By Srianthi Perera

Shane McCord, assistant superintendent of Mesa Public Schools and a former employee of Gilbert Public Schools, has assumed the role of superintendent at GPS.

His employment contract began October 2 and ends June 30, 2020. McCord is being paid an annual base salary of $189,000, with 5 percent of the annual base salary as a performance-based pay and a monthly automobile stipend of $600, among other perks.

McCord, who has a bachelor of education from Arizona State University, and a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Northern Arizona University, is working toward his doctorate and plans to be done by May.

He is to be paid an additional stipend of $6,000 during the fiscal year in which he earns his doctoral degree, if it falls within the period of the contract.

McCord, who has worked at GPS for 19 years – as a fourth-grade teacher, sixth-grade teacher, assistant principal of Gilbert High School, principal of Houston Elementary, director of Community Education, executive director of Human Resources and assistant superintendent – left the district for Mesa Public Schools in 2014.

“As I moved through the system, I truly understood what GPS was all about. It was all about the people. It was all of you sitting here,” he said during a community forum for the four finalists held recently at Campo Verde High School.

“Gilbert Public Schools has gone through some rough times. I was here; I understand that. I think a lot of healing has gone on, and I’m ready to be here to help lead this district to the next level,” he added.

Following the forum, the GPS Governing Board voted 5-0 to offer McCord the job.

Steve Highlen of Arizona School Board Association assisted the district in the search to replace former superintendent Christina Kishimoto, who took the position of Hawaii’s superintendent of schools.

The district received nearly 30 applications for the position.

The other finalists were Anna Battle, assistant superintendent of the Tempe Union High School District; Steve Chestnut, superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District; and Shannon Goodsell, superintendent of schools, Casa Grande Union High School District.

Earlier, the candidates responded to questions submitted by the public on key topics including student retention, staff recognition, improving academics, community involvement and extracurricular activities.

“Why people choose to leave? It’s because there’s competition and we need to figure that out,” said McCord, answering a question regarding student and teacher retention.

“Do I have the magic bullet for that? No. But what I do know is that it starts with the relationships that we make in our classrooms and in our communities,” he said.

“Gilbert Public Schools is an easy sell. We’ve just got to sell it ourselves,” Goodsell said, answering the same question. “This school district is one of the crown jewels for the state of Arizona. When people look for the models of school districts, they look toward this model.”

Battle, who had applied for the top position at Tempe Union and wasn’t chosen, said she is “battle tested, so to speak.”

“I would say that given the experience, both the positive and the challenges, I have what Gilbert schools can use so that we can serve our kids, we can increase student enrollment,” she said. “We can defeat and be proactive about defeating negative public opinion and that we can accelerate our learning and continue, I say continue, to be one of the best districts in Arizona as well as in the county.

“And I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it,” she added.

McCord lives in Gilbert with his wife, Kristin, a teacher at Finley Farms Elementary. His two sons are following in his footsteps: The elder is studying at University of Arizona and plans to be in secondary math education, while the younger is at Northern Arizona University studying elementary education.