Award of Excellence goes to MUSD board


The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board received the Lou Ella Kleinz Award of Excellence from the Arizona School Boards Association.

The Award of Excellence is presented each year to a board with a proven record in leadership, initiative and action. Board members Torri Anderson, Scott Bartle, Leslie Carlyle-Burnett, Patti Coutré and AnnaMarie Knorr were on hand to accept the recognition.

“I was shocked but extremely proud because I know we’ve worked extremely hard to serve the community and the parents and mostly the students,” Anderson said. “It’s been a long few years, and I’m proud of the way we’ve all come together.”

To receive the award, the board demonstrated its progress in achieving goals, increasing parental involvement, collaborating with community groups and fostering performance and innovation. Anderson credited the board and Superintendent Steve Chestnut for working together to move the district forward with outlined goals and expectations.

“To be acknowledged for the hard work they put in is extremely rewarding,” she said.

Chestnut nominated the board for the award.

The district has SMART goals (strategic, measurable, attainable, results oriented, time bound), and the board regularly reviews progress reports with Chestnut. The superintendent’s performance pay is tied to progress on the strategic plan.

The district involved parents in developing academic focus guidelines of all nine schools. Parents are also part of the budget committee and participated in the quarterly Parent/Superintendent Coffees.

“All elementary schools and both middle schools utilize student-led conferences for the purpose of increasing parental involvement,” he stated.    

The district also touted its collaboration with the City of Maricopa, the Ak-Chin Education Office and Banner Health.

Chestnut and the board have a refresher on the board goals every year and reiterate the list of expectations for all staff. Chestnut outlined that as “safety and security,” “student academic achievement,” “100 percent effort/professional behavior,” “excellent levels of customer service” and “shared decision making.”

For the innovation criteria, the district has expanded blended learning in the past three years and also incorporated the Bring Your Own Device option this year after approving the installation of a wireless network at all nine schools last year.

Where some school districts struggle with internal and external communication, Anderson said the MUSD board worked to keep communication with the public open as much as possible. “I think we are very approachable in public,” she said.