessary to succeed. Our workforce development board even adopted an early childhood goal after reviewing data related to the return on investment connected with early childhood programs, and especially the significance of the first five years of life on brain development.
It became increasingly clear to me that the most important work I could be doing was in improving the pre-K through grade 12 system to ensure that each and every student was prepared with the foundational skills that would allow them to pursue their passions and become productive and engaged members of the community. For the past 22 years, I have served as superintendent in multiple locations, starting at a small, suburban district, followed by two different educational service agencies, and now, Scottsdale Unified. I believe the work we do in public education is absolutely critical to the future success of our communities. Simply put, while education is more than workforce development, preparing students with the skills necessary for their future careers is an essential component. The nexus between education, workforce development, and economic development is a central component in what makes Scottsdale an amazing place to live, learn, work, and play. The foundational skills our students master as they move through school should ensure that they are able to pursue whatever pathway they choose and that no options are foreclosed to them because they were insufficiently prepared. There are many pathways to success, not all of which are the traditional path to a four-year degree. Some students choose community college, the military, apprenticeships, or training opportunities that lead to industry certification. Regardless of the path chosen, the ingredients for success are nurtured at all levels of our school district.
In order to maintain a vibrant and viable community, this intersection of education, workforce development, and economic development must continue to be developed and deployed. The Scottsdale Unified School District Strategic Plan identifies several components that are designed to accomplish this objective. These include Goal 1 – Academic Excellence: Challenge and inspire students to reach high levels of achievement so they thrive as confident, dynamic, future-ready learners equipped to pursue their passions and ambitions and Goal 4 – Community Engagement & Partnership: Foster relationships with mentors, volunteers, and business partners to provide real-world opportunities for students that enhance and strengthen our community. While many programs are already in place, we are intentionally working to expand and enhance opportunities for our students.
The ASU study on the impact of SUSD on the community, from being a top-five employer in Scottsdale to the contributions of our graduates, tells a compelling story about the importance and impact of the public education system. Thank you to our community partners, Trammel Crowe and the Scottsdale Economic Development Department, for seeing value in SUSD and supporting this study. It is an honor to work alongside dedicated educational professionals and community partners who recognize that one of the best investments one can make is in preparing the next generation for future success. I hope you find the report as compelling as I have and that it offers you a new understanding of the value our district brings to Scottsdale, Maricopa County, and the state of Arizona. I invite you to join us in working to ensure we engage all students in world-class, future-focused education.