Dr. Ember Conley
2011, Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership
Argosy University, Phoenix
Superintendent at Mesa Public Schools
“At Argosy University, Phoenix, I found who I was supposed to be.”
School Superintendent Built Career on Providing Student Support, Increasing Graduation Rates
Dr. Ember Conley recently started a new position as superintendent at Mesa Public Schools in Mesa, Arizona. She applied for the job because it brought her back to her home state—and it continues her student-service career, which began with teaching at-risk sixth graders.
While Conley started in instruction, her school career took a turn when a principal asked her to sub in the district’s administrative office. She soon was appointed assistant principal—then moved into the principal’s office in an interim position. “I served as a high school principal for five years then moved into an elementary school principal job,” she said. During this time, she began working toward a Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership from Argosy University, Phoenix—and adopted a baby son.
Conley chose to attend Argosy University because it allowed her to earn her degree while balancing her busy work and home life. “The schedule is set up for working professionals,” she stated. “We worked in teams on theory and practice. And we built strong friendships.”
She mentioned that her flexible schedule allowed her to attend classes on weekends. Conley recommended that students considering the program should stay focused on their goals. “[Build upon] your theory and work history—it is relevant.”
After completing her degree in 2011, Conley was appointed elementary school principal in the Maricopa School District—then interim superintendent. “I served on national committees, and through networking, moved to Park City, Utah to work as a superintendent,” she stated.
She added that she surrounds herself with a team “extremely intense, dedicated and professional people who are engaged in the community.” Her successes include increasing graduation rates and raising English-language arts tests scores in the districts she’s worked for. Conley has also established coding programs, gifted and talented student curriculum and all-day kindergarten. “I’ve focused on providing mental health support for students, making available social workers, counselors and health care,” she added.
Conley is the first member of her family to earn a college degree. “My family believed in the value of education and pushed me toward higher education,” she mentioned. Ember stated that the support she received while in school pushed her to succeed and thrive in Argosy University’s flexible learning environment. “My professors were interested in me. They were truly multitaskers—and it was fun!”
She continued that “the instructors provided guidance and gave valuable critiques—and suggested that current students “have [professors] be forthcoming with their insights. Enjoy the friendships. Transfer the knowledge you gain into new environments.”
Ember 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. She is the Past President Utah Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (UASCD) and served on the National ASCD Nominations and Policy and Advocacy Committees.
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