Desert Sands Unified names Dr. Kelly May-Vollmar as new superintendent

Dr. Kelly May-Vollmar will assume her new role as DSUSDs superintendent on July 1.

Lilli Koch

Dr. Kelly May-Vollmar will assume her new role as DSUSD’s superintendent on July 1.

In early April, Dr. Kelly May-Vollmar was appointed Desert Sands Unified School District’s new superintendent by the Board of Education. Her first day will be on July 1. In the meantime, the 18-year veteran is working with Superintendent Scott Bailey through the end of June for a seamless transition. At present, Dr. May-Vollmar serves as the assistant superintendent of educational and technology services. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Question: How are you feeling about and how are you preparing for the responsibility of being the district superintendent?

Dr. Kelly May-Vollmar: I am thrilled, honestly. I could not be happier to be taking on this role here at Desert Sands and I think that’s the important part because it’s really all the timing for me. It wasn’t about just being a superintendent, it was about this job in this district because it’s such a special place because of the people, the staff, the families, the community and the students, like you, who make it a truly wonderful place.”

Q: For students who may not be aware of what the district superintendent is, can you please elaborate on what that role entails?

KMV: [Students’] interactions are primarily with your teachers, and rightly so. They oversee you, ensuring that you get the curriculum and the learning and the understanding and the growth that you need to graduate ready for college and career in life. At the district office level our primary goal is to support the school sites. As a superintendent, I oversee all of that, making sure that everyone within our district, whether they’re staff, a student, a parent, or community member has what they need to help all of our students be successful.

Q: With 18 years of experience with DSUSD, what have you done and how will that help you in your new position as superintendent?

KMV: I’ve been a part of this district as a parent. All of my kids went to Deserts Sand schools and graduated from Desert Sands schools, so I have that perspective. I live in the community, so I have the perspective of a community member. I think the thing that is beneficial is I have spent time in all of the roles that I am now helped to oversee and support, and I think that’s really unique.

Q: Why did you decide to apply for this position? Have you always tried working towards this?

KMV: Actually, I have not always wanted to be a superintendent. Really, it was all about it being in Desert Sands. I wasn’t going out looking for superintendent jobs all over the place, I love the job that I have. I love the team that I work with and I enjoy the work that I get to do.  And I felt like right now what our community needs, what our staff needs, what our students need: consistency and somebody who is deeply invested in and cares about our district, and that made me want this job.

Q: What influenced you to develop your career in education as a whole?

KMV: I worked as a volunteer art mom, so I came in once a week and I taught art to all the schools and all the students in the first grade. That offered me two opportunities, one is that I got to spend time around the staff, and I was so inspired by the work that they did. I just felt like they were such heroes, to be able to participate in such a noble career. Additionally, I loved teaching. I had a great passion for that, so that [experience] started me on my journey.

Q: What do you see as your biggest opportunity at DSUSD as the new superintendent?

KMV: I think one opportunity that’s really important is that Desert Sands has a great reputation for being an innovative district and it’s important that we continue to focus on that. As we do it helps us to make sure that we are providing educational opportunities that are relevant. That is preparing our students for what comes next, whether it’s college or career, so we have to maintain our focus on that. [Coming out of COVID-19], we have a great opportunity to ensure that we fill in those gaps, for every single student wherever they might be, and that will be our focus. 

Q: How do you hope to tackle the mental health and academic challenges and pressures put on students, as they continue navigating through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?

KMV: One of the things that will be really important is listening and giving students a chance to talk and that’s going to be important in shaping what our support for students looks like. We can try and guess what might be meaningful to you, but there’s a lot more wisdom in letting you tell us what would be meaningful to you… I think it’s important that we’ve offered a lot of resources but I think that we can do a better job of making them available every day in every class and I don’t know that we’ve done that yet, but again, I want to hear what the students think and what the staff thinks before we finalize those plans.

Q: What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing our school districts today?

KMV: I think what goes along with that [mental health issues] is just school connectedness because, as I mentioned, we spent some time in isolation and we all know that when you feel connected to school and you feel like you’re in the presence of adults that support, care, and are there for you, that makes that process of learning and being your best and getting through day by day with all the stresses that you encounter that much easier.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing for you or what are you looking forward to most with working at DSUSD?

KMV: Everything we do, every decision we make, every new initiative that we take on. It really is all about student success and student well being, so when I get to celebrate students and get to be a part of celebrating those great outcomes, there’s nothing better in a day than

Q: Do you have any immediate goals for the district?

KMV: My immediate goals are to work with Superintendent Scott Bailey, who will be here through the end of June. We’ll work on a great transition plan, ensuring that it is seamless and works for everyone in the district. But the most important thing is to listen and to hear what’s important to other people, and then we will plan from there.

Q: Do you have any long-term goals?

KMV: Our focus for the next few years is ensuring that every single one of our students reads by third grade. It’s going to take more than five minutes to accomplish that. We have some great plans in place, we’re taking a multiple pronged approach for that. We’ve just started the work and the planning, but that’ll be something that will take us some time to get there, but we will get there.

Q: How do you plan to be accountable and accessible to students, teachers and the families?

KMV: I’m available to people and so just continuing to lead the way I always have. I have to be accessible to spend time with the people, and listen to the people.

Q: On a light-hearted note, what is a personal interest or passion that people might be interested to learn about you?

KMV: I have a couple of passions. One probably wouldn’t be surprising, but I love to read. That’s one of my favorite things to do, but one that might be surprising is I love to go fly fishing with my husband. It’s therapeutic. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s very calming, very relaxing and I enjoy it quite a bit. A little camping and a little fishing will do wonders.

Q: Is there anything that you would like the students to know about you?

KMV: One of the things I would like the students to know is, I understand how stressful things can be. So, like high school students, you have a lot going on. There’s sports, there’s hobbies, there’s clubs, there’s friends and then, of course, there’s school. It is the platform that you need to be able to attend to do anything that you can do in life. As much as we want to show up every day and give our very, very best to you so that you can be successful, I would encourage every student to show up every day and give their very best to ensure that they’re successful as well.