After five years, Payson Unified School Superintendent Greg Wyman will leave the district at the end of the current school year to take the reins at the J.O. Combs District near Queen Creek.
When Wyman came to the district in 2014, he had hoped it would be his last job before retirement, but family concerns drove him to make the change.
“I think the world of Payson and the people. It’s been a wonderful experience,” said Wyman. “My dad had some health issues that came up this summer. Most of my career decisions have been based on family.”
The decision to leave surprised PUSD board president Barbara Underwood, but she had an inkling when Wyman took uncharacteristic days off to visit family.
“It was a surprise,” said Underwood, then she changed her mind. “It was and it wasn’t. He is usually there morning through night all the time, but he took a couple of days off to be with his dad.”
She said Wyman had also expressed regret he wasn’t physically closer to his dad who lives in the southern part of the state.
What Underwood most admired about Wyman? His commitment to the whole district.
“I think he’s been fair with all programs. Whether it is special education or gifted education or sports or fine arts or whether it’s CTE, I feel he has definitely been fair with allocating funds,” she said.
Not only did Wyman support programs in the district, he also supported programs that enhanced the district through outside sources.
Aspire Arizona Foundation board member Sanja Long will miss Wyman as he supported the mission of the education organization from the get-go. Aspire Arizona partners with Payson High School and Gila Community College to bring dual-credit classes with credits for both high school graduation and college to the PUSD students. The dual-credit program started during Wyman’s administration.
“All I can say, when we first had the meeting that included Jeff Simon (PHS principal) and Pam Butterfield (GCC Payson campus dean) and the Aspire board, he always said, ‘This is great, whatever the district can do to help,’” said Long. “He embraced it.”
Underwood, who remains president of the PUSD board, said despite a transition from the old to new board, she plans on hitting the ground running in the race to hire a new superintendent.
“The new board doesn’t take effect until Jan. 14, so we figured if we met on Dec. 17 we can get the ball rolling on advertising for the position,” she said. “You want to be out there early ... and hopefully get better candidates.”
At the Dec. 10 meeting, the board voted to accept Wyman’s resignation. Underwood plans to get an ad out with the Arizona School Boards Association during the holiday season, just in case someone has an interest in finding a new job.
In the past, the district not only had an internal interview process, but involved the community as well. Underwood said the district held a community meeting with all of the superintendent candidates then invited members of the community to fill out a rubric to identify their favorite candidates. The board checked in on the community’s feedback after they interviewed all candidates.
“It is important we do the community process,” she said. “We did our interviews and then we looked at what the community said. We often said, ‘Oh — look the community agreed with our top two picks.’”
This will be the fourth superintendent hiring process Underwood has participated in during her tenure on the board.
Long said she really appreciated that not only was the community involved at the hiring process, but that Wyman continued that commitment to the community throughout his time at PUSD.
“When he came to town and put a bunch of people in the community on a committee, I thought it was so innovative to think about what students in 20 years would need,” she said. “To me, I felt he really has a passion for education and these kids.”
Underwood said Wyman showed his support of the kids and staff by showing up.
“I really liked that he got out and tried to attend as many functions as he could,” she said. “The Christmas party, sporting events, and the science fair — he tried to be out and visible.”
She said he walked his talk to inspire staff.
“He leads by example. He is there all hours to make sure the job is done,” she said.
When asked what words of wisdom Wyman would give an incoming PUSD superintendent he said, “I think biggest thing (and) what I try to do with my leadership style is ... trying to create a culture where people are empowered.”
Some of the things Wyman has implemented to empower staff and the community — the Heroes of Education award, longtime retiring employee recognition and individual campus recognitions.
Wyman predicts the biggest challenge the new superintendent will have to grapple with is one that has plagued the district for years — declining enrollment.
“There are not enough jobs up here,” he said. “So long as you lose kids, that continues to make the budget tighter and tighter.”
He’s proud of some of the legacies he has left.
“I feel we are positioned well with technology, with (high school) CTE and more extracurricular activities than most districts this size,” he said. “We have good elementary schools and middle school and the alternative (high) school PCS.”
He ended by praising the people of Rim Country.
“The bottom line is ... we’ve got great people here,” he said.