SAINT DAVID — St. David Unified School District has a new superintendent.
Kyle Hart, a St. David resident who serves as superintendent for Pearce and Valley Union school districts, was hired by St. David School District Governing Board members for a vacated superintendent position at the July 14 school board meeting.
Hart served as an administrative adviser for St. David during an interim period when the district’s former Superintendent Arleen Kennedy was on administrative leave. He was asked to continue the advisory role after Kennedy submitted her resignation in May. Kennedy served as district superintendent from July 2018 until her resignation nearly two years later.
St. David Assistant Principal Jonathan Watts stepped in as interim superintendent while the district searched for Kennedy’s replacement. During that time, the governing board voted to enter into a short-term contract with Kyle Hart as an adviser to Watts until the school district could find another superintendent.
Hart will continue serving as superintendent for Pearce and Valley Union in what he describes as “a unique partnership” that he believes will benefit all three school districts.
“These are relatively small school districts, so forming multiple partnerships saves the districts money they would be putting into a full-time administrator,” he said. “The money districts save can go towards teachers’ salaries instead of administrative costs, which is one of my goals for doing this.”
Born and raised in Northern California, Hart attended Brigham Young University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in social psychology. He then earned a master’s in educational leadership through Northern Arizona University.
Before relocating to Cochise County, Hart taught at Arlington Elementary School, a small kindergarten- through eighth-grade public school located about 50 miles west of Phoenix in Maricopa County. He taught there for five years and served as principal for seven.
Hart relocated to this area because he was interested in working in another small district while implementing some of the philosophies that proved effective in Arlington.
“While there, I worked with Chad Turner, who was my mentor and work partner and he encouraged me to try taking Arlington’s philosophies to other small school districts.
“I’m in my eighth year at Pearce as the district’s superintendent and principal, and I’m going into my sixth year at Valley Union.”
Hart said he now sits as the county’s number one tenured superintendent at Pearce, as well as number three at Valley Union.
The Pearce-Valley Union partnership has allowed both districts to save money on administrative services, which is used for teachers’ salaries and signing bonuses, said Hart, whose administrative services are paid to the Pearce school district by Valley Union.
“It’s a flat rate and substantially less than what Valley Union would be paying a full-time superintendent with all the benefits,” he explained. “Of the $64,000 that Pearce receives from Valley Union, I take $24,000 of that amount and the remaining $40,000 goes to teachers and staff. It’s a creative way to pay our good teachers more while developing a positive school climate.”
As he prepares to step into his role as St. David’s superintendent, Hart says he looks forward to working with the staff and administrative team already in place at the district.
“This new partnership between Pearce, Valley Union and St. David is rather unique, but we live in a unique county with small, rural school districts that typically experience a lot of turnover at the administrative level,” Hart said. “I have no plans to leave. St. David is paying Pearce a flat $50,000 for my services, which is far less than what the district has paid past superintendents.”
Of that amount, Hart said he will receive $20,000, with the remaining $30,000 going to the Pearce School District staff. In addition, Valley Union’s teacher pay has increased substantially in the past five years due to this partnership.
“If this turns into a long-term relationship at St. David, my hope is we’ll be able to attract and retain good teachers there as well,” he said.
Pointing to the Pearce-Valley Union partnership, Hart said both districts have benefited through additional grant funds for buildings and school buses, as well as from state funding sources that may not have happened for those districts on an individual basis.
“Through the grants and supplemental aid, we received a combined total of $800,000 for both districts,” he said. “I hope to continue growing these kinds of funding opportunities with the addition of St. David in this partnership.”
Pearce school district has about 130 students and 22 employees, while Valley Union’s enrollment is around 140 students and 35 employees. With its 360 students and 60 employees, St. David is the largest of the three.
Since he lives in St. David, Hart plans to have a presence on that campus three days a week, but that could change once school starts.
“The key factor that makes this work is that I have great administrative teams at all three sites,” Hart said. “I’ve managed to surround myself with people who are better and smarter than me. I’m looking forward to this new challenge when school starts this fall.”