The Deer Valley Unified School District has been under the leadership of Dr. Curtis Finch for a little more than a year.
Education was at the forefront of the line in recent months, much in part due to the efforts of several people involved in education, including Mr. Finch who met with Governor Doug Ducey and several other superintendents prior to the announcement of a 20 percent raise by the year 2020.
The Deer Valley governing board showed their support for the superintendent by extending his contract through 2022 during their meeting on August 28 in Phoenix.
“I am pleased with the energy and enthusiasm Dr. Finch has brought to the district and look forward to working with him for many years to come,” Governing Board President Jenny Frank said.
During the early months as superintendent at Deer Valley, Mr. Finch hit the ground running with a great team of leaders around him and high academic expectations, backed by 11 years of experience, serving in his third job as a superintendent. He said each job is different with different cultures, structure and expectations.
“Last year, we continued to climb the academic ladder again against our peers. More than 82 percent of our 38 schools received an A or B rating. In our group of comparable peers, we are number two in academic performance and we want to be number one in three years or less. We added five more A+ School of Excellence awards and increased our enrollment over the demographer’s estimate,” Mr. Finch said.
Mr. Finch believes experience is invaluable because it limits the number of mistakes you can make and helps to assist a district to get organized and focused at a quicker pace. He said he never stops learning and asking questions.
“The superintendent has to be the lead learner if an organization is going to move forward and make a difference in the lives of all students,” he explained.
The board’s contract extension shows the confidence they have in his abilities to lead the district effectively with their assistance, Mr. Finch said. Adding continuity in the superintendent’s chair is good for Deer Valley and last year they had an extraordinary year and hope to continue in an upward trend in the future.
Looking ahead, Mr. Finch wants Deer Valley to be number one in relationship to the comparable peers in academic performance. He said they are on the cusp of achieving that goal, but the last part of the journey is always the most difficult.
“Although we have a state that encourages the overpopulation of school systems in Arizona with the unmonitored explosion of charter schools, DVUSD has better teachers and staff. Students will continue to come back to DVUSD as our current enrollment trends are showing,” he said. “When the students arrive behind in academic performance, our job is to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible. We have excellent teachers that can accomplish this in a timely manner. After a decade of cutting, DVUSD is seeing a positive trend in enrollment and continues to be a leader in the state on academic performance; we want to continue this success.”
Mr. Finch said he plans to get more involved with the governor’s office and legislature to ensure a level playing field for public education and a closer look for charter schools.
“This current path in Arizona of unregulated and unaccountable choice explosion is going to negatively impact our society over time and destroy the very glue of democracy, public education,” he said.
Referencing the Auditor General’s report, Deer Valley Unified is number one in comparison to their peers for spending on classroom instruction. Mr. Finch said they have a long history of this and want to continue the positive approach for the students.
“Our administrative costs are 10 percent while our charter competitors are 20 percent; we need to continue to educate the state and our local communities to make sure our taxpayers are getting their money’s worth from our educational dollars for our community and taxpayer protections,” Mr. Finch said.
To continue moving education in the right direction, Mr. Finch said the governor and legislators must be able to rely on Deer Valley to give them real data on real problems, couples with real solutions and this will continually get them invited to the table for discussions.
“If DVUSD wants to be a state leader in helping to share our state’s practices, we need to be at the table and I intend to build those relationships over time to make sure that happens,” Mr. Finch said.