Narducci named new CUSD superintendent - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Narducci named new CUSD superintendent

April 12th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Narducci named new CUSD superintendent

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Assistant Superintendent Frank Narducci has been promoted to replace Camille Casteel as the Chandler Unified School District’s next superintendent.

The district’s Governing Board voted unanimously on April 7 to appoint Narducci, a 25-year veteran of CUSD, as superintendent for the 2021-2022 school year while the board begins its search for Casteel’s long-term successor.   

Narducci will be the first new superintendent CUSD has had since Casteel got the job in 1996.

“I’m honored to continue to serve our students, families, staff and administration during this transitional time,” Narducci said.

Though Narducci doesn’t officially assume his new job until July, the interim superintendent said he’ll be spending the next few weeks solidifying the district’s plans for how schools will operate during the upcoming school year.

“What we’re going to prioritize first is making sure we have comfort and safety when our kids are returning,” he said. “We’ll have some plans for mitigation and how we’re opening up the school year.”

Though Naducci’s contract only lasts a year, he will be presiding over CUSD during one of the district’s most precarious times in recent history.

Teachers and administrators have spent this last year having to contend with declining enrollment and financial stresses while they and students and parents have confronted campus closures and the lingering anxiety caused by the pandemic.

Narducci said he will focus on assessing whatever learning gaps may have transpired during the pandemic and finding a way to catch students up on learning they have missed while quarantining at home.   

The district’s recovery has been complicated by the fact that its 44,000 students have had varying experiences during the pandemic. While many students came back to school after classrooms reopened in October, some chose to continue learning from home.

Narducci said the academic and social-emotional needs of students will likely differ during the upcoming school year and CUSD will need to figure out how to accommodate a wide cross-section of demands.   

“We’ve got to have that delicate balance and blend so that all students are successful when they come back in July,” Narducci said.

The last year has generated a great amount of anger and resentment from parents who haven’t always liked how CUSD has made decisions during the pandemic.

The school board and administrators have routinely been bombarded with emails from upset parents who fretted over how and when CUSD chose to reopen its schools. Some felt schools should have never closed while others hoped they would have stayed closed longer. 

Narducci said he is not too worried about that lack of consensus. As long as the district stays focused on students, he said, then parents should be able to respect the district’s decisions.

“I think if (parents) develop the sense of trust that we’re going to do what’s best for children, we’ll be okay,” he added. 

Narducci has received several certificates and honors throughout his decades-long career in public education.

He earned a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Arizona in 1988 and spent several years working at various schools around Tucson.

Narducci came to CUSD in 1996 to serve as Conley Elementary School’s first principal – a job he kept until he was tasked in 2001 with helping to open the district’s first K-8 campus, San Tan Junior High.

He served as San Tan’s principal until 2007 before advancing to an administrative role as the district’s director of community education.

He spent the next five years presiding over a department that developed after-school programs and provided community resources for low-income families.   

In 2012, Narducci was appointed to his most recent position as assistant superintendent to the district’s 31 elementary schools. He has since spent the last decade supervising school administrators, tracking school budgets and monitoring the allocation of more than 1,000 teaching positions.

Throughout the pandemic, Narducci has regularly appeared before the school board to explain how Chandler’s elementary schools were reacting and adapting to the health crisis.

When the district decided to start allowing students to come back to school, Narducci helped devise a plan that staggered out which grade levels would be permitted to return first.

During his 25-year tenure with the district, Narducci has seen Chandler change dramatically with an ongoing influx of new students that have allowed CUSD to open several new schools.

But the district has had to simultaneously contend with a growing presence of charter schools who have allured many local students who would have traditionally gone to CUSD.

Narducci indicated he intends to keep CUSD competitive and will work diligently to maintain the district’s enrollment levels.

“I think CUSD should be the choice for every Chandler resident,” he said, “we’ll work toward that goal.”

Outside of education, Narducci has served on the boards of various organizations including First Things First, the YMCA, Downtown Chandler Community Partnership, Chandler Education Foundation and Chandler Center for the Arts Advisory Board.

Over the last decade, Narducci’s witnessed nearly a dozen CUSD schools earn “A+” ratings from the state Department of Education and several elementary teachers receive honorable titles such as “Teacher of the Year.”   

Narducci credited outgoing Superintendent Casteel with setting a direction that has resulted in many of the district’s successes and said it will be his mission to carry on the work that Casteel has already done.

“It’s an honor to work with Camille Casteel who I feel exemplifies everything that’s right about public education and has done so for 50 years,” Narducci said.   

Board President Barbara Mozdzen said she’s excited to see Narducci ascend to his new leadership role and believes he will be the right candidate to guide CUSD out of the pandemic.

“We are confident Frank’s leadership will result in a smooth transition for the school community,” Mozdzen said.