John Carruth entire interview
“People and relationships” an interview with John Carruth
Interview held Friday March 26
I’m a Tucson kid. My family's been in the Tucson area since 1949. My Grandparents are pictured with the first family car, around the late ‘20s. She grew up with her brother and at the age of 10, their dad passed away. Their parents divorced and it wasn’t a good situation. As a single parent born in 1910, she was persistent as a good student. She received a scholarship, to what's now UMass, and then from UMass she went to Cornell in 1929 / 1930. While attending Cornell, she met my Grandfather who was an entomologist. When they got married, she stopped working as a teacher to raise a family. My grandfather was recruited by the U of A in 1949, to start the Entomology department. They moved from Geneva NY, to the end of Mars, as far as their family was concerned.
Q. How long was your grandfather at the U of A? A. Until they retired in the late ‘70s. He passed away in just after retiring in 1979. They had one of the first houses in Winter Haven. My grandmother lived there until she passed away in 2010. Most of East Tucson was dirt roads back then in the late ‘70s. Just off River road was very rural. Neighbors had pigs, horses, and chickens. That’s my memory of the foothills area. It changed by the time we left, but I think that's a learning experience being in this community since ’95. Being a part of Vail when it was still rural and largely suburbs, is that kind of value that I feel a lot like growing up. Everybody had 35 acres and you just ‘bumped’ around in the desert. It’s definitely different today.
Q. What do you think of all the construction coming in? A. I think it’s progress. I love being on the Arizona trail and looking out over that section of the Rincon Valley that is still Saguaro’s and rural desert. That reminds me of the foothills. I used to deer hunt in Ventana Canyon, when it was a ranch.
Q. Do you see this growth changing the demographic of the school district? A. It's one of the biggest things that we’re paying attention too. Yes, it's going to change. Exactly how, I'm not sure. Another fact is, annual birth rate is down 20% over the last 10 years. I didn't fully understand the impact of this until the last year or so. This means, it takes 20% more new homes to produce the same number of kids, as it did 10 years ago. More people are moving here with fewer school age kids. This growth means we are seeing fewer people ‘anchored’ or growing up here in Vail. How is this going to affect us? What is our outreach to the community, and what is our long-term roll? We are our moto. Education is a community effort. That's what we do.
Q. Do you see this as a generation gap, those in their early 20s to 30s? A. I think so. It's interesting to watch the debate with family subsidies and political support, from both sides. I think it's harder for young people to conceptualize having kids and families. If that concept changes, for now we could rebound. But if the trend is low birth rates for young people, that’s going to have huge consequences on us all, not just school districts.
Q. Where did you go to school? A. My brother and I went to Doolin and Catalina, here in Tucson. It's kind of funny, my dad went to Doolin and Catalina too. He was one of the first classes from Catalina. I attended college at NAU for a few years. During high school, I worked the summers tying rebar in pool construction. This continued, with NAU in the winter, and coming back down here to work all summer in pool construction. After two years, I realized I got this backwards. I would freeze during the winter, to sweat my pants off working in the summer. I transferred to the U of A, and finished there. I graduated in 1989, with a degree in sociology and psychology. I had no idea what I wanted to do. As a mediocre student, being engaged meant sports, athletics, and a lot of community stuff.
Q. Did you have additional schooling or postgrad studies? A. My dad was an attorney, and at the age of 36, was appointed a Superior court judge here in Tucson. It’s interesting, because I spent a lot of summers ‘bumping’ around the courthouse -- watching murder trials and various cases, and things like that. I was curious, and it was kind of fun to go and watch the opening and closing trials and view all the pictures and stuff. Going through school, I thought about criminal justice, or something like it. After graduation, I did an internship for adult probation. They ended up having layoffs the next fiscal year, so I was laid off.
I started doing social work and counseling with young people, who were involved in the court systems for various reasons. They were juvenal kids that had been arrested, or in trouble, or DCS had custody of and were looking at reunification. These kids had some level of trauma going on. While working with an assigned therapist, there were programs where we had to work in their home. We would be assigned to these homes about 8 hours per week, per family. I helped organize support for the kids and family. I really fell in love working with young people, especially young kids who needed help. I saw resiliency in kids coming from tough situations. We would help support and put things in place for them, to see improvements and gains that they could make. I really enjoyed the work as it was so eye-opening for me.
When people have the will to change and the means of which they can do that, all they needed was an opportunity to come out of incredible circumstances. That was amazing. I saw that first hand and witnessed what that felt like. I also saw the opposite -- when people were not ready to change or didn’t have the means to. Working at this for a couple of years, met my wife at the U of A and we were married. She knew more about her direction and what she wanted to do, then I did at the time. Moving to Houston TX, she started in occupational therapy school as I continued doing my social work and counseling there for about a year and a half.
Through the work was interesting, I worked and helped a lot with schools. I just fell in love with schools, and thought this could be a place where I could make a real difference. What I didn't like at that time was, some of the organizations weren't healthy, or the system wasn't set up to actually change people. I felt I could do better, that if I had my own classroom, I could have more control.
Q. What year was this? A. 1993. The University of St Thomas Texas, partnered with the regional consortium where you could earn a special education teaching certification in a summer. I decided to do that, and quit my job while my wife was in grad school. After a 3-month program, I started teaching middle school, just outside of Houston, in Alvin Texas. For two years, I taught special ed with a variety of different things. I just loved it and jumped right in, and got involved with coaching and all kinds of activities. I loved the atmosphere.
Q. So what changed in 1995? A. My wife graduated from her program. We thought about staying in Texas, but we love the southwest and both of our families were here in Arizona. She applied and got a job at the U of A. We made the decision to move back to Tucson, and I started applying for teaching positions. We love the outdoor activities here and the whole sense of this part of the country. I came out for a week of scheduled interviews. The first interview was in the Vail school district. The district office was an old trailer, behind Old Vail middle school. There were two schools then, with a third under construction. I walked into the office and interviewed with the principle.
There was dial-up internet, no emails, and no websites you could research or apply to. I knew the area here, because of Colossal Cave and growing up here as a kid riding my bike in the valley. I didn’t know much about the Vail school district, but I remember walking out and reading the mission statement and guiding principles that were hanging on the wall, and thought, “man; if this place really has these values, because that's who I am and that's who I want to be, and if these values are true – then, this is a special place.” I walked out after the interview, looking out at the Rincon Valley across the Pantano wash, there was nothing but vast desert and saguaros. It reminded me growing up as a kid, and I thought -- this is it! This is home.
