Words From Steve Watson, Maricopa County School Superintendent


Steve Watson
Maricopa County School Superintendent


In 2008, Google pulled out of Phoenix. Rumors circulated that it was due to a lack of qualified engineers. Whether this was true or not, it signaled a wave of deep concern about the quality of education in our communities. In 2011, former Intel CEO Craig Barrett stated that if Intel was looking for a location to expand its operations, Arizona would not be in the top ten choices because of the quality of education.

Six years later, the story is changing. Maricopa County is now being acknowledged by nationwide education groups as a leader in science, technology, education, and math (STEM) education.

The transformation began with a statewide initiative instigated by the Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) and Science Foundation Arizona. Together, the agencies led the development of the STEM Immersion Guide, a road map for schools to increase the quality and quantity of STEM instruction. The guide was adopted by schools throughout Arizona and the country. Due to the focus of MCESA and its partners, some of the greatest uses of the tool and subsequent increases in STEM programming are being seen right here in Maricopa County.

As the Maricopa County School Superintendent, I am proud to lead the organization that is leading this significant change. We have expanded our supports from planning for STEM instruction to developing STEM school leaders, supporting STEM teachers, and creating award-winning STEM instruction for students.

The most significant aspect of this transformation to STEM education is not isolated to traditionally affluent communities. Families in the farming community of Buckeye, the professional suburb of Surprise, the working-class community of Laveen, and the inner-city of Phoenix all have STEM educationoptions. One of the most exciting examples of STEM instruction is being showcased at a rural, high poverty school a hundred miles from metro Phoenix. Education opportunities up-to-now only available to students in North Scottsdale and the East Valley are becoming more and more available to all citizens of Maricopa County. By leveraging the power of videoconferencing for professional development and virtually connecting STEM professionals to classrooms, all schools in Maricopa County can take advantage of great STEM education opportunities.

I have just begun my service as Maricopa County School Superintendent. Over the next four years, I am confident that Maricopa County will be held-up as a model in the nation for school choice and STEM school opportunities, regardless of zip code.