Arcadia High students and faculty got a surprise in April when they received a letter from Principal Todd Stevens about his resignation at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
From the letter: “It has been an honor to serve the Arcadia community for the last three school years, and I am proud of the accomplishments of our students and staff during that time. With that said, I will not be returning to Arcadia High School for the 2020-21 school year. I will take with me when I leave many fond memories, and Arcadia will always hold a special place in my heart.”
The Scottsdale Unified School District put a plan into action to help Arcadia hire a new principal. In mid-April, the job listing was posted, and the search began. From there, a series of meetings were held with staff members, parents and students to decide what qualities were essential for the new position. There was also a community meeting and survey. At the start of May, around 30 candidates were in the running. Interviews were held on May 13, with the final decision being made later in the month.
School staff and the community met to brainstorm desired qualities for the next principal, Assistant Superintendent of SUSD Dr. Jed Bowman said. Then, during the interviews, the board assessed those qualities and asked questions tailored around them.
Dr. Bowman said that the first round of virtual meetings went well and that they were impressed with the candidates.
“As a relationship-centered leader, I always prefer face-to-face, in-person meetings. However, the online interface was successful. We were able to gather great feedback and input to the desires of staff and parents for the qualities they were seeking in the next principal,” Bowman said.
Bowman said that he believes paper screening is the most challenging part of the process.
“The time it takes to thoroughly review application packets and match applicant competencies to the desired competencies for the specific position can sometimes be daunting,” Bowman said.
He explained that parents are involved in different phases of the hiring process. Two or three parents are included on the interview team. They help provide input to the superintendent and assistant superintendent for finalists’ recommendations.
“Principals today need to be well-rounded with a depth and breadth of experiences. They must embrace collaboration and shared leadership. They need to be student-focused, responsive, growth-minded and humble (SUSD core values),” Bowman said.
According to Bowman, other qualities that are important to being the principal include being an excellent communicator, fostering a positive climate and culture, and being available and visible. They need to be excellent problem solvers, be motivating and inspiring. They need to believe that all students can learn. They need to encourage, support and find ways for students to be involved in the school.
“In my opinion, and aside from having highly effective teachers in every classroom, principals are our most critical hire,” Bowman said.
In late May, SUSD reached a decision and Dr. Cain Jagodzinski of Fountain Hills was chosen as Arcadia High’s new principal. He will officially take over on July 1. Welcome to the neighborhood, Dr. Jagodzinski!
Timeline of the interview process
04/16/2020: Resignation announcement by Mr. Todd Stevens to the community, students and staff.
05/04/2020: E-mail survey to the Arcadia community to prioritize the qualities of the next principal.
Position posting closed at midnight.
05/13/2020: Candidate interviews.
05/15/2020: Candidate final virtual interviews with current and incoming superintendents, Drs. Kriekard and Menzel.
05/18/2020: Recommendation for successful candidate shared with governing board and community.
05/19/2020: The earliest opportunity for governing board consideration/decision on the recommended candidate. Dr. Cain Jagodzinski was approved by the SUSD Governing Board at this meeting.