Q. What was the position you were applying for? A. Middle school special ed teacher. I taught 2 years, from ’95 to ’97. There were about 1800 total students in the district. We have more students now in special education, than we had total students back then. Though I love teaching, I knew after four years, being in the classroom -- sitting, the routine, wasn’t going to suit my needs -- that I needed to do something else. I needed a variety of things, as I don't ‘sit’ well. Not that routine is a bad thing, I just realized that I get bored, and don't do it well. I needed to be changing and evolving. I love that and I love the action of that. I know this now, but I couldn't put those words to it then.
A position came up for assistant principle at Desert Willow in ’97. It was the first year we were getting ready to go on a year-round multi track. There were 800 students at the school, and busting at the seams. This was only the second year the school was open. I jumped in with a brand-new principal, Trish Penya. I was there for a year when asked to take on special education. We needed somebody to help manage and coordinate special ed for the district. I was also asked to start Vail Academy, an alternative high school program. These kids had credit deficiencies. I coordinated the special ed program in the morning, and an alternative high school program in the afternoon, which was about 20 ‘at risk’ high school kids.
Q. Were you the only person running this? A. It was me and an aid. Of these first 20 kids, we graduated half of them the first year. I still have pictures of those kids.
Q. Where and when did the associate Superintendent transition come in? A. The need in special ed just kept growing. After about 2 years, I was the full-time coordinator and director. The school district just kept growing. It seemed that titles didn't really matter because we did a lot, and were involved in everything. For example, I was involved in developing the ACT statement, while involved with building new schools, even though my primary day-to-day duties were to oversee and manage special ed. I was involved a lot with community things too. We did the Rincon Valley festival, then Vail Pride day.
One thing unique about coming to Vail, I just naturally got involved in the school. I would get there early and I would stay late. I was young, didn't have kids, and would just do stuff. We needed the extra money; so coaching and other things would get me involved. I would get there early, and there were a lot of cars in the parking lot. I would leave late, and there were a lot of cars in the parking lot. There was a group of us, not just a handful of people doing this. It was like everybody was doing that. That was exciting and I liked being a part of that. Being a part of a group of people who cared beyond ‘just the job,’ who cared about the community. I learned a lot about that. Those values professed, and that's the type of people that were attracted here, and who helped mold and shape me. I still love that about Vail.
There were years we doubled in size. We opened Cienega High, Desert Sky, and Cotton Wood -- all in one year. It seemed every time we turned around; something was changing. I think about the leaders from this time period, when the way we thought was different than the way others think. We think in ‘systems thinking’ more so, than I've run across people in other districts, because every time we turn around the system was either -- ‘there wasn't a system in place,’ or ‘the system that was in place was broken and outdated,’ and it needed to change. The system would change every four years, because we would double in size. What we had in place, wasn’t what had been in place before. We couldn’t say, ‘we have always done it this way,’ because it was changing so fast. I learned how to look at things through a system’s lens, a lot. How do you put a system in place? What's the role of the system, in supporting what is necessary for helping and supporting kids and families?
We kept growing. Calvin kept handing me things and I kept doing them. The school district wasn’t doing well academically. Partly because of the growth, and partly because we just hadn’t focused on it. The district was mediocre to state required testing, and we knew we needed to fix it. Myself and another guy, who was over curriculum and HR at the time, along with others, really went at it putting a system in place. I approached it through the special Ed lens, and found we were over identifying kids to be in special Ed. I knew this by being a special Ed teacher and identifying kids that just needed some encouragement, compared to those that had been to five schools in three years. That's not a disability, that’s situational. Kids need stability.
My colleague at the time also approached this through the regular instruction, and we started seeing some amazing changes. About a year later, Calvin, along with the board, called us in and said ‘we want both of you to be assistant Superintendents.’ This was about 2003, I think.
Q. Was this a job opening or a position to be filled? A. No, I don’t think so. This was the first time the position was created. This wasn’t why we were doing the things we were doing. I think from Cal’s perspective, it was a matter of what kind of system was needed and how are we managing it. There were two assistant Superintendents. One was over curriculum instruction and HR, and I was the assistant Superintendent of special programs and projects. I had always worked closely with Cal, but really from that moment on, it was a partnership. The other guy left about two years later and he's been a national consultant ever since.
Q. You were there for 15 years. Did you feel cheated that you weren’t Superintendent by then? A. No, never.
Q. Did you have intentions to be Superintendent? A. I knew that I could be. In any other organization, I could leave. But I knew how special this was, and what we had here in Vail. The uniqueness far outweighed a few thousand bucks, or any personal ambition. I wanted to be a part of that. I had skin in the game. We lived here 29 years. Our girls were raised here; we go to church here and we're invested. To go somewhere else and recreate this? Why? I wasn't unhappy. I’ve never been motivated by money. It's what you can do, and I saw what we were doing here. We began consulting, helping, and working with other school districts implementing our instructional model. I really got a front row seat at what other systems look like in other school districts. Every system has a context. Every community has a system. I realized that we could help other people institute a healthy system. I love the Vail context. There is a real purpose of change behind it. We continue to invest here and never seriously considered anything else.
Calvin was good to me personally and professionally. Cal was good to all of us. I loved creating something that my family benefited from. Now that my girls are adults, I see what that means to them and the way they look at the world now. That’s a bonus. There is no price tag for that.
Q. Looking back on those 15 years, what best advice did you get? A. I struggle with that a little bit, because there were so many. There are two things I have come to understand. Some of them were in my work, and some of them were working with Calvin. One, there is a benefit for the community that is built on a cornerstone of a healthy, quality, public education system. I saw that and I understand that now. I understand now how that makes a better community. Working with Calvin, helped me realize the value of relationships, is truly what matters in a system. Our system works on the grease of relationships. I've seen it work here. It doesn't work elsewhere, and where it works or doesn't work, there is one simple difference -- how do the people get along? It's about relationships from person to person, and not about relationships to the system.
I have been here a long time. I've watched Calvin grow as a leader, leave a legacy behind, and ride off into the sunset. And then there's us. So what's left? Someone is going to walk into Mica Mountain High school and have no idea 20 years from now, that I was part of that system. That I lead the process – helped the design, the location, the layout, all of it – and won’t matter at all. But if we do this right, and the values that I believe in and the relationships that we believe in – like Calvin did with me – that is what will persist. We will continue. Our legacy is not things, it’s people.
