SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Alexa Cunningham is on a list of finalists for the Peoria Unified School District in Arizona, where she taught and served as a principal 17 years of her career.
The district’s governing board announced the four finalists on Wednesday and will make its decision following interviews with the candidates on Dec. 9 and 10 in central Arizona.
“She wasn’t actively looking, but is from Arizona and her parents are there, so when she saw the opening there, she decided to throw her name in the hat,” Salt Lake City School District spokeswoman Yandary Chatwin said Friday. “It’s home for her.”
Cunningham was appointed head of the Salt Lake City School District in 2016 following a nationwide search spanning five months and netting 33 applicants. She contracted to stay in Salt Lake for two years, but Chatwin said Cunningham is willing and happy to stay in Utah for longer, too.
“She is happy in Salt Lake,” Chatwin said. “She’s done so much good here and I know she would love to stay here.”
Cunningham served the 10 years prior to her Salt Lake position as superintendent at two Arizona school districts. She graduated from Southern Methodist University in Texas, and later received a doctorate degree in education at Arizona State University.
When she was appointed, then Salt Lake school board president Heather Bennett, who has since passed away, said Cunningham “has a personal passion to serve as a superintendent of a diverse urban district focused on high achievement, and she is experienced in building a positive, respectful, culturally competent district that is inclusive of all stakeholders and committed to providing quality education for all students.”
“My vision is to provide all students with quality instruction and real-world experiences in order to prepare them to compete and prosper in a global economy,” Cunningham said in a statement issued when she was confirmed as superintendent in Salt Lake City.
At the time, she was said to have “political experience” to better deal with Salt Lake’s then-struggling district.
The Arizona districts in which Cunningham served were more diversely populated than the Salt Lake City School District, which has nearly 58% of students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch, and 58% of students are non-Caucasian.
The Peoria Unified School District is looking to replace the current superintendent who announced plans to retire at the end of the year.
Other finalists for the position are Jason Reynolds, currently serving as Unified school district’s deputy superintendent; Arsenio Romero, a superintendent in New Mexico; and Ann Arbor, Michigan, superintendent Scott Menzel.