Originally Published: May 31, 2010 9:50 p.m.
When it came time to select a place for Prescott School District Superintendent Kevin Kapp's retirement party, only one place would do - the place Kapp began his teaching career - Prescott Mile High Middle School.
On May 21, friends, family, colleagues and fellow PUSD employees gathered on the middle school quad to celebrate and say goodbye to Kapp.
Amid songs and testimonials, a highlight of the event was PUSD Finance Director Renee Raskin and PUSD Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Dr. Chris Reynolds reading a top 10 list of things they will miss about the outgoing superintendent whose terms ends this month.
"Kevin is one of the more professional superintendents I've been around," Humboldt School District Superintendent Dr. Henry Schmitt said. "He is a class act and it has been a pleasure to work with him."
Kapp spent 28 of his 32 years in education with PUSD, the last nine as district superintendent. He started in 1979 as a math teacher at what was then Prescott Junior High School.
He slipped out of Prescott from 1981-1984, and lived in Tucson and taught math and science at Marana High School.
Kapp returned to his hometown in 1984, when PUSD rehired him as a junior high math and science teacher. He stayed in the classroom for three years, and then moved into the assistant principal's office at the junior high for one year.
In 1998, ninth graders moved from the junior high to Prescott High School, and Kapp went along with them. He served as the PHS assistant principal until 1991.
Kapp joined the district office in 1991 as the assistant superintendent for human resources. In 2001, the governing board hired him as district superintendent.
"As superintendent, I am most proud that the school district has regained the confidence and trust of the local community," Kapp said.
From 1993-2001, the district faced budget cuts and declining enrollment. As human resources director, "All I did was make cuts and lay off people," Kapp noted. "The district was viewed as a sinking ship."
The community had this opinion, Kapp said, even though district test scores were "well above county and state scores, and our graduation rate was above the state average. Students were achieving at all levels. I am very proud that the district is now viewed by the Prescott community as one of the best districts in the state of Arizona, and the facts and data support that opinion."
In 2001, the district began an aggressive marketing campaign to "Share the reality of how good the school district is. I hope the marketing program can be restarted with the new superintendent," Kapp noted.
According to Kapp, hiring the right people has resulted in a significant change in the culture at PUSD in regard to student achievement.
"The district hired new principals, teachers and staff who believe that all students can learn and our job is to support that learning," Kapp said.
PUSD still faces many challenges, not the least of which has been, and continues to be, money.
"During my career, Arizona has slipped from being at the national average for per-student spending to dead last. This saddens me," Kapp said. "I hope that the overwhelming approval of Proposition 100 sends a message to the Legislature that the people of Arizona are willing to pay more for the education of our children."
Another challenge facing school districts, including PUSD, Kapp said, is dealing with the overwhelming reporting requirements and paperwork associated with federal and state mandates.
"Accountability is good and should be expected of a district. But the federal and state bureaucracy has increased to a smothering level," he said. "The pendulum needs to swing the other way and the system needs to simplify."
Kapp said he is happy to turn the reins of the district over to the new superintendent, David Smucker.
"I always felt that a person should never stay too long, and I am very comfortable leaving the district at this point in time. I like him (Smucker). He is very personable and I think he is a great fit for PUSD. He is dedicated to education and is excited about moving his family to Prescott," Kapp noted.
Kapp's last day at PUSD is June 23.
He and his wife MaryAnne plan "a long road trip right away." They will travel to Northwest Canada and into the New England area.
The Kapps will take their dogs with them as they hike and camp throughout the country.
"I plan to relearn how to fly fish and I have developed an interest in photography," Kapp said. "Prescott is my hometown. I will miss the history and traditions in Prescott and within PUSD. I will also miss the wonderful people in PUSD and in the community."