Superintendent search 2018
Documenting the Governing Board search for the next superintendent

Board selects Dr. Ember Conley

Dr. Ember ConleyOn March 6, the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board unanimously voted to enter into contract negotiations with Dr. Ember Conley as the next superintendent of schools.

"We had three strong finalists, which made our decision incredibly difficult," says Governing Board President Ben Smith. "The board looks forward to working with Dr. Conley as we lead the district to future success."

Conley is currently superintendent at Park City School District in Utah. Previously she served as the deputy superintendent, director of assessment and an elementary school principal at Maricopa Unified School District in Arizona. She began her education career as a classroom teacher in Colorado. Conley received her Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University, her elementary teaching certificate from Fort Lewis College, her Master of Arts in K-12 Administration and Policy from University of Colorado Denver, and her education doctorate in curriculum and leadership from Argosy University, Phoenix.

"It is an honor to be selected by the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board as the new superintendent," Conley says. "I am excited and humbled beyond words to begin the responsibilities. Working together with the students, staff, parents and community, we will achieve the vision to provide unprecedented excellence in education."

Pending contract negotiations, Conley will assume her duties as superintendent July 1.

Meet the Finalists livestream

Watch the livestream Q&A with the finalists for superintendent of schools held. Monday, March 5. The program was available live at:

  • Cox cable channel 99

Finalists named

At a special board meeting Feb. 22, 2018, the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board selected three finalists for the position of superintendent of schools.

The finalists are:

  • Dr. Anna Battle, current assistant superintendent of operations at Tempe Union High School District
  • Dr. Ember Conley, current superintendent of Park City School District in Utah
  • Dr. Shaun Holmes, current assistant superintendent of human resources at Mesa Public Schools

Meet the Finalists

Dr. Ember ConleyEmber Conley

Dr. Ember Conley has served Park City (Utah) School District as Superintendent for the last five years and is a former middle school math teacher, high school principal, elementary principal, assessment director, and deputy superintendent overseeing safety, federal programs, secondary curriculum, and principal mentoring. She was awarded the Arizona School Administrators Outstanding Dissertation in 2010 for her research in the learning styles of Native American students. She currently serves on the Executive Board for the Horace Mann League and AASA Governing Board. Additionally she is the Past President of Utah Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (UASCD) and served on the National ASCD Nominations and Policy and Advocacy Committees. She received her Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University, her elementary teaching certificate from Fort Lewis College, her Master of Art in K-12 Administration and Policy from University of Colorado Denver, and her Education Doctorate in curriculum and leadership from Argosy University, Phoenix.

Shaun HolmesDr. Shaun Holmes

Dr. Shaun Holmes is the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for Mesa Public Schools. He is responsible for certificated and classified staff, substitute and volunteer services, and employee benefits and risk management. He is a member of the superintendent's cabinet, and leads the meet and confer process for certificated and classified staff. Dr. Holmes oversees all projects related to human resources at the direction of the superintendent. Previously he served as a human resources director, elementary school principal, high school assistant principal and high school mathematics teacher. Dr. Holmes has taught at or led Title I and non-Title I schools, and has experience working with pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Management from Arizona State University, and Master of Education and Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University.

Anna BattleDr. Anna Battle

Dr. Battle is currently the Assistant Superintendent of Operations for Tempe Union High School District overseeing student affairs, athletics, activities, safety, transportation, maintenance and operations, and sustainability. She was previously the award -winning principal of Desert Vista High School and Tempe High School. She also taught twelve-years as a special education, reading, and English teacher and coached five varsity sports. She co-authored the book "The Principal as Student Advocate" and published a dissertation, "Trust and Leadership." In addition, Dr. Battle serves on several organizations’ boards: The Centers for Habilitation, National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), and Arizona Interscholastic Association NFHS Representative. She was an adjunct professor for Arizona State (ASU) and Grand Canyon Universities (ASU) and an advisor for interns for Northern Arizona State University. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Special Education, Masters of Education (Reading Endorsement), and Doctorate in Supervision and Administration from ASU.


In November 2017, Dr. Michael Cowan, superintendent, announced he would be retiring from Mesa Public Schools after an illustrious 30-year career in education.

The Governing Board has selected the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) to help with the search process for a new superintendent.

The projected timeline is:
Jan. 3 Post position nationally 
Jan. 8 Open community survey 
Jan. 23 Close community survey
Jan. 24  Close position 
Jan. 29 Review community survey results 
Feb. 6-7 Review applicants and select interviewees 
Feb. 20-22 Interview candidates and select finalists 
March 5   Meet the Finalists live-stream Q&A 
March 6 Finalist interviews and possible selection

Results of community survey

presentation to the Governing Board
January 29, 2018

If you would like a copy of the 212-page report, please email Helen Hollands at

Article announcing Dr. Cowan's retirement