Superintendent Scott Siegfried discusses his job, retirement, future

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CCSD

CCSD Superintendent Scott Siegfried loves getting down into the base level of the district: the classrooms. “All educators get into this job to be with kids, to help kids to learn and become lifelong learners, and to find joy and passion in your own pathway.” Siegfried announced his retirement Jan. 22. “I didn’t think I would be Superintendent forever. But [COVID] accelerated it, and it just took the fun out of it,” Siegfried said. “When I noticed it in me, then I need to step aside and let somebody else bring it, it’s their turn.”

Carly Philpott, Editor-in-Chief

Can you summarize what your job, as superintendent, is?

My job is to really ensure that we’re able to operate the school district in a way that meets the needs of our students, and in our community where they live. So part of that is working with the Board of Education, which is elected by the community to kind of oversee policy and funding. And then my job is to take their directions their goals that they have for district and student learning, and then to put those in action. I supervise all 9000 employees and our job is to meet those goals.

And, there’s legislative process to it; influencing laws. Trying to get the resources to pay teachers well to run the organization well, trying to make practices and put practices in place so that we know what’s happening in schools and things like, what are our devices, our computers, our curriculum, our assessments – all those different pieces. There are a lot of great people in the organization that help with the specifics of those, but my job is to kind of make sure everything’s going in the same general direction.

One of the things that I will say in my nearly three decades at Cherry Creek is that it is beyond doubt, beyond question, in my mind that it’s the people in Cherry Creek who make a difference, the 9000 employees that make this place work so well, and that’s why Cherry Creek is always different than other school districts, and in my mind better.

What has your career path looked like, and how did you get up to this point?

I started as a student teacher at Eagle Crest High School. I taught biology. [In district offices,] I became Executive Director of Student Achievement Services, then Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary Services – which is like bus drivers, cafeteria workers, maintenance grounds, those things. Then, after that, I was Associate Superintendent of Educational Operations and then Deputy Superintendent and now Superintendent.

So a number of different roles, but what it’s helped with is, I’ve seen the organization from a lot of different lenses – from working with our mechanics and our bus drivers and seeing the organization through that to seeing it through the special education lands, in the mental health lands, in the nursing lands, and of course seeing it through the principal’s lens. So I think that’s really helped me this year, specifically with COVID, is having lived in many people’s shoes, at least job-wise.

I come from a family of educators. Both my parents were in Jefferson County Schools, where I grew up and went to school. My dad ended up being Deputy Superintendent and my mom was an elementary school principal. I tried not to be an educator. I said no, I’m  going to do something different. My thinking was, I’d go to medical school.

And then one day I went back to Bear Creek High School, where I graduated, and I started coaching my high school cross country team. I had one of those moments in life where you know where your heart is, where you’re supposed to be, what your calling is. And so I changed, and went into education instead of medicine, and that kind of is where I am in this moment, too – you find those points in life where you find your heart and your purpose, and you have to follow it. That’s what I encourage everybody to do.

Can you explain how COVID might have accelerated your retirement?

This was an unprecedented year. I never imagined this would be something that we ever had to deal with, and I that would be making decisions about whether school is actually happening – having to learn a lot about a virus quickly, having to work with people to ensure safety, [having to] create environments where, I know it’s important for kids to be in school, but also in a safe way; teachers have to be saved.

There’s also a lot of discontent in our world, in our country, right now. And those two things layered together, really compounded it. If it were, you know, just a pandemic, and we were all kind of aligned in our thinking around it, then it would have been easier for all of us. But we weren’t, and so that made it twice as hard. Every time I made a decision, I got 100 emails saying “great job,” 100 emails saying “it wasn’t enough,” 100 emails saying “I shouldn’t have done that much,” and 100 emails saying “you should be ashamed of yourself.” It really shows how divided we are on our understandings, our beliefs, our perception of what’s happening and what we should be doing right now. And that’s where, you know, [I’ve said] my job isn’t to make everybody happy. My job is to do the right thing for the right reason, and that’s what I believe I have done. And I know it hasn’t made everybody happy. But that that accelerates that feeling of, “I’m tired.”

What is your plan moving forward?

Now, I’ve decided that I’m going to take a little bit of time. Get [my son] off to college. We’ll get the kids settled in August, and then my wife and I will kind of take some time and just kind of let this wash off. Let this year wash off a little bit. Kind of re-purpose ourselves, revision ourselves, and then find that new thing. I’m too young to stop doing anything. It might be consulting, it might be traveling, I don’t know. But I’m gonna let this year wash off a little bit.

I also have six months left here, and so my goal for those six months is to ensure that things are in motion before I leave. That will help this organization continue to move forward in a very successful way.

What are you proudest of in your time here?

There are a number of things. I am extremely proud of our work with our teachers and our Teachers Association. We have moved to a problem solving approach on everything we do, as opposed to trying to win at anything. We all have the same goal in mind, and that’s to the best thing we can for our kids. Our work with them has never been stronger, and we have never had a better relationship.

And, honestly the work through this year. I am so proud of the team that I had that. We worked nonstop from Mar. 12, 2020, to make this as successful as possible. I believe we have led the way in the state of Colorado and actually helped other school districts to be more in person than they would have been, by modeling some of the plans we put together. I’m very proud of this year, even though it was hard. And I think we can start to rebuild a sense of normalcy in our schools and our student activities and graduation, and then just ride that into the next school year.

I’m proud of the success that we’ve had around increasing diversity. Our teachers of color, administrators of color, we’ve never had as many as we’ve had before. Are we proportional to our students? No, we have work to do. But we are headed down that pathway in a very successful way. And, this November, we passed our measure 4A and 4B at a higher percentage than has ever been done in the history of this district. So there are a number of things. And I appreciate you asking because it forces me to think about those good things. And there have been a lot of them.

What will you miss most about this job?

What I’ll miss is what I did this morning, second and third period – I was down the hall [at Creek] substituting for US history. Last week it was AP World history. Also last week, I went to a third grade classroom at Holly Hills [Elementary School] and I talked with third graders for an hour about remote learning. Those are the moments that all educators get into this job for – to be with kids, to help kids to learn and become lifelong learners, and to find joy and passion in your own pathway.