CAMP VERDE - Sara Marcum heard good things about Camp Verde Unified School District from a pretty good source - a cousin who teaches in the district.
With the position of elementary school principal opening due to the retirement of Debi Pottorff, Bryan Pelfrey, a teacher in the middle school, started talking to Marcum, who has 22 years of education experience.
"I loved what he had to say," Marcum says now. "He said it was a student-focused district. Even when there hasn't been a lot of money, there have been opportunities for the kids. They never said no to taking the kids out on field trips."
After looking into the district, Marcum decided to "go for it" and applied to be the new principal.
CVUSD Superintendent Amber Lee was impressed with Marcum's credentials and experience. "And she has a background in data," Lee says. "I thought she would be a good fit."
The CVUSD Governing Board approved Marcum's hiring during Pottorff's last meeting as principal.
Marcum is all about "uniting, working together and communication," she says. "I understand what our school and students have to do to close the achievement gap. We have to interpret data to use that to drive instruction."
A Phoenix native, Marcum started her career teaching fourth through sixth grade. "When I was younger I thought I would be a teacher or a lawyer." she says. Still, she first studied accounting but soon shifted to education after writing a report on schools.
Marcum did not come from a privileged background and saw how an education helped her gain success and "another level of living." She wanted to pay back those who inspired and encouraged her and pay it forward to have that impact on today's students.
Marcum worked primarily in the Phoenix Elementary District as a teacher and later as an administrator. She spent six years in the Roosevelt School District, planning and opening a PreK-8th elementary as principal.
She became the parent-engagement coordinator in the Phoenix district, dealing with 13 elementary schools. Her tasks involved developing relationships with parents and community organizations to accelerate student achievement. She has always worked with Title I schools. That has meant interpreting a lot of data and translating that into the classroom experience.
Marcum is married with two grown children, one in marine biology and the other a math teacher.
Now as principal at Camp Verde Elementary, she not only has been learning the personnel and programs of a new district in the wake of a very popular principal but also is preparing for a four-day school week. That is something she has never experienced before, just like the rest of the district.
"It's very impactful having students coming into four days," she says.
The school has investigated a wide range of resources for Fridays, including the county, FitKids of Arizona, robotics and Lowell Observatory. Meetings with parents are also important as the school gets closer to Day 1.
Marcum also see the collaboration between her fifth-grade team and the middle school teachers to make student transition between the two "more seamless." That is part of her strength as a self-described "system thinker."
"We all play a part in the greater system of the district," she says. "If we want to change one thing, what else do we need to change to make that happen?"