the people

Who were the people who changed the direction of Camelback High School?

The Principal Who Made it All Happen

Dr. Chad Gestson is originally from Seattle, WA. He and his wife, Megan, joined Teach For America in 2001 and moved to Phoenix. Chad taught in a South Phoenix school district before accepting his first educational leadership position, an assistant principalship in west-central Phoenix. After two years as an assistant principal, Chad became a middle school principal in the same district. In 2009, Chad was named the principal at Camelback High School.

After 5 successful years as Camelback’s principal, Chad was hired by Dr. Scribner as Director of Leadership for the entire district. A year later Dr. Gestson was chosen to succeed Dr. Scribner as Superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, a position he holds today.

Chad holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. He holds two Master’s degrees, one in Curriculum and Instruction from ASU and another in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. In 2009, Chad completed his doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. He and his wife have two children, Olivia and Andrew.

Read his full bio here.

The Superintendent

In 2009, Dr. Kent Paredes Scribner was the superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, a post he had held since 2008. Phoenix Union is the largest high school district in Arizona, serving over 27,000 students in grades 9 through 12.

Scribner led several successful educational initiatives during his tenure. Phoenix Union recently became the only district in Arizona to offer International Baccalaureate programs at two schools, North High School and Betty Fairfax High School. Central High School became Arizona’s first Cambridge International Centre, adopting the prestigious Cambridge Curriculum. The first ever Montessori High School program in Arizona was established at Camelback High School in 2012.

The local business and professional people

Phoenix is one of the lucky communities to have a chapter of Social Venture Partners (SVPAZ) an international philanthropic group which provides its subject charities support via both funding and talent. SVPAZ is essentially an angel investor for charitable causes. In Phoenix, SVPAZ has established an unusual direction called its Education Affinity Group.

This education group’s goal is to find ways to support and improve the local public schools. SVPAZ members were concerned since their schools had been deteriorating in student outcomes. Their schools had also been subjected to massive budget cuts by the state legislature as it reacted to the collapse of state revenues due to the crash of 2008 and as it sought to make the state more attractive to business relocations and start ups by reducing various tax rates.

SVPAZ’s Education Affinity Group decided in 2009 to make Camelback High School its focus of attention and for the next five years, it’s members worked closely with Dr. Gestson to design and implement numerous programs and clubs at the school.




As SVPAZ moved on to work with the District to assist in improving student outcomes elsewhere, a number of the SVPAZ participants stayed at Camelback to continue the successful efforts there. They formed the Camelback High School Community Network which has both continued the programs launched by SVPAZ and assisted with new projects, such as the Computer Coding Club and the Montessori program’s website.

Join the Conversation

This website is a case study of a school transformation experience. The conclusion so far is that schools can benefit greatly from the time, talent and treasure of those in the local community.

Can the student outcome improvements generated at Camelback High School can be sustained and replicated? Or were the improvements only due to a unique synergy among this particular group of highly-motivated students, teachers, community leaders and an uninhibited principal?

Let's discuss.

Social Venture Partners Arizona


For inquiries about the Success is Mandatory program case study, Camelback High School or the Phoenix District, please email Kellie Burris: