Continuity in tough times led Kyrene to promote assistant superintendent

Laura Toenjes becomes superintendent Jan. 1 and will be no stranger to the job

Laura Toenjes, who has been an administrator in the Kyrene School District since 2016, faces managing the COVID-19 pandemic when she becomes district superintendent on Jan. 1. –Kyrene School District photo

Kyrene Schools assistant Superintendent Laura Toenjes, who has been approved by the Governing Board to succeed Dr. Jan Vesely as chief of the district, brings continuity and familiarity to the job during the difficult management of education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district’s campuses currently are shut down and students are in virtual-only learning through at least Jan. 1, the day Toenjes takes office. Among her first decisions will be whether to continue remote learning or re-open campuses.

Laura Toenjes

Toenjes, who brings 26 years of educational experience, and who has been with Kyrene since the 2016-17 school year, is Vesley’s right-hand aide. Toenjes currently oversees the School Effectiveness Department, which includes school supervision, curriculum and assessment, professional development, and federal programs and outreach.

Toenjes’ contract as superintendent was approved by the Governing Board on Nov. 24. She has been a classroom teacher, principal and district administrator, as well as holding positions in both county and state education departments.

“I believe in the power of education to change the life of every child,” Toenjes said. “As educators, we each have a personal responsibility to ensure every child has equitable access to a high-quality.”

Kyrene Governing Board President Mike Myrick said he is happy that the new superintendent is from within the district during these trying times in education.

“I think, most importantly, we did an internal search because we felt there was some pretty extraordinary talent on the executive committee for the superintendent, (Vesely’s) board or cabinet, if you will, and so Laura stands out,” Myrick said. “What she brings to the table is the consistency that we’ve had in Kyrene under Dr. Vesely’s leadership. She knows all the inner workings of what we’ve been doing, but, more importantly, still carrying out the vision and the strategic plan and we felt that was a critical component in making the decision of hiring someone internally versus going external.”

Myrick added that the possibility of bringing in someone who is not as familiar with Kyrene could have taken Kyrene in a different direction at a difficult time.

“We feel like, as a board, that that was very important to continue the work that needs to be done under the strategic plan,” Myrick said.

Toenjes was chief architect of the Kyrene Mitigation Plan, which has served as the district’s roadmap for campus safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She has worked collaboratively with Vesely on these and other critical initiatives, including the Kyrene Strategic Plan 2022.

Vesely applauded the selection.

“I have had the great pleasure of working with Laura Toenjes in two school districts and have seen firsthand that she is a gifted and accomplished educational leader,” Vesely said. “Laura cares deeply for the students and staff of Kyrene School District, and it is with great pride that I see her step into this well-deserved role.”

Toenjes grew up in Gilbert and attended the University of Arizona. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications, a master’s degree in elementary education, and a dual master’s degree in administration/supervision and curriculum/instruction.

She has two sons who have careers that involve service, one as a wildland firefighter, the other as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. She said she intends to bring that family spirit of service to her role as superintendent.

“I am thrilled to continue serving this district I love so much,” Toenjes said. “It is an honor to carry forward the Kyrene vision that all students achieve at their maximum potential to become the problem solvers, creators, and visionaries of tomorrow.”

 

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