•  Superintendent Update header image

  • January 4, 2020


    Dear Kyrene Community,

    I don’t know about you, but I have never been so ready to usher in a new year. While Kyrene School District continues to face great challenges as a result of the global pandemic, with the arrival of 2021, I see hope on the horizon.

    For those I’ve not yet met, I am Laura Toenjes. Today is my first official day as your new superintendent, but I am not new to Kyrene, and my work continues with the same focus I had serving on Cabinet: to safely guide our students, staff and families through these unprecedented times and to ensure stability and consistency for our district.

    Kyrene is a district that leads—whether reinventing instruction to meet the challenges of a pandemic, building a framework for systemic equity, or creating new learning environments and teaching models to ensure our schools are adapting for the future. I know we can continue that legacy of leadership, with the support of Kyrene’s outstanding educators, education support professionals, and school and district leaders.

    2020 was unprecedented for the challenges it brought us. I am confident that 2021 will be unprecedented for the way we bounce back. We are resilient—especially our students—and I truly believe this pandemic is creating a generation of innovators and problem solvers. They inspire me to give 100% to this new role and to all of you.


    Safe Return to School

    Our most urgent priority is to address the ongoing and emerging challenges associated with COVID-19. While we will continue to make decisions based on science and available facts, we must also move forward with compassion—compassion for teachers who feel vulnerable and at risk in their classrooms; for students struggling with online learning; and for families shouldering the heavy burden of supporting their children’s daily education.

    The Maricopa County health metrics continue to show substantial spread of COVID-19 in Kyrene boundaries as well as our surrounding areas, and Kyrene students remain in online learning at this time.
    As we shared before the winter break, families and staff will receive additional information later this week, following the next release of data from the County. As always, the most current updates are available on www.kyrene.org/safestrong.

    We know parents and guardians are concerned about the impact of distance learning on student achievement. Kyrene is developing strategies to ensure students’ academic progress remains on track. In the coming months, we will be sharing those strategies, which include summer programming. All students across the nation, whether at home or in classrooms, have felt the impact of the pandemic on their education. I want to assure parents that teachers are masterful at this and will work hard to help students catch up and keep up.

    Important Dates

    January is a very busy month in Kyrene, so make sure you mark your calendar with a few important reminders:

    • Enrollment for the 2021-22 school year begins Tuesday, January 12. Any student wishing to change schools next year will need to submit those registration changes through ParentVUE.

    • Kyrene will host career fairs for teachers and other certified staff in January and February. The deadline to schedule a January zoom interview is next Monday, January 11.

    • It’s tax time, and you can ensure your tax dollars go directly to the Kyrene schools or programs of your choice. You have until April 15 to make a tax credit donation on your 2020 taxes.

    • Families wishing to change a student’s learning environment for Quarter 3 will now have until Thursday January 7 to make any changes in ParentVUE. This will give parents an opportunity to view this week’s health metrics from Maricopa County before making a final decision.


    Michelle Ang

    Staff Spotlight

    Please join me in congratulating Michelle Ang, a first grade teacher at Kyrene Traditional Academy, for earning her National Board Certification. I am proud to say Kyrene is now home to 24 NBC Teachers, who have all undergone a rigorous process that involves many months of research, writing and production. Mrs. Ang began her NBCT journey in August of 2019 and persevered through school closures last spring to submit her portfolio in May. Congratulations, Mrs. Ang, on this extraordinary achievement!

    Kyrene has so many outstanding educators, leaders and support staff. Please take a moment to nominate a Kyrene employee for the Tempe Diablos Excellence in Education Awards. Nominations are open now through January 29.


    Celebrating Diversity 

    More congratulations are in order this month, for three of our Kyrene students. Macintyre Ritchie and Aubrey Taylor, both of Kyrene de la Estrella, and Lydia Jeanty of Kyrene de los Niños, have all three been named winners of ASU’s 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Student contest. Students submitted artwork inspired by this year’s theme: Race may differ. Respect everyone. The students, their families, teachers and principals will attend a virtual celebration later this month.

    Diversity Artwork "Everyone deserves a voice in the world!"

    The recognition for our students is a wonderful way to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, and we look forward to more celebrations to come as we honor Black History Month in February and seek to celebrate diversity year-round in our schools and classrooms.

    With Gratitude

    January is School Board Recognition Month, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the five selfless individuals who serve on our Kyrene Governing Board. Board members are elected officials who receive no pay for their time and commitment to our schools. I also wish to welcome two new members of our Board, Wanda Kolomyjec and Margaret Wright, who were sworn in last month. They join Michelle Fahy, Margaret Pratt and Kevin Walsh on the Kyrene Board.

    ACT: Aware, Connect, Trust

    As part of the superintendent interview process, I spoke with the Governing Board and with multiple Kyrene employee groups about my commitment to ACT. It’s a personal acronym I use to highlight the importance of awareness, connection and trust—key pillars of strong organizational leadership. If Kyrene leaders at every level are aware of challenges, connect with stakeholders and build trust through action, our district will succeed, and our students and schools will reap the rewards.

    So much of our focus right now is on the immediate challenges of COVID-19, but Kyrene has not lost sight of our long-term goals. We are currently assessing how the pandemic will impact our Kyrene Strategic Plan 2022; we continue to explore opportunities for developing 21st century learning environments; and we remain committed to building systems of equity and inclusion throughout our District and schools—work that is very close to my heart.

    I am committed to moving Kyrene forward with compassion and continuity, consistent with the tradition of excellence in Kyrene. Thank you for this opportunity to serve. I look forward to working with you all.



    Laura Toenjes

  • Video Message

Last Modified on January 4, 2021