I have a desire to make it happen because I want to see people succeed. I want to see our staff succeed. I'm committed to that. I want to see our young people succeed. I want to see our families have an education support system as they raise their kids, and do that through their own family values. One thing I love what we do is, ‘we don't own your kids.’ We want to come beside you and say, ‘how can we help you?’ You, are the values in your own family. That is what's important to you. We're not just checking boxes. The legacy is more about lasting relationships and impressions on people, then it is about things. I hope to do that.
Q. What do you see in 5-10 years for the district? A. I was hired not because this had been a good place. I shared those values and we created a good and healthy direction. We weren't looking to go somewhere else. I've been here 26 years. Most of my career is behind me, not in front of me. I'm taking over for somebody who's been here 30+ years, and most of his career over those 30 some years, has been as the Superintendent. Most of my career here has been as an assistant or Associate Superintendent. I feel that my role as Superintendent is to build upon those values that we have, and put them in context in our changing community. We use those values to continue education and to set the system up, so that when I'm gone, those values will still persist. That, I think, is my role here. Even if I’m here for 10 or 15 years, that's half of Calvin’s tenure.
Q. Do you feel sometimes you are in a shadow to Calvin? A. Leaving for a year was the best thing to cure that for me. That was December 2018.
Q. Did you want to leave? A. It was completely out of the blue. We just narrowly passed a bond to build a desperately needed high school. I had been all-in, in developing the high school and working to try and put a bond together. I had no intention, none what-so-ever, of leaving. Kathy Hoffman, which we hired and worked here for three years as a brand-new speech path, and who I knew but very little; she decided and was going to run for office. She called Calvin and I, and we talked over the phone about her running in the election. We were talking about statewide issues, with Calvin being on the state board of ed at the time; hung up the phone and said, ‘she's got no chance.’
Never really thought about it much after that. I watched now and again. She was improving and doing well, winning in the primaries. We invited her to our BT Super-conference, and she came out. I chatted with her. Nothing unusual.
Q. There wasn't a normal day-to-day interaction with Kathy? A. Zero. None. Not some, none. The election happens Tuesday, and she called me that Friday leaving a message, ‘hey John, it's Kathy Hoffman. I would like to talk to you.’ I thought, well? I went into Calvin’s office and said, ‘Kathy Hoffman wants to talk to me.’ At that point by Friday, it was the same as our bond election. She started losing and ended up winning. By Friday morning it looks like she's going to win. The guy she was running against was getting ready to concede, and so I thought she wants to talk to us like she did before. Well, that’s not what Kathy called about. She said, ‘I'm putting together my administration and I want to bring in some healthy systems. I would like to talk to you about that.’
I thought, oh my gosh. As soon as I got off the phone, Calvin rushed in my doorway, “what did she want?” I replied, ‘I think she wants me to be her chief of staff...’
Q. Did you see this as a possible career change? A. I had no idea. We met that Saturday, and I told her, ‘I barely know you, Kathy. I have to work with people I believe in, and know where their heart is -- where their integrity is -- before I commit.’ I knew people that knew her. Politics is less to me than it is about people and relationships. It’s about integrity and who you are. She said, ‘you have been on my radar because I watched you as a leader and what you were doing in Vail. I sat in your trainings. I watched part of your special Ed stuff, and I think you can help me start my administration and turn the culture at the Department of Education.’
Q. What did Calvin say? A. I was in constant conversation with Cal about it. We reached out to other people on the state board that we knew. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to help her and the department change its broken culture. Calvin Baker was not only a mentor to me, he's as close to me as my own father. No one is as invested in me outside of my family like Calvin -- personally and professionally -- and my family and I benefited from both. Everything in my path was what we were going to do. I wanted Calvin to be able to be here as long as he wanted to be. I didn't mind working with him. I loved working with him. I was comfortable that if he left, I could take over. Being in his shadow was going to be tough, no matter what. I mean, you would have to be a fool to take this job after someone that highly successful after 32 years. The only way to go was down.
Calvin said it was a political appointment, ‘so take a leave of absence.’ So, I took a leave of absence. I started to get to know Kathy and who she was, but I didn't know for sure.
Q. Was your intention to come back to Vail? A. My intention was to come back at some point. Cal would probably be here another two, to four more years. I thought, probably by the end of the first term, there would be a decision to make about whether I wanted to stay or not, or if I would even be offered the opportunity to come back. That's kind of loosely what I had in mind. Who knows, I may really enjoy the work and stay.
Q. Fast forward to the beginning of 2020, what started the transition to come back to Vail? A. Cal got sick, pretty soon after I left. By late summer 2019, I had an impression that things were going to happen sooner than later and I would likely have a decision to make. I wrestled with this, because I liked what we were doing at the state. I was making in-roads there, and learning a lot. I met Superintendents from across the state and was making good relationships in politics -- I was really torn. I love the Vail community.
Q. Tell us about THE phone call? Was it from Calvin? A. Cal started the conversation with, ‘hey, I think I'm going to retire.’ This was around late summer when he was in treatment with a bone marrow transplant. ‘I think I’m going to do this, and if I do this, would you be interested?’ I had a choice, and the board had a choice. I didn't feel pressured, other than my own internal pressures. So, to answer your question, ‘do I feel like I'm in Calvin’s shadow?’ I will always be in Cal’s shadow, to some extent. What I had learned while away was the success in Vail, wasn’t all Calvin -- and he would tell you this right away. He would tell you, ‘this is a collective. This isn't just me.’ What I learned while away, is that I do have value as my own leader. I was doing my own things and was making my own relationships. I was making in-roads and that I could stand on my own two feet and do these things. I was making a big difference where I was. That gave me the confidence to say, ‘I can follow Cal and I'll be OK.’
When I came back, I was comfortable being John Carruth while being different from Calvin Baker. There's only one of him. He is an unbelievably unique guy who can run on five hours of sleep at 99 miles an hour -- all the time. I know no one else like him and he is incredibly successful. I learned that I was successful by being my own person. Maybe not at the speed of Cal, but I run at a high speed, and that’s okay. I think people judge me more in the shadow of Cal, than people who don't know me that judge me being in his shadow, more than I feel that I'm in his shadow. I don't feel I'm in his shadow. I feel his support and blessing to move the district forward, and that's what it’s supposed to be.
Editor; ‘while visiting and talking with Calvin during his interview for over 3 hours, I would agree with you John. Cal looked at you as a very solid, grounded, and calm individual; for when those tumultuous times do arise, you would be that type of leader.’ Well, I don’t know, but thank you. I’m sure those weren't easy decisions to make.
Q. Coming to more current times, you took over February 2020. What happens next? A. Yea…(a bit of a sigh) unprecedented. Did you even have a week? I think there were two board meetings, in our boardroom, before we stopped having board meetings. Welcome to Superintendency?
