MUSD board discusses options. Photo by Michelle Chance


After two days of interviews, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board emerged from executive session Wednesday night to announce three superintendent finalists.

Heather Cruz, Tracey Lopeman and Cort Monroe will return March 23 for final interviews.

Those interviews could include a marketing presentation by finalists, with follow-up questions from board members on a variety of subjects.

Cruz is an assistant superintendent at Litchfield Elementary School District. Lopeman is an assistant superintendent at Alhambra Elementary School District. Monroe is an assistant superintendent in Queen Creek Unified School District.

Board members indicated the presentations could give them an idea of how they could potentially handle future board meetings.

In February, the board selected six candidates out of a pool of 30 applicants to interview.

MUSD prompted the search after the Board announced it would only renew former Superintendent Steve Chestnut’s contract through the end of this school year.

Chestnut left MUSD March 9 after the Scottsdale Unified School District recently hired him as deputy superintendent.

The public will have the opportunity to meet the candidates during a Q&A forum March 26 at 7 p.m.

MUSD is expected to announce a finalist for the superintendent vacancy after the community forum and subsequent executive session March 26. Contract negotiations would occur soon afterward.


Dr. Heather Cruz is currently the assistant superintendent for Special Services and Community Relations in Litchfield Elementary District, Phoenix. As such she supervises all Special Education functions, oversees Public Relations and Marketing, and Human Resources.  She has also served as the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services in Litchfield from 2007-11 and as the Deputy Superintendent in the Peoria Unified School District from 2011–16.  She has experience in areas of curriculum, bond and override elections, employee evaluations, strategic planning, federal programs, and technology. She received her Doctorate in Education in May of 2010 from Arizona State University – West Campus and a Master’s of Music degree in 1995 from Northern Arizona University.  She is the current President of the Arizona School Administrators (ASA) and has served in several positions in ASA since 1999. She is involved in various community outreach organizations such as the Homeless Youth Connection and has served on the Board of Directors for the Southwest Valley YMCA. She states that she has a passionate desire for student success and does not believe that success is defined only by test scores.

Dr. Tracey Lopeman has served as the Assistant Superintendent of Strategic Planning, Implementation, and Accountability for the Alhambra Elementary School District in Phoenix.  In this role she has supervised the development and implementation of the 5 year strategic plan for the district.  Prior to serving in this position, she was the Principal of Alhambra Tradition School from 2002-2014 and the Executive Director of Leadership Development from 2014 -2016.  She has also taught various subjects at the Middle School level in Alhambra and she mentored principals as a Mentor for the Beat the Odds Institute Center for the Future of Arizona from 2008-2017.   Dr. Lopeman received her Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision from Arizona State (ASU) and a Master’s of Education from ASU in 1996.  Dr. Lopeman states that she sees obstacles as opportunities when it comes to public education and she enjoys the challenges that accompany educational complexities.

Dr. Cort Monroe was awarded a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University in 2014 and received a Master’s in Educational Administration and Supervision from Arizona State University in 2001. He is currently the Assistant Superintendent of Student Support in Queen Creek Unified School District in Arizona.  Prior to that he served as the Director of Student Services in the Higley Unified School District from 2014-2015 as well as the Principal in Cortina Elementary School in Higley from 2009-2014 and the Principal of Pedro Guerrero Elementary School in Mesa School District from 2003-2006.  He has also taught at the elementary level in Gilbert, Payson, and California.  He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Phoenix and has been an adjunct professor at Chandler Gilbert Community College.  Dr. Monroe is a member of the Brigham Young University McKay School of Education Phoenix Arizona Chapter Alumni Board, Phi Delta Kappa International, Mercy Gilbert Hospital Volunteer Interview Board, Boy Scouts of America, the Arizona Schools Administrators Association, and the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.   He has experience in mission and vision planning, instructional leadership, management operations, resource allocation, strategic planning, and budgeting.


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