Dr. John Kriekard retired for the first time in 2009 after six years as the superintendent of Paradise Valley School District and a much longer career in roles as an educator and administrator.
The next nine years would see him come out of retirement three times to serve the education system in various ways.
“I’m not very good at retirement,” Kriekard said.
His most recent comeback, in 2018, came in a time of great controversy for the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD). Former Superintendent Denise Birdwell and other administrators were fired among allegations of corruption and eroding trust in the district.
“It became a district where good employees were leaving and families started to leave the schools,” Kriekard said.
Kriekard had spent 23 of his 40 years in education serving SUSD and when crises struck, he knew he could help.
“Scottsdale School District had been my home professionally. When they were dealing with their issues, I felt that I could lend a hand and right the ship,” Kriekard said. “It wasn’t a difficult decision knowing how I felt about the district and my desire to help it.”
Although his most recent return was on an interim basis, he recently agreed to a contract to stay superintendent through July 2020.
Prior to his educational career, Kriekard graduated college and joined the Army in the midst of the Vietnam War. During this time, he became inspired to pursue a career as an educator through a growing belief that a lot of what was wrong with the country could be addressed through education.
“I went into teaching with the idea that we could make this country a more understanding country, in terms of understanding other points of view and people of other backgrounds,” he said.
Despite some negative sentiment locally and nationally, he believes that over the course of his long career, he has seen progress.
“I look at things that were happening in this country in the late 1950s and early 60s especially; I think we’ve made great strides,” he said. “Sometimes it’s one step back for every two steps forward, but I do believe that people in America across all cultural and diverse backgrounds are in a better place now than they were then.”
Kriekard hopes to return to retirement in time, but not before he revives Scottsdale Unified School District to its former glory. He has two primary goals for his time in office.
First and foremost, he wants to reestablish an emphasis on academic achievement. He believes that all students, regardless of socioeconomic status and other factors, have the opportunity to succeed academically and that this must be the priority for the district.
Secondly, he wants to rehabilitate the district’s reputation and re-instill trust and confidence among parents, teachers and students. “It is important that the decisions that we are making are seen as being logical, correct, student-centered, responsive to the community and fiscally responsible to the community,” Kriekard said.
Kriekard also previously worked as a consultant promoting STEM education in the Valley. This cause remains important to him and it is an emphasis for his administration.
“I really believe that’s the future that our students will face as they grow and mature,” Kriekard said. “It will be more about science and technology in the world than it has been and knowing how to deal with those things requires math and engineering.”
Kriekard hopes to hand the reins of a more stable school district to a permanent superintendent at the end of next summer. Maybe then he can actually stay in retirement.