• ABEC's Shadow the Super Program

  • Shadow the Super logoThe work of the educator, the business leader, and the legislator each has unique pressures and expectations.  ABEC believes that learning from each other builds mutual understanding which leads to finding common ground.


    With the ABEC Shadow the Super program, ABEC business leaders and state legislators individually visit schools in their district, discuss education issues, and learn about the many opportunities available in the district.  They also see first-hand how policy issues affect school district operations.  Shadow the Super occurs statewide and allows participants to visit schools in rural and urban neighborhoods as well as low-wealth and high-wealth communities.


    ABEC’s work to pair business leaders and legislators with K-12 school district superintendents has resulted in a better understanding of each other’s responsibilities and challenges.  Business leaders and state legislators spend at least four hours interacting with school district superintendents, staff members, and students and see how education policy plays out “on the ground.”  “This is a relationship-building experience – a great opportunity to learn more about each other” says Susan Carlson, ABEC executive director.  “Business members who volunteer in schools in different ways often see the great things going on in the classroom, but having conversations with the top educational leader about public policy and how those policies affect schooling is a unique opportunity. Public policies affect all aspects of the community, so it should be interesting, too, for educators to hear the opinions of their business friends.” 


    School district superintendents who have participated observed:

    • Hearing the legislator’s perspective on education issues and budget cuts, and the challenges in working at the capital.”
    • Learning that “Legislators are people too with day jobs and families” to balance.
    • Seeing “the valuable opportunity of the legislator visiting classrooms and being with the students.”
    • "We have a critical role in educating the legislators so they can make informed decisions.”
    • “He got to see what I look for when visiting a school as part of the administrator’s evaluation cycle.”
    • "The conversations were much more meaningful when there were students right in front of us.”


    Likewise, legislators also commented on their experience by responding to what was valuable to them:

    • Learning “about issues they face of which I was unaware.”
    • Seeing that “Supers don’t just sit behind a desk! Many site visits!  Juggle teachers, students, administrators, and the budget.”
    • Recognizing “How lean the administrative budget really is.”
    • "I was really happy to have the chance to talk with students!”


    If you are a business leader of an ABEC member organization or a state legislator and wish to participate in ABEC’s Shadow the Super program, please contact Karen Kehlenbach at Karen@azbec.org or 602-264-8396.  


  • Shadow the Super Testimonials


    Gasper Genovese, Vice President of Information Technology, Republic Media | The Arizona Republic


    I’ll admit I was a little uneasy when I agreed to shadow Dr. Debbi Burdick superintendent of the Cave Creek School District last spring.  I was enthusiastic in that I was not an educator and I saw this as an opportunity to get a little more subject matter expertise.  I was at the same time a bit apprehensive in that I was not sure what Dr. Burdick would do with me all day. 


    What the day taught me was that creativity in education is not reserved just for the arts curriculum.  Administrators need to be very creative as well. I was impressed with what was being done despite all of the funding issues facing our schools. Everything from themed elementary schools to on site on-line education, to the creation of district charter schools, to marketing full day kindergarten, to Chinese emersion programs were being done and being done well despite funding challenges. I was also impressed that all of this was being managed from a “palatial” office in what had once been a portable classroom. 


    The experience allowed me to see firsthand the challenges and opportunities facing Arizona educators and will help me become a more able contributor to ABEC. Proof of the value of the experience is this story on Horse Trails Elementary School, in the Cave Creek School District. It was one of the schools I visited that day. I mentioned it to my son, a reporter for Cronkite Newswatch, and he followed up with a story: http://vimeo.com/64195496.


    I urge all the business members of ABEC to take advantage of the opportunity.



    Debbi Burdick, Superintendent, Cave Creek Unified School District


    This past year I was fortunate to participate in the ABEC Shadowing Experience, having two business executives join me in the Cave Creek Unified School District.  Last December, Dan Hernandez of SCF Arizona, Vice President of Operations and Small Business Services, shadowed me and this past March; Gasper Genovese, Vice President of Information Technology at the Arizona Republic was my shadow.  In both instances, I was proud to showcase our school district and share the educational perspective while listening to their business perspective.  Most insightful was the fact that we all wanted similar things for the youth of Arizona.  I wanted our students to move out into the world of college and/or work prepared for their futures, whatever that might be.  Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Genovese wanted to transition these “students” into the workplace prepared to be successful and contributing employees and citizens.


    We visited school sites, observing classrooms and interactive teaching at various grade levels showcasing the use of 21st Century tools—the same tools employees in work environments are expected to know and use.  We also had the opportunity to dialogue about the challenges for Arizona education in difficult economic times and how we meet the needs of our students in creative ways.  The key to understanding is communication—I look forward to participating again this year!