Steve Chestnut, who led the Maricopa Unified School District from 2012 to 2018 as superintendent, is now living happily in Scottsdale.
Chestnut left MUSD to become associate superintendent for the Scottsdale Unified School District in 2018. He retired from SUSD in June and has been enjoying time with family. Originally from Washington State, Chestnut and his wife Kellie talked to InMaricopa from the Seattle area.
“We’re spending the month of September here with our son, daughter-in-law, and (three) grandkids,” Chestnut said. “We also took a trip to Denver to see our daughter.”
Chestnut was hired at the Scottsdale district immediately prior to then-Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell being investigated and ultimately reaching a settlement with the district to step down amid allegations that she violated district policies.
Five months after he was hired as associate superintendent, Chestnut became the executive director of support services after temporary leadership succeeded Birdwell. Asked if he felt Birdwell’s fall affected his own career, Chestnut simply said, “My goal was to work in Scottsdale for two years and then retire, which I did in June.”
Programs like Maricopa High School’s Ram Academy and the passage of a maintenance and operations budget override in 2016 were among Chestnut’s proudest achievements at MUSD. He said he follows the city’s goings-on regularly and expressed excitement for current projects in the district.
“It was unfortunate that the bond failed, but it’s very exciting that Maricopa is getting a second high school,” he said. “That’s going to be needed for the long-term future of the city. Obviously, it’s needed.”
Before his retirement, Chestnut saw the effect of COVID-19 on education. He commended the state public school system for adapting quickly to the situation. He also believes his successor at MUSD, Tracy Lopeman, has handled the crisis well and continues to move the district forward.
“I think Tracey is doing a wonderful job, I’ve been very impressed. Moving forward on a second high school is probably the best example of that. Schools are demonstrating wonderful flexibility in an unprecedented crisis,” he said.
While Chestnut plans to take on light college teaching duties, he hopes to spend his retirement relaxing with friends and family. Meanwhile, he continues to watch the growth of the Maricopa and Scottsdale school districts, strong in the belief that public education is one of the most important institutions in the country.
“It was a privilege for 43 years, and I could not be more proud of my career.”
Education: Ed.D., Seattle University
Family: Wife Kellie, daughter Monica, son Matt, daughter-in-law Jen, grandkids Hadley, Lucas and Everly
Favorite Maricopa memory: “The first day of school each year!”
This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa magazine.