Todd Fukai has a unique perspective on the thousands of people who make up the Cherry Creek School District.
As the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Fukai has a connection to every one of Cherry Creek Schools' 8,000-plus employees, from the district's most prominent and public administrators to the teachers, staff members and maintenance workers who keep every single building running smoothly.
"You interact with all employees. You deal with everybody from the temporary food service worker to the superintendent," Fukai said. "In a single school, there are the teachers, the secretaries, the principal, the custodians – all of them. You're able to see and get to know how all of the aspects of the district work, how all of the people come together to make the learning environment better."
Since 2007, Fukai has had an active role in the personnel side of the Cherry Creek School District. He took the role of Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources in 2015, after spending eight years working as a director in a department that touches on the daily lives of every member of the Cherry Creek workforce.
Fukai brings plenty of firsthand classroom experience to the role. After earning his bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Colorado, Fukai went to work as an elementary school teacher in the Jefferson County School District, finding time to earn his master's in curriculum, instruction, supervision and leadership from the University of Colorado at Denver. Relocating from Arvada to Elizabeth pushed Fukai and his family to shift focus professionally and personally, and in 2003, he started in Cherry