BY DAVID RAMIREZ MATUS
Alfredo I. Velasquez has served as Santa Cruz County School Superintendent for the past six years, an elected position he earned after a long and successful educational career. The mission of the Arizona County School Superintendent is to provide quality administrative fiscal and educational services in partnership with schools, educators, and communities to effectively improve student achievement.
Velasquez, a native of the county, attended Nogales public schools, which included Lincoln Elementary School, Wade Carpenter Middle School, and Nogales High School where he graduated from in 1976. “I was very fortunate, when I graduated to receive a scholarship to attend Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California,” said Velasquez. After two years of his postgraduate education, Velasquez decided to venture into the workforce and halted his education for a small period of time. His departure from education saw Velasquez working in the retail business for a major department store in California, and later saw his return to Santa Cruz County to work as retail buyer for Capin Mercantile Corporation.
In 1984, Velasquez made another change in his career when he began working as the MIS Coordinator with the Santa Cruz County Job Training Partnership Act. As part of the job, he was responsible for the Summer Youth Program, which placed students in various local, state and federal agencies to obtain life skills and gain work experience. “For a period of ten years I was able to work very closely with the students which sparked an interest in continuing my education and pursuing a teaching career,” said Velasquez. “It was not until 1988 when my father passed away, that I made a promise to him that I would continue my education,” said Velasquez.
In early 1988, Velasquez enrolled in Prescott College, while working full time. Velasquez made true to his promise by receiving a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education in 1993. “I was then hired by Nogales Unified School District to teach at Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Elementary where I taught for thirteen years,” said Velasquez. Under the leadership of Mrs. Annette Barber who encouraged his passion for teaching and became a guiding force in his teaching and administrative career. During his tenure at Coronado, Velasquez was a grade level leader, curriculum coordinator, writing specialist, student council sponsor, tutor, after school program coordinator and Junior Olympics coach.“ During this time I continued my education and received my first Masters in Multicultural Education in 1995 from Northern Arizona University,” said Velasquez. In 2001, he decided to pursue his second Masters degree, this one focusing on Educational Leadership through the NAU extension program in Tucson. The second master’s degree opened new possibilities for Velasquez as he was now interested in becoming an educational administrator and leader.
In 2005, Velasquez decided to pursue a political career and ran for Santa Cruz School Superintendent. Of the fifteen County School Superintendents in the State of Arizona, he is the only Hispanic elected to this position. Under the provisions of the Arizona Revised Statutes Title 15, the County School Superintendent serves as the fiscal agent for the school districts by processing expense and payroll vouchers, reconciling cash balances with the County Treasurer’s Office, making daily deposits for the districts, verifying and transmitting completion reports to the Arizona Department of Education, maintaining teacher and administrator certification records of effective dates and expiration dates, overseeing governing board elections, and working closely with districts with override, unification and bond elections, making appointments to governing board vacancies and organizing and hosting special events such as the County Spelling Bee and Teacher of the Year as well as coordinating and overseeing the student art projects at the County Fair. The success of these events would not be possible without the commitment and dedication of his office staff Ms. Denisse Melendez and Ms. Alexa Gallardo.
As part of his responsibilities, he has overseen the educational services of students enrolled in non-traditional programs such as Pimeria Alta Academy under the leadership of Ms. Vanessa Rothstein which has provided opportunities to meet the unique educational needs of students, and the Educational Program within the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Detention Center which is under the administration of Ms. Danna Gallardo. This program with the collaboration of the juvenile court authorities and the probation department provides educational services for adjudicated youth.
In addition to these responsibilities, he has advocated and supported five additional initiatives through his office. The APV GEAR UP Program under the directorship of Ms. Janet Annett provided an awareness, guidance, and encouragement for students and parents on how to prepare for post secondary education. Ms. Annett has also been instrumental in organizing and planning professional development for teachers throughout Santa Cruz County through a grant funded through the Arizona Department of Education. The HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters), is an early childhood program, which has served over 180 children and families in Santa Cruz County under the stewardship of Ms. Rothstein and Ms. Vilma Valera. “As a former primary grade teacher I know how critical it is to build a strong foundation for children in the early years of development,” Velasquez said. Another initiative is the Mix Up Nutrition Program, which is overseen by Chris Bachelier. “Health and nutrition play a critical role in the success of any student,” said Velasquez.
The success of these programs has been through the great partnership and collaboration that Velasquez has established with the district superintendents. He has also maintained a professional relationship with all district business managers by meeting with them on a quarterly basis to discuss how best to meet the financial services provided through his office.
Velasquez is also an active member of the Nogales Rotary Club, Nogales Lions Club, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Santa Cruz County Workforce Development, Santa Cruz Training Programs and the Nogales High School Hall of Fame.
Velasquez was selected Teacher of the Year at Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Elementary School in 2001 and 2005, and was also awarded the Jackie Scott Ambassador of Excellence Award both years. In 2001, he was recognized by the Arizona Education Foundation as one of top ten teachers in the State of Arizona. He has also been inducted into the Nogales High School Hall of Fame. There have been numerous acknowledgments that Velasquez has received throughout the years that speak to his credibility and professionalism in respect to his career and commitment to the students of Santa Cruz County.
“My mother passed away a year ago and I credit her for instilling in me the importance of a good education,” said Velasquez. “Success is cultivated by the amazing people that surround you. I credit my parents, my late brother Humberto and Emilio, my students and parents, friends, family, and former colleagues for their contributions throughout this fascinating journey and for playing an important role in making me the person that I am today. I also want to thank my leadership team and office staff for believing in my vision and for all their support these last six years,” said Velasquez.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been given to serve as Santa Cruz County School Superintendent, but at the end of the day its about the students and the educational communities of Santa Cruz County that I look forward to serving in my capacity and providing the educational services that will enhance and improve academic achievement,” Velasquez said.
For more information about the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Office, please visit their website or call (520) 375-7940.