Q. What was your first thought? ‘What did I sign up for?’ A. So interesting, I never had that thought. I was so wrapped up in untangling these incredibly complex and new problems, that I never stopped to think about what I got myself into. It was a matter of, ‘how do we get to next week and how do we do what we need to do.’
Q. Who was your support system at this time? A. The board, for sure. Just this last week, was the first time that we didn't hold a study session specifically for covid issues. We met as a board in a formal board setting, weekly. There was so much we were trying to do. Our entire team was and is a support -- from our principles to our directors. I had made great contacts while in Phoenix. I am still in regular conversation with Superintendent Hoffman. I know people in the governor's office. Right away, I was on the task force for getting schools to open. I was in a small group of Superintendents who met with the governor. That never would have happened had I not gone to Phoenix, and wouldn't have happened were it not for the reputation of Vail.
Q. How soon were those conversations, about opening schools? A. In May.
Q. Was there a sense of, ‘I'm going to post the white flag?‘ A. No. A year ago we were thinking, we're going to close for two weeks and then we're going to open. Two weeks. That's what the country thought. That’s what we all thought, including me. We're going to open in two weeks, then in two weeks it was, ‘what the heck are we dealing with?’ I think had we known in March of 2020 what we would be dealing with, I would have put out the white flag. I would have said, there's no way. How do we do this for a year? How do I manage? How do I run at this pace and do this for a year? How do I get people to do this? But we just kept doing it. We just run the race that was in front of us, and we just kept doing the work.
As Calvin mentioned from his interview, as from an observation, he described this as ‘standing on shifting sand.’ We couldn't plan more than 2 weeks at a time because conditions kept changing. Information would change and it was coming from everywhere, from all directions. It was coming from scientists, it was coming from conditions of the virus, it was coming from executive orders. There were nine executive orders specific to education, from May through August! Nine! I've been doing this work for 26 years, and I can't remember one executive order for education, ever. Welcome to Superintendency. Every time one would come down, we thought -- what does this mean? Now, it's like ‘oh, an executive order. What does it say? How do we get it going?’ We just got an executive order yesterday.
Q. Who did you report too in this process? A. The governor rolls it out, like law of the land. ‘Thou must comply.’ We try to figure out how to do it, and what does compliance look like, and where is the gray area, and we implement it. It's rapid understanding of what that means, and then rapid understanding of how you put that into practice and context in your community. We've complied with things that we've had no idea how to comply with. We've said, ‘somebody come down the Hill on that?’ or ‘does it really matter?’. If that's not the case, then we hold it in context to say, ‘well, what's the right thing to do?’
When we realized we were going to have to deal with a pandemic, I made a really bad analogy. At the time I thought was great, ‘living in Houston, it's like watching a hurricane develop off in the coast.’ There's a storm looming, we could see it, but what we didn't know was whether it's going to hit us or not. I said, ‘We have to have some level of preparation and a plan for this.’ We went in the room, put out paper, and we hammered out a plan. We had no idea what was going to hit us. Well, the storm came ashore and it never left. The bad analogy is, it wasn't a hurricane. It was a pandemic. Its own natural disaster. Its own thing. Has its own rules and conditions, that no one alive -- unless you were here in 1910 -- understood. What we did right away, ‘how are we going to respond?’ We pulled out our values and our mission statement, our guiding principles, and said, ‘we're going to do this through the lens of the Vail values.’
‘I don't know what's coming, but this is how we're going to do it.’ We created a document and the head of the document said, ‘we're doing it through these values.’ We’re going to value kids, we're going to value choices for parents, we’re going to value innovation, and we're going to support our staff. We pounded that out. We used that as a lens by which we evaluate every decision, even executive orders. ‘How does that look and how does that apply through this lens?’ That saved us! That, and relationships have saved us.
Q. I'm sure it has been an uphill battle? A. Yes it has. I had my first break a week ago. We took four days off and just sat in the sand in Mexico. I didn't get bothered for the first time, in three years. When I left, I didn't take a break. When I came back, I didn’t take a break. It just got more intense.
Q. What does this do for the financial condition of Vail? A. We’re on path to that now. We have not seen the consequences yet, not fully. It became apparent last fall, that the focus for us was to limit the loss. It was going to be a long haul. By this time, we realized it's not going to go away. By October, winter approaching was going to shape up to be something unknown, like another doom and gloom. It hadn’t happened yet, but it was highly likely to. We knew we're in this for the long haul and began to talk about it in that way.
We had to limit the loss of opportunity for kids and families and the loss of losing kids elsewhere. We wanted to be the place where families looked for education in their community. We had to limit the loss of staff as the burden on staff was immense. We focused our structure on limiting loss. We're down about 350 kids here in enrolment. Other districts are down 10 to 15%. All of those 350 kids, we know exactly where they are. Half of them have chosen to home school this year and we've reached out to them and will come back as the conditions are such, and the others moved away. Some of them have found, ‘we like what we’re doing elsewhere,’ to whatever education they are plugging in to.
Q. Did the pandemic effect charter schools as much? A. It hit everybody. Charter schools are small systems, and the people choosing a charter system, can play to one demographic. They say, ‘we're going to do this, and you choose it or you don't choose it.’ Private schools are largely the same. Private religious schools are specific for those things. In a public school, we must be there for all kids and all families, regardless of personal values. We’re here to serve everyone. We have our own set of values and we believe we respect everybody. We hope we connect with you on those pieces, but we have to serve everybody. We can't put you to a particular niche. We said from the beginning, we wanted choices for parents, and parents to choose. That created options.
We’ve rolled out three distinct learning models; remote, fully remote (a process that was a flexible remote that was tide to schools), and in-person learning. The conditions on the in-person learning have largely been dictated by the state and the conditions on the ground. We just opened it, so that's how we have done it. Finances this year, bottom line, we budget well. We ended up with a larger carry forward when we were frugal at the back end of last year, which means a cushion at the beginning to this year. We've lost only a few students. Even the funding model has changed. We only get 95% of the funding for every kid, because seat time is out the window. That’s the calculation.
