A QUICK CONVERSATION WITH DR. STEVEN BEBEE

Please share with us your background in education:

I am a product of the public school system and I attended schools in the Cartwright, Peoria, Chino Valley and Prescott school districts. My inspiration to teach was Bob Scott, my elementary physical education teacher.

I grew up in the Cartwright School District and attended Glenn L. Downs from first through sixth grade. Mr. Scott was an amazing man who genuinely cared about each of his students as an individual and he made school fun.

After graduating from Prescott High School, I attended Yavapai College in Prescott and earned my associate degree in education. I then transferred to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Physical Education with a minor in social studies. After teaching for a few years in the Cartwright, Deer Valley and Paradise Valley school districts, I returned to school and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, while making the transition from teacher to administrator in my professional career.

While completing my master’s degree at NAU, I became the Dean of Students at Sunrise Middle School in the Paradise Valley School District. From there I became an assistant principal at Thunderbird High School in the Glendale Union High School District where I spent two years as the Assistant Principal for Discipline and Attendance, and two years as Assistant Principal for Operations and Athletics.

That experience, and the potential desire to move to the East Valley, prompted my next move to become an assistant principal for the freshman class at Hamilton High School in Chandler. The housing crash of 2008 and a 120-mile daily commute brought me back closer to home and landed me in the Cave Creek Unified School District as the principal of Sonoran Trails Middle School for one year and then to Cactus Shadows High School for the past nine years.

In 2011, I decided to pursue my doctoral degree, which was a lifelong goal I had set for myself. When I finished in 2014 with my doctorate in educational leadership with an emphasis on effective schools, I began the pursuit of my ultimate professional goal of becoming a superintendent. My love for athletics and my love for children has led me to an amazing 23-year career in public schools.

What prompted you to make the move from Cave Creek principal to leader of CGUHSD? Are you relocating to Casa Grande or commuting?

Because I had the small town experience as a high school student myself, I have become a huge fan of the quality of life and the impact a small town can have on the lives of students and the community as a whole. As I began my pursuit to become a school district superintendent, I focused on small town school districts and looked for a good fit. Knowing that I have had a very successful career in educational leadership and that I was now ready to take that next step in my career, I began to explore openings in Arizona this year. The more I researched Casa Grande Union, the more things just felt right and the more it felt like this was a place that I would love to be.

I am absolutely planning to relocate to Casa Grande, along with my wife, as I take on the responsibility of leading the Casa Grande Union High School District. In my life, I have always believed in going all in on anything that I take on and do not believe I could be as effective leading the district while commuting every day. I went all in at Cactus Shadows by moving my family into the community and I will do the same with Casa Grande Union. I value relationships, and by living in the community that I serve, I look forward to the relationships I will establish with the teachers, staff, students, parents and the community at large.

What are you planning to tackle in your first 100 days as superintendent?

My entry plan for the Casa Grande Union High School District will focus on the first 100 days as superintendent. I will meet with the governing board to ensure that I fully understand the expectations and directions the board sees the district moving in and to understand the board’s goals for the upcoming school year. I will work with my leadership team to meet and listen to parents, employees and community members as I learn about the needs of the district. Once I have completed my first 100 days as superintendent, we will be in a better position to create a vision for the coming years.

My top priority will be to build trust with our stakeholders and to gain a deeper understanding of our district. My listening and learning will help the team to make immediate improvements and to determine best courses of action for our students, our community and our staff. The team’s work will focus on student achievement, the development and growth of our staff, transparency and efficiency in district operations and the needs of the Casa Grande Union High School District community.

During my first 100 days, I will take the district through a comprehensive review of programs, systems, initiatives, services, student academic performance and fiscal conditions to assess our strengths, challenges and opportunities for improvement. Additionally, I will continue to build on our partnerships with the greater Casa Grande Union High School District community.

By design, this entry plan will move us beyond the events of the recent past and build on the strong history and foundation established by our dedicated and caring employees and community members. My main areas of focus will be improving culture and climate district wide and to look for any operational changes that may be necessary to improve the efficiency of the district.

Speak to what you see are the biggest challenges at CGUHSD.

I think the biggest challenge is going be my transition to the district and how quickly I can build the trust necessary to effectively lead this district. In my experience as a school leader, building the relationships with those whom you lead and serve is critical to the success of the entire district. Creating a process to listen and to learn all that I can to make the best decisions possible while keeping in mind the best interest for all students will be my focus. Of course, no one is happy with the recent letter grades for the schools in the district and we will be looking at all of the factors that affect those grades as a whole as our district wide challenge. Taking a team approach to leadership and focusing on the interests and needs of our students, I am confident that we can both improve the quality of education taking place in our schools as well as improve the culture and climate that currently exists.

How do you plan to improve community support/outreach for the school district?

I plan to become involved in the community as much as possible myself. I have been a member of Kiwanis here in Cave Creek for the past nine years and plan to move my membership to Casa Grande. I also want to become involved with the Chamber as well as Rotary Club. My goal is not only to be an effective leader for the district, but to make an impact as a citizen and member of the Casa Grande community as well. I plan to use social media as a means of getting information out to the community about the school district and will do everything I can to support community efforts that are taking place. I have already met with Dr. Gonzales from the elementary district and I know we both hope that we can take a more proactive approach and collaborate more on behalf of the students who live in the school district. Professionally, I will continue my membership with the Arizona School Administrators Association and will be joining the Rural Schools Superintendents Consortium that already exists.

In your opinion, what skills does a graduate need to be successful in the current workplace and does CGUHSD have those or is planning to pursue?

Some of the most critical skills that students need to have when they leave high school in order to be successful in the workplace would be collaboration, teamwork, creativity, imagination, critical thinking and problem solving. I am very excited about the opportunities that already exist in CGUHSD and I believe that our students will all have the opportunity to achieve these skills in our district. Having our partnership with CAVIT and the CTE offerings that allow our students to achieve industry standard certification while attending high school is a huge service that is being provided to our students and their families. Ensuring that we have courses that challenge students to think critically and creating teaching environments that encourage creativity, teamwork and collaboration will be a continued focus for our district.

Various trade fields are actively seeking qualified employees. Do you see high schools increasing vocational training programs?

First, I think it is important to point out that times have changed and we have moved well beyond vocational training in school to what is now career and technical education. In today’s world, many critical jobs need to be performed by skilled workers with the desire to do those jobs that are now at a critical stage because students over time have been discouraged from doing them. I believe that it is the responsibility of every high school to get our students ready for college and career before they leave us. I think so many times high school focuses on the college part of that equation but forgets about the career piece that is so important to so many students. I think high schools absolutely play a critical role in getting our students industry trained for those careers that they might desire when they leave high school. Again, our partnership with CAVIT and the career and technical education offerings we can provide our students in CGUHSD will ensure that our students are ready for whatever path they choose when they leave us. I plan to work very closely with our community to try to understand or identify the career needs that may exist in the community so that we might make sure our students are prepared to make a difference and to be successful in those careers.

DR. STEVEN BEBEE
Superintendent, Casa Grande Union High School District