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After working with Cave Creek Unified School District for 17 years and serving as its superintendent for 13 years, Dr. Debbi Burdick is on the path to retirement, leaving an open spot for the district’s next superintendent.

“Being able to work among such an amazing staff with such supportive families and such intelligent and hardworking students has been a real joy for me, and to be able to lead a district like ours in the community that I live in has been so much fun,” Burdick said in an interview with Foothills Focus.

Burdick also sent her children to CCUSD schools, and she said she plans to spend her retirement enjoying time with her family and traveling with her husband once it becomes safe again.

The district’s governing board is currently searching for a new superintendent to lead the staff and students of Cave Creek and is being assisted by the Arizona School Boards Association in the process.

The thoughts of the community are being taken into account during this search with an e-survey set up by the Arizona School Board Association that opened August 19 and will remain open until September 14 at noon.

The board is hoping to collect a large number of responses from parents, staff members as well as students. All responses will be kept anonymous and the information will be generated into a report that will be presented to the governing board on September 21 for review and discussion.

The superintendent position opened at the end of August will be open until September 23.

After that, there is a 10-day period where Steve Highlen, an executive search consultant for the Arizona School Boards, will do  background and prep work to present the candidates to the CCUSD governing board October 3.

During that meeting, the board will solidify a date for the first round of interviews. It could be two dates, depending on the number of potential candidates, Highlen said, predicting that the interviews will take place during the week of Oct. 12.

The governing board wants to hear the community’s thoughts before the candidates are presented to them, Highlen said, adding that this way, the governing board “has a flavor for what the community’s thinking” and can make the best decisions during the screening and interview process.

Once the first set of interviews has completed, finalists are chosen. Two weeks later, the governing board will conduct the finalist interviews, Highlen said.

Typically, final interviews include a “Meet and Greet” Q&A-style forum where candidates answer questions from the community. However, with the pandemic’s spread, it’s hard to say whether or not that can happen, he said. Sometimes these events can attract around 500 attendants, he added.

“It’d be hard to justify having a meeting like that now or even proposing it, but maybe by the time we get closer, maybe we’ll have a better feel for it.”

After the finalist process is over, the board can offer contract negotiations or conduct more interviews if the right candidate wasn’t found, Highlen said. While the timelines are in place, it doesn’t necessarily mean a decision will be made at that specific time, he said, adding that it’s important for the board to be satisfied with their choice.

While Arizona has statutes that outline requirements for potential superintendents, Highlen said it’s also up to the local board to decide what they’re looking for. It’s important to keep the door as wide as possible when evaluating candidates, looking at their education, background, challenges, successes and past work, he said.

After several weeks of remote learning, classrooms opened for CCUSD students September 8 with social distancing measures after the governing board voted unanimously to resume in-person classes.

While being a superintendent was never easy, “right now these conditions add another layer to the skills needed to bring to the table,” Highlen said.

To complete the survey, visit surveymonkey.com/r/Cave_Creek_USD_Comm_ESurvey.