We're down $4.8 million, and we've been made whole $4.8 million based on state grants and federal stimulus. We're at a net zero for our budget this year, which is good. There are a lot of companies that would have liked a net zero budget. We've incurred significant costs to do this. We're okay, but what happens next year? We're looking closely at enrollment for next year. We’re not going to see a ‘abracadabra presto-chango and poof’ -- here's a bunch of new kids. I think what we're seeing as far as enrollment in the Vail community with young people is, people moving in with fewer school age kids as a general rule. Some families are choosing other options in town. Not large numbers, but in numbers that we want to make sure they would consider us first. We're shifting to more of a marketing approach next year and beyond. We’ve not had to do this before, because we have grown so fast, but we want you to know, ‘this’ is what we do and ‘this’ is what we have to offer. I believe in what we're doing. I believe in the product we offer. You're paying for it anyways, use it. If you choose not to, that's okay too, but at least consider it. We want a range of options and opportunity for you to consider, so you don't have to go somewhere else to find them.
Q. We're on the bubble of going full time in-person learning, compared to remote learning. Where do you see that today? A. We've maximized in our system, the amount of in-person learning that we can do, with the staffing and resources that we have. We're still supporting around 15 and 20% of kids, that still choose to be remote. That's their choice. We are giving them that option. If we don’t, they can go find it somewhere else. If they find it somewhere else, then we lose them and we lose their revenue. Our neighbor, Sahuarita, didn't give them that option. They said, ‘you have this one remote option or you come back full time.’ They are down over 10% of their enrollment. That has a longer-term budget impact. We maximized what we can do on our in-person option.
Q. Do you see this continuing? A. For the remainder of this year, yes.
Q. Do you feel the district can support both, remote and in-person learning? A. Yes. We're running on full octane by providing those support systems across the board. That will likely finish out this year. We're planning Proms and graduations and promotions and sports too. How? Likely there will be some little mitigations and pieces in place. Some of that's evolving, but we're looking at doing in-person graduations, probably on our own fields. We’re evaluating what mitigation strategies will be, but we're not talking drive through graduations or those kinds of things.
Q. Prom. How do you see that happening? A. High school principals are looking at what that is. Some are talking about splitting it into two groups and doing dances and things outside. But it will happen. Unless something unforeseen comes up, we're opening in-person, normal, just like we always do. We will continue to offer a remote option to parents, for three reasons. One, we know probably 3 to 5% of parents are still going to want that option. Two, we have learned how to do remote learning well. Especially, synchronous remote learning. In other words, you log in and you have live instruction from a teacher. We do that well and have built out that system this year, which is tide to our instruction that's tide to our assessment system, and we now have lessons that are built on that. Three, we want to leverage that innovation. That's innovation out of necessity. We don't want to put that back on the shelf. If we've got 5% of parents who want that, we want to continue to offer it to them; AND, we can market that beyond the Vail school district because you can be anywhere in Arizona and be a Vail kid. We can compete with the Arizona online academies because we now have this product. That sets us up to use and leverage our innovation to help provide stability to the district. Those three reasons we're looking to do that. The core of what we're doing will be in-person education.
Q. Is there a percentage of teachers that don't want to come back? A. Very small. We've had teachers who have left this year, who have chosen to leave for a variety of reasons. Most who have chosen, have had their own kids at home, and they had to make a choice about how to support their own family. In fact, we just did a job fair a couple weeks ago. We normally hire about 100 - 120 teachers a year. This year, we're looking to hire about 50. Partly because we're not expecting and not planning for growth next year. We're not seeing growth. A bit of a holding pattern. I think the picture will be much clearer about where we are with enrollment as a school district by August or September. The crystal ball will have settled down. Then we can make adjustments from there.
Q. Do you think Vail will continue with remote learning, as an option, setting covid aside? A. Yes. We’ve had Vail digital learning since the early 2000’s. We have used that. That digital learning has been largely self-paced and online. We have taken that and created Vail blended learning, which we offer to middle school kids. This is a combination of self-paced and in-person learning. This is all done through the Vail Innovation Center. We're adding live remote learning next year. This is a classroom of 40 students that will also be housed under the umbrella of Vail Innovation Center. Parents can choose courses and be tied to a school. We're still working on a name, but in essence, you could have Vail online at Mesquite elementary, or Vail online at ‘pick the school’. You can be associated with all of the activities, with all of the things at your local school and community, which are tide there, and you have live teachers that are providing instruction. They're just doing it through the computer, at home. You’ll have a schedule, with all those other things. We feel strongly that we will need a market for this because of covid and I think there's a market for this beyond.
Q. With everything that you have done, literally this past year, with all the challenges unforeseen and that have never happened before; in theory, once this settles down -- what do you think is going to come out of this experience for Vail? A. There are multiple things. One, we thought we knew what doing hard things meant. We know what doing hard things means and we know that we will be okay when hard things come to us as a school district. You have a chalkboard up front which says that very thing. That doesn't mean we’re not beaten, battered, or bruised. Trauma is a bad word, but I don't know what else to say. There is fatigue. There is a ‘Oh my goodness, we just made it through this thing.’ But, we've done it together. Our board is together and we still like each other. I can't say that about all places or other districts.
We are reinforced by our values being an amazing tool to evaluate problems and solve them. We focus on kids and families, and doing what's right for the community. When you use that as a lens, it's not about the adults in the system, it's about what's here – the kids. We know how to innovate. We've always been innovative, but what I'm really excited to do is pour that creative energy back in innovation, that's going to move us forward beyond the pandemic. We know how to solve problems digitally now, that were too big before. We can leverage resources in a different way. We can leverage really great instruction that doesn't need to be tide to just four walls or a classroom.
Vail was ahead of the learning curve when it comes to technology. We had a learning management system in place. We had one-to-one laptops, basically middle school through high school already, so that foundation allowed a lot of us to do that technology. It’s had challenges and bumps along the way, yes. We’ve made five instructional shifts, since August 5. Five changes in conditions. We were forced to go remote, right in the beginning. Then, we were able to offer in-person learning, through a hybrid model. Literally, we did not know what hybrid was or how to prepare for it. We couldn’t pay for it or do it, until the end of July. We went to hybrid learning in September as well as remote learning, then conditions changed. We limped into the holidays where we had periods of time between Thanksgiving through the end of year, where 20% of our staff were quarantined. We made a really tough call to go back to remote, right after the Holidays, to let things settle down. Then we came back to hybrid, and now we've made a full in-person shift. Five times we had to change. What other work setting has changed their working conditions five times? Sure, there's some change fatigue, but let us settle in and do the rest of this year well.
Q. Do you feel things are starting to settle in? A. Yes. I think the next two weeks will really be telling. Mandates are being lifted and things like that. Behavior is changing, and the vaccine is rolling out. I think if there isn't a spike in the next two or three weeks, that we're on the downhill side of this. We're aiming towards using the innovation that we learned through this process, by offering more choices to parents, and improve what we're doing, instructionally. That's what we're trying to do next year.
