Higley Unified School District Superintendent Denise Birdwell will officially step down from her position as head of the district following the 2014-15 school year.

In an email correspondence, Birdwell said she will retire and leave the district after her current contract ends on June 30, 2015. She plans to spend more time with her family and contribute to public education efforts through foundation work.

“I have enjoyed the time I have spent in the district. I am honored to work in the East Valley among some outstanding educators,” she said. “The Higley (Gilbert) community is an outstanding place to work and raise a family.”

Birdwell, 53, began working for the district in July 2007. During what will be her eight-year term in the position, Birdwell said the district has emphasized adding new technology to classrooms – she cited Smart Board technology and teacher laptops as examples – as well as the addition of engineering, biotechnology and a Mandarin immersion program that students can take from the elementary level through high school.

She also mentioned the district’s educational reputation, which has earned AP Honor Roll status and became an “A” district. The district’s eight elementary schools all earned “A” grades in the most recent AZ Learns designations, while the two high schools – Williams Field and Higley – received “B” grades.

Kim Anderson, vice president of the Higley Unified School District Governing Board, mentioned the addition of two middle schools – Cooley and Sossaman – that opened up ahead of the school year. She also credited Birdwell for her role in creating a track to help students remain competitive on a global level, with tactics including ensuring students take rigorous science and math courses like calculus before graduation.

The main point of praise Anderson offered to Birdwell was her leadership and ability to assemble a group of administrators capable of establishing the district’s strong reputation.

“She put together and developed a team that is the best in the state, and the students have really benefited from that,” Anderson said.

One of Birdwell’s motivations for announcing her departure a year early is to provide Higley plentiful amount of time to find a replacement and help in the search process, which she expects to begin immediately. Anderson said the recruiting process for a superintendent usually begins in December, and she said the goal is to hire someone who can fit into the district’s culture with a minimal amount of disruption.

Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or emungenast@evtrib.com


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