Meet two educators who make students and learning a North Valley priority.

Educational Leaders

Meet two educators who make students and learning a North Valley priority.

Compiled by Sondra Barr


Dr. Debbi Burdick Dr. Debbi Burdick

Cave Creek Unified School District superintendent

Number of years in position: I am starting the eighth year.

What is your educational experience? I have been an educator 40 years, teaching every grade K–8 as well as university undergrad, masters, and doctoral classes. I have been a reading specialist, a teacher mentor, an educational consultant, a principal, and an associate superintendent before becoming CCUSD’s Superintendent.

What is your leadership mission? To ensure learning every day for every student leadership every day for every shareholder.

What does a superintendent do? A superintendent’s position parallels a CEO position of a corporation. We oversee the teaching and learning aspects of the district as well as the operations and finance. Much of our position deals with communications and connections to our many shareholders: students, parents, staff, community, business, and legislators. We oversee what is often the largest employer in a community. Our calendars often have every hour scheduled from morning into the evening and sometimes into the night. We do just about everything that we see needs to be done or will benefit our students and community. We are also advocates for public education and how it impacts the future for all of us.

How many schools do you supervise? Seven: five elementary, one middle, one high school, and a preschool learning center.

What distinguishes the CCUSD from surrounding districts? All of the districts in the Northeast Valley do great things for students. However, in the CCUSD, we can offer that small-town feel and seamless curriculum, programming, and engagement for pre-K–12. As a one-middle-school and one-high-school district, our five elementary schools merge at seventh grade and the students feel a closeness and camaraderie throughout their adolescent years. We also teach world languages from kindergarten through high school, and many of our students are starting to master more than one second language by high school graduation. All of our schools have a unique focus area that was chosen by the school community, so we feel we have wonderful and effective academic choices for all learners and they are all proud to be designated A+ Schools.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the 2014–15 school year? The elimination of district-sponsored charter schools at the legislative level will reduce our budget by $3.4 million dollars over the next two years—permanently. That is a significant amount for a district of any size but especially one that is smaller, like ours.

What are the district’s goals for the 2015–16school year? We will continue our focus on student engagement and instructional technology. In addition, we will focus on writing achievement, effective communication to our parents, and completing a new strategic plan to begin in January 2016.

What is the biggest challenge that you anticipate facing for the 2015–16school year? Again, resources continue to be the greatest challenge—each year, inflation increases, costs rise, and our dollars per student allocated from the state decrease.

What is the most important quality of a strong school leader? It is hard to narrow it down to one—it is a combination of many. However, I would say commitment to students, communication, trustworthiness, and true caring for those you interact with are key. It doesn’t hurt to have strong intuition as well!

How do you motivate your staff to go above and beyond? I model it. Strong leaders, no matter what business they are in, must walk the talk.

What special thing do you do that you think all principals or educators should do? Take the time to listen—to students, to colleagues, to parents, and to community. We learn when we listen.


Mosley MLDr. Mary Lou Mosley

Paradise Valley Community College vice president of academic affairs

Number of years in position: I have been vice president of academic affairs for seven years (since 2008)

What is your educational experience? I have a BA in history and an MA in library media from University of Colorado. My PhD is in educational technology from ASU. I have taught junior high and high school students. At PVCC, I have developed and taught courses online as well as in the classroom. I enjoy teaching because it keeps me in touch with students and with what the college asks faculty to do.

What is your education motto? My motto is the same as the college motto: “Power of Learning.”

What does a vice president of academic affairs do? I am the chief academic officer of the college, and I am responsible for the administration of academic programs, planning, budgeting, and academic personnel matters. I provide leadership and oversight in the development and maintenance of academic programs and services focusing on student success and meeting student and community needs.

What are some of the programs and educational opportunities that distinguish Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC)? PVCC as part of the Maricopa Community College system gives students from all backgrounds and experiences an opportunity to begin or return to education. The focus is on teaching, learning, and student success both inside and outside the classroom. The classes are small and are taught by excellent faculty who are easily accessible to students. PVCC has many support systems and leadership opportunities for students ranging from an honors program to student life, clubs, and athletics. Our International Ed and study-abroad programs help students understand and experience a worldview.

PVCC is expanding its offerings at its Black Mountain site (Carefree Highway and 60th St) when a new instructional building that supports science classes and labs opens in January 2016. A signature program for PVCC at Black Mountain will be astronomy. Another expanding program is forensics.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the 2014–15 school year? We had several major initiatives happening at the same time that needed a lot of input and facilitation to complete.

What goals do you have for the 2015–15 school year? To focus on improving student retention and success as well as to increase access options for students.

What is the biggest challenge you anticipate facing for the 2015–16 school year?

Continuing to explore and develop partnerships that will help students and the community.

What is the most important quality of a strong school leader? Having a vision and goals that are understood and supported by all. For me, it is keeping the focus on student learning. I ask myself “How can we improve learning and student success?” and “What have we learned that can make us better at all levels?”

How do you motivate your staff to go above-and-beyond? I facilitate what they do, try to remove barriers, and help them problem-solve. I also acknowledge and celebrate their good work and success.

What special thing do you do that you think all educators should do? Focus on student learning and success as well as on their own learning.



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