Q. Setting covid aside, do you feel you communicate to the community well? A. I think we're doing a good job. We can always be better of course, but I think that's an area we could always do more. That's why it's important for me to meet with you. Sure, this is fun, but it's important to use platforms like the Vail Style magazine. We’re getting bigger now, so it can't just be me communicating. We have to communicate as a district. We're working on that, and that's a changing thing. How do people consume their information now? We consume information very differently, it's not three channels and a couple of newspapers anymore. We have to find people where they are and that's why I think we can be better.
Q. Would you like more involvement from parents at board meetings? A. Yes. Board meetings should be public and they should be transparent.
Q. Do you feel that they are? A. Yes, I do. It’s a place where the board does their business. The board only has authority when they have a quorum and an agenda. It's dry. What's why I qualify yes, because that's not where the things happen nor where the change happens. Where change and things happen, honestly, is at the school level. Where would I want community involvement? Around our schools. Get involved in our schools, get involved in our community. That's why we do so much with the Vail Chamber of Commerce. That's why we do so much with the food bank and the Vail Resources. It's why we're involved in doing things like Vail Pride Day. It isn't just the business or just the function of doing the tasks of the board that makes this place, it’s where the connections are with site councils, at schools, interviewing or hiring assistant principals. There are three community members sitting on that interview committee. That's how the community can be involved, that's how we want them to be involved. We have a part time parent-volunteer that we pay for, for every school. The intent is to reach into the community and make a connection between parents, community and school. We’ve had that in place for 30 years.
Q. Is this being utilized to its maximum? A. Yes, absolutely. We have thousands of hours of volunteer time, though this year has been different, obviously. We utilize that. We want people to be involved in our campuses. We want people to be involved in our schools. From a sustaining standpoint, this is more important than watching the dry school board business, every other week.
I think a huge potential mistake that education is going to make, is thinking we are going back to normal, going back to February 2020. I think education has been catapulted 15 years ahead by technology. Because we had to. If we just go back to February 2020, that's a mistake. There’s a certain population, where that’s the way they work or work from home now. The way they organize their lives. People are making change to things that are going to persist beyond this time period. If we aren't adaptable to that, then we're sunk. I’m concerned in talking with other folks, that the ‘this is what it's going to look like,’ or ‘it's exactly what it’s going to be,’ type of comments; that it’s not.
Calvin even touched on this, that ‘people have shifted.’ If we don't shift with them, if we don't understand what that shift is and move with them, or have something for them; then they will go somewhere else. If we don't compete with Arizona K-12 online, then we're sunk. We can't lose 10% to 15% of our budget, or we will decline. We must compete.
Q. Along this line, do you see a recent trend that will have a major influence or impact? A. One is less known, but is there. What I just described; the way people do their employment now has changed, and likely some of that change is permanent. Yes, I would agree with that. That very thing, has impact on what we do as a school system. Second, for 150 years, public education started out to provide the service of ‘education.’ That was reading, writing, arithmetic. It was the fundamentals. Society has moved to a combination of forces that say, ‘education needs to be more than that.’ You take on more. Part of it has been the way we work. Part of it has been assembly lines, moving from farms to factories to downtown office buildings. Education has had to take on not just educating, but is now responsible for taking care of kids, while the adults work.
In March 2020, a cleaver dropped and put an end to all of that, and none of us knew it. I didn't know it. I thought it was temporary. No one knew it. But it severed that, and it’s going to have a lasting effect. Some people have said, ‘I like this.’ You think businesses renting space at $25,000 a month or have five floors down town is going to continue? Some families are saying, ‘if you can provide quality education in my living room, and I can watch them for three hours, and they can still go play, or get new music lessons from our local school, and we can participate? I want to do that.’
Q. What about the social interaction? One of the biggest components that's being missed? A. 150 years ago, where did social interaction occur for young people? On the farm or at school. Right, mostly on the farm and in church. There was this family unit, and the church unit, both in a town structure. People are figuring out how to do that social component, somewhat on their own. Some are liking it, not all, not 100% of the people, but some. I think the assumption that we just offer what we offered in February 2020, ‘to just come back,’ we're going to miss kids. We’re going to miss people that often choose somewhere else. It's accelerated choice. An educational choice had always been there, it's accelerated now. I look around and see the comment, ‘I don't rely on public school for childcare or for the social component, because I figured those two things out. So, I don't need you for that anymore. What can you provide me now?’ I also see, ‘we’ve moved, so let's all pile into a van and go somewhere for a year. I'm going to consume my education somewhere else.’ Or we see, ‘we're going to work for three months from Mexico, or Hawaii, or wherever.’ Who's going to provide that education to you and where are you going to get that from? We must change. The other big thing that changed is, young people aren't having as many kids today. It's a fact, but is it a lasting trend or is it going to reverse? I don't know the real answer. I do know, that we're having 80% of the annual burst we did 10 years ago and that accelerated this last year again, during the pandemic. This means, kids that were born in 2010, this large bubble – it’s a national trend, it's an Arizona trend, it’s a Pima County trend -- this largest group of kids are already in our system. They are in middle school. Every class after that, takes more people in the Vail school district to produce the same number of kids. That’s a fact. The impact of this is, what houses are needed to be built here to sustain the same number of kids, or to even grow? In addition, we have more people who live here who don't have an automatic connection to the school district. Those are the trends. Their transplants. Coming from out of state. That's right, and they came from a different system. They came from a place or most people don't come from a place where they have a deep community value, like we do in Vail. Those are things that I see, that I don't know the full impact of, but we must be nimble enough to adapt too.
Q. What’s your favorite pizza joint? A. EZP. Argenziano’s. I love what Jody does there. He's a pizza guy and he's part of the community.
Q. What’s your favorite day, or what is a good day to you? A. I’m a horrible lazy person. I don't like that. I take naps and I like downtime, but I don't want to be idle. I want to serve. I want to do good things and that's important to me. A good day to me is working with a group of people to make it better or helping someone grow. That's a really good day. Like today, I had three meetings this morning already. Each one of those was solving something or helping provide some guidance in a situation. I felt good.
I love being outside. I love being on a trail or in the desert. I find peace, faith, spirituality -- all that stuff there.
Q. What is your opinion on teacher unions? Vail does not have one, correct? A. And we don’t plan on having one. Every now and then, one tries to pop up, but nothing serious. We don't have a ‘meet and confer’ policy in our board policy. We've not had that for four years. My opinion is, that we want to treat employees well, because our purpose is a shared purpose of serving kids and families in this community. If we do that honestly, with transparency, then there's no need for anything less. There's no need for a union because I want to work with you, I don't want to be separate from you. I don't want opposing forces since were on the same team.
Q. Since you've been here for so long, now that you are Superintendent, how do you handle teacher accountability? A. Accountability happens way more peer to peer, than as it does top-down. If there's a peer who's not doing their part, other peers around them step in and help. 99% of time, it solves itself. The way our teachers work together, the way we set up our instructional calendar -- all teachers are teaching the same content at the same time and using their shared planning and their creativity. Their professionalism goes around, how lessons are designed and implemented and delivered. If you're working on a team of four, and three of you work, that one person is pretty apparent and usually works itself out.
Q. How does this correlate with approved curriculum? A. The state has adopted and identified standards. We bring groups of teachers in, with our curriculum department, and we look at those standards. We lay them out and decide the order in which they will be taught. It's something when learned well, translates across multiple learning pieces. Fractions in Math, is an example. The group agrees on a pace and what will be taught. This is stamped for approval. The group then rolls it out. We evaluate, as necessary, often yearly. It's up to the teachers to standardize and implement.’
Q. Where is the Superintendent’s roll in this? A. Setting up that system, and putting a curriculum department in place. Twice a year, we do a literacy review. Any literature source that is to be used by a teacher, has to go through this process. For example, there's a lot of controversy around social studies material and what books are used. Some school districts do that by saying, ‘you must teach ‘these’ things.’ We say, ‘here's the standard, teacher. You figure that out.’ But, ‘if you're going to use an alternative literary source, you need to get that source approved.’ We are not going to limit you or tell you what you need to do, you tell us what you're going to do to meet the standard.
To do this, the teacher needs to get approval from the principle. Then needs to get approval from the local site council, which includes parents, and then it goes to a literature review group. They read the book and highlight any concerns, and make recommendations on whether they want to approve the book or not. Then, this is presented to the governing board for final approval. We have way more choices for teachers, but it goes through a process. It's setting up systems and making sure that those systems are followed, and hold people accountable to that system.
Q. How about student accountability? A. In our system, as an example, kids with reading or a significant disability that has been identified. We’ve been working with them, unless they recently moved here. There may have been some pre-existing condition that they're struggling with, generally. That's the work I talked about earlier. By designing their education, beginning in middle school, to accommodate for that. We want to help them do the best they can, and ‘get set’ beyond high school. If you're a struggling reader beyond high school, there had better be a plan in place or a transition plan in place, and a known pathway to help.
Q. What advice to you give parents now? Granted, we are still on the bubble with Covid with an end in sight. What encouragement do you give parents? A. Kids are resilient. They are more resilient than we think they are. We want to walk with you, as you raise your child. We are not perfect. In fact, we're inherently im-perfect. No one is perfect. We try to be, but no one is. We're going to make mistakes. What feels like today's big problem or big issue is less important than how we treat each other in that moment. That is the lesson learned. Going back to what you said earlier, its about personal relationships. We’ll get it fixed.
One thing about working in special education is, I worked with families from the time their kids were 2 1/2 years old, till the time there in their 30’s, or late 20s. I’ve watched kids grow. The thing that felt insurmountable, like a ‘knives out’ problem – is not as big of a deal. We’ll work with you on complex issues. Young people require persistence, not perfection. To be persistent, you have to have a level of relationship with each other. I think some of today's issues, a few people come in with a ‘scorched earth’ approach, that they have to ‘win the moment.’ It's a constant reminder to us and our staff, to just let that go and dissipate; and then solve the problem. The issue will persist, but life has a funny way of presenting its problems until we learn them.
Q. What advice do you tell teachers? A. We have some people who have real health issues, who have a real concern and are on their own medical leave. Others that are just afraid -- I can count on one hand -- maybe, and most of them are choosing to go somewhere else next year. That's part of the system weeding itself out. I respect your decision. You're not a bad person, but this is what we're doing here. We want to treat you with respect. Our goal is to get in front of people, go to sites, get in front of faculty and staff. We couldn't do that this past year. I did zoom meetings. I did countless, staff zoom meetings. I did public town halls. We’d have 200 people on a zoom call, trying to explain what this is, because it's so rapidly evolving. Just hold steady and stay the course. Listen and don't bite back.
Q. What advice do you tell students? A. You’re going to be okay. You’ve learned more from this experience than you think you have. You've learned skills and adaptability, that will serve you well later in life. It’s okay. I am not worried as we will be working hard to get pieces in place to accelerate learning and to fill in the gaps that might be there. I know our system. Kids will be fine.
My grandmother lived through the flu of 1918. While across the street, her best friend passed away from it. This was at a time when ‘dad’ was out of the house, and two years later died as an alcoholic in the height of prohibition. She went to Cornel University, from a single parent family. She persisted. She was okay. She did hard things. She had no idea that the determination she was making in the 1920’s of just solving the problem and getting through, was going make my life better. That was not her thought process then. Certainty is uncertain, and you have to adapt. How do you adapt? How are your kids responding, watching you adapt, and how do they adapt? We've all been through that.
Some of my best lessons in life where with my wife, when we were young – at the beginning, having to make it work. We weren’t relying on something or someone, we were relying on each other. It was up to us to make it work and figure it out. What is most important? Family. You cared about each other. Your family, your health, your happiness. Coming back to personal relationships.
Q. What is going to be John Carruth’s legacy? Not necessarily one thing, but what do you want to achieve as Superintendent in 10 – 15 years? I want to set the school district up, so that it can adapt and thrive in these conditions, in this community, and that it serves parents. Things will continue to change, and I want it to thrive in tomorrow's conditions, not past conditions. Using yesterday's values and our deep belief around respect and relationships to solve tomorrow's learning problems. What's important to me is to have the function of the school district, the transitions of the school district, be when I leave, they are not hiring somebody from the outside. The people here, internally, will also persist beyond me. In theory, you were groomed; and I think in theory, you are grooming the next Superintendent. I hope so. I don't have 15 years to groom someone, maybe I do, but I don't know. People who work directly with me are similar in age. We've been here for those transitions. We've got some amazing, great, and creative young leaders here that are principles and other things. Better, good people and they work hard. Setting things up in a way that this will be okay 20 years from now, that's important to me. That's why I came back. That’s what matters to me. I have people here that have young kids that are just entering the school system. I may not be a Superintendent when their kids graduate, but I want their experience to be the same as my kids’ experience. I want their kids to be better, because they went through our school system. I want that for you, and I want that for your neighbors. That’s important for me.
What’s your passion? I wish I could be around my kids more. They are all adults and out of the house. We have three kids, one boy and two girls. Those toddler years, we had a blast. It was so fun. I love those years. The 10, 11, 12 years – we struggled a little bit just because they were tying to flex their wings. This is going to sound really bizarre, but those teenage years, I think those were our best years. I loved it. We got along, we had a blast swimming every day, except Sundays. We all went to church together. We were just a unit. It was fantastic. Now there all married, and they love to come home. My dad used to have a t-shirt that said, ‘If I knew grand-parenting was this much fun, I would have had them first.’ We laugh about it now, but it’s about family. Surrounding yourself with those, not only that you love, but that you care about.
I don't think we're trying to do anything different here, in Vail. I really don't think it’s that different. It is that. That’s the legacy. We're not trying to sell something. We're not trying to profit from a product. We're trying to build people. That is worthy work. Absolutely.
I don’t know what is going to happen to the dollar. We are dumping trillions and trillions of dollars in the market and we have yet to see the beginning of that consequence. I think ‘07, ‘08, is going to be a walk in the park compared to what is coming. I worry about the conditions of what we are sending our kids in to. For sure. I think this is one of several, really tough things to come. It seems as though it doesn’t matter. There is no personal consequence. ‘You have a $50k student loan, no problem – it’s been waived.’ You need a 65-inch flat screen TV, here, go get one.’ There are consequences that we just don’t see yet. We don’t know exactly what is coming. I’m a bit nervous as a business owner. I don’t have a huge savings. Yea, we have assets, but what happens to the 20 bucks in my pocket today? It will be worth 15 bucks tomorrow. What about those especially who are on a fixed income? That’s going to absolutely destroy them. What are their options? It seems we are trying to head in the right direction, but we’re not. We’re making U-turns and going in different directions as a country.
I try to lay things out, like in a spectrum, intentionally. I want to know what people are thinking across the spectrum. Part of the interview process John, I’ll share with you, is an exercise to influence the community. By being specific, I want to make a positive spin and get more involvement from the community, and the school. The school needs more involvement, more parental interaction. Some do it, yes. Some want to do it, but they can’t. Others could care less. I feel if we can get more involvement and get more ‘people relationships’, the very thing you talked about and described, than we can overcome challenges as a community. There are some things we will not be able to control. There will be influences and challenges. I have always taught, what we do with those challenges and how we come out of those challenges, will determine who we will become.
I agree with you 100%. That’s why I have committed myself to this particular field of work. I believe in public education. It’s one of the few institutions. Institutions don't exist anymore. There ridiculed, or their broken, or fractured. It’s one of the few institutions that exist, where people from all walks of the community, need to come together. If we do it well and find respect there, and you find we can work together there, and we find learning there -- we can build a better community. We can show that you don't need to belong to a ‘tribe’ only, to get along and to do good things. In society today, it’s set up to reward getting into tribes and we are an institution that does not do that. Intentionally, it does not do that. Yes, it can come with challenges and obstacles, but it is worthy work. For the reason that you just described, we can't solve community problems with our neighbors if I don't like you. If I don't come out to the edge of the driveway and talk to you, then we cannot help. This educational system, done well, allows that to happen. It’s not an accident that we like to work together.
From my side of the desk, as a citizen, as a parent, it’s good to see that consistency. I know John, you feel you are in a shadow, but I think you are coming out of that shadow. It’s only been a year, right? The pandemic was an incredible leveling effect. I have worked with Superintendent, Camille Casteel, who and has been in Chandler for 50 years. 50 years! She started teaching as a 21-year-old teacher in Chandler, and has been Superintendent there, like 25 years. Second longest tenure, next to Cal. She is retiring this year. Pandemic came, she didn't know any more than I did. I was in every meeting that she was in. The same meetings with the governor, and we were saying the same thing. She did not have 50 years of experience on me dealing with these same things. Every problem was new and challenging. For us to go through that and untangle this, for me, was a huge deal. The challenge now is to say, ‘okay, we're coming out of this, where are we going now and how are we getting there?’
I feel like I’m in Cal’s shadow, because Calvin is such a unique individual. He's a wonderful, amazing human being. I don't know other people like him. I don't know if you know, other people like him. His motor runs at a speed, where he has cancer and he's getting ready to do the Grand Canyon rim, for the third time, since retired! Who does that? He had cancer before he went to get his bone marrow transplant. He rode his bike 20 miles in 105-degree heat. Who does that? For a long time, I think for those of us who work really close with him, thought ‘we have to be like him to be successful.’ I thought, as I try not to speak for others, that I have to be like that to be successful. What I learned, by going away and doing it on my own -- to be successful, I just need to be the best version of me. Much of our success in Vail, I also want and I'm also responsible for, because of the work that I did. Yea, you have been here a long time John. It’s also because of the work that Cal allowed me to do. He would probably say the same thing. He did.
I am not motivated, I am not in awe, I am not hindered, by being in his shadow. I am motivated, the pit in my stomach, by the urgency to do the work that we need to do to continue this today. That's what motivates me. I love that Cal is here. I love that he chooses to be here, and I love that I get to see him. I love our relationship that we have moving forward. No one has been more influential outside of my family, than Calvin and Nancy Baker; to my wife and I, to my family, to my faith, to things that have nothing to do with the day-to-day working, but have everything to do with a meaningful and productive life. You’re doing all the right things, John. I’ll give you kudos, because I know sometimes that is often few and far between. Thanks. I appreciate it. I’m a flawed man. But we’re trying. I'm not above asking for help and I’m not above criticism. The best we can do, is put our best effort first. That’s all we can do, and it is what it is.
Thank you, John. Thank you. It’s been nice chatting with you.
Q. Setting Covid aside, what’s a typical day for you? A. So hard to say. I set time aside to be reflective. I read in the morning and get organized. If I am on top of my game, I get some exercise. It’s been odd, but I start my day at home. Emails are around 6.30am or so. Sometimes meetings are in the morning. Today I had three, before sitting down with you. If it’s not meetings, then it’s phone calls. Just getting things done. Tuesdays are leadership meetings. Board meetings are also on Tuesdays. I like to get out and about to other schools at least one day a week. I’m trying and planning on doing more of that when we are able to. I love to mountain bike and cycle. I do my best thinking when on my mountain bike or in the desert. You can go on the Arizona trail almost at any time, and meet people from all over the world. Its fun. The pandemic has changed things.