After nine years leading the largest school district in Arizona, Mesa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Cowan has announced he will be retiring at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
“I have had the distinguished honor of leading the finest educational institution in Arizona,” Cowan said. “As I begin this next chapter in my life, I will leave knowing each dedicated Mesa Public Schools employee will continue the important work of educating every child and preparing them for college, career and community.”
Before becoming superintendent in 2009, Cowan served as associate superintendent, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, director of science, social studies and world languages, and district science specialist. He joined the district in 1988 as a teacher, educating students at Irving, Lehi and Porter elementary schools.
“In my 30 years at Mesa, I have watched the needs of our learners grow and change,” Cowan continued. “It has been my unwavering passion to ensure we provide appropriate services for all students, especially those most at risk.”
Under Cowan’s leadership, the district has established innovative programs and comprehensive services to support student achievement. The district has widely adopted Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, a program that focuses on developing a growth mindset in students and a college readiness culture in schools. Through Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), the district has increased enrollment of underrepresented populations in advanced high school courses. Most recently, Cowan spearheaded the launch of new grading practices that best represent a student’s level of proficiency on established skill-based standards.
Results of these efforts are reflected in the district’s many National Merit Scholarship finalists and Flinn and Questbridge scholars, 27 A+ Schools of Excellence named by the Arizona Educational Foundation, 16 Civic Engagement Schools recognized by the Arizona Department of Education and 2017 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Franklin at Brimhall Elementary.
Cowan is widely regarded as an expert on public policy and innovative educational practices. He is a member of the national Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium that advises federal legislators, sits on The College Board’s Superintendent Advisory Council and currently serves as president of the Arizona Association of School Administrators. He also serves in a leadership capacity for many community organizations, including Mesa United Way, Mesa Chamber of Commerce, Mesa Public Schools Foundation, Boy Scouts of America and Arizona Brainfood.
Beginning in July, Cowan and his wife, Amy, will be leading a three-year mission for their church in a yet-to-be-determined location.
The Mesa Public Schools Governing Board will discuss plans for identifying a new superintendent at a future meeting, said Heidi Hurst, supervisor of communications and marketing for MPS.