Brad Sale has been named the new Superintendent of the Parker Unified School District. Sale, who is currently the Assistant Superintendent, was selected at a meeting of the District Governing Board Dec. 19. He will replace Jim Lotts, whose retirement becomes effective July 1 after 39 years with the district.
Sale is an experienced educator with 20 years with the Parker School District. He has served as a teacher, a football and wrestling coach, Assistant Principal at Parker High School and Principal at Wallace Elementary School before being appointed Assistant Superintendent in 2011. One of his areas of expertise is school financing.
A native of South Dakota, Sale has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Education from Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D. His major was Social Science Composite with minors in History and Mathematics. He also has a Master’s of Education Degree in Educational Leadership, with Distinction, from Northern Arizona University. He has also worked in the private sector, managing a Subway restaurant in Aberdeen, S.D.
Sale sat down with the Pioneer Dec. 27 to discuss what he sees with the district. He said he’d like to see more career and technical education. Some of the challenges he sees are rebuilding the district’s infrastructure and getting qualified teachers to come to the district.
Career and technical education, or CTE, is something Sale said is needed in this area. There are many skilled job openings in the area that are going unfilled because there are no qualified people to do them. These include auto mechanics, electricians and welders.
“You don’t need to go to a four-year college for these jobs,” he said.
While Parker High School can teach much about these jobs, Sale said the school needs to be able to send their students to trade schools where they can complete their education and earn their certificates.
There is also and need for technical education in the schools with up-to-date equipment. Students need to be taught about robotics and programming.
Sale praised Arizona Western College for offering college-level courses in areas like criminal justice to high school students at just $25 per credit hour.
The district will have to deal with its infrastructure soon, Sale said. Areas of Parker High School, Wallace Elementary School and Blake Primary School date to the 1960s and earlier, and they are showing their age.
Many classes at Parker High at taught in “temporary” classrooms that were installed in the 1970s. Sale said would be nice to replace these with new facilities that include modern safety features.
“Some time in the next 20 years, we’ll need to decide what to do,” he said.
One of the biggest challenges the district faces is getting qualified teachers to come to Parker, Sale said. There is a nationwide teacher shortage, and that’s partly because young people aren’t studying to become teachers.
“There are not a lot of young teachers graduating,” he said.
Sale said the district now has 10 long-term substitute teachers in the classrooms. He said they’re good teachers, but they aren’t certififed.
To attract new teachers, Parker has to offer salaries competitive with other, larger school districts. The Parker School District does not have a primary property tax due to the district receiving Federal Impact Aid because of the Colorado River Indian Reservation, but Sale said a primary property tax could be in the future due to the need to increase pay for teachers and staff.
He added a primary property tax would be a last resort.
“We’ll do everything we can prior to that,” he said.
Another problem with attracting new teachers, Sale said, is the high housing costs in the area. He said that, along with lower salaries, could be a deterrent to a new teacher with a family and a lot of student loan debt.
Sale said the political climate is something of a challenge for public schools.
“People don’t look at schools the same way they did 20 to 40 years ago,” he said.
Sale also questioned the need for “over-testing” students.
“We’re trying to turn 7-year-olds into robots,” he said.
As for the good things about Parker, Sale said without hesitation: “The people.”
Sale said he’s seen how much the people of Parker and the surrounding area care about their children and their schools. They eagerly support them both. He said Parker is lucky to be a medium-sized district with a small-town feel.
Sale said he and his wife, Dawn, and their two sons have made Parker their home.
“I look forward to working for Parker Unified and leading the district to where it needs to be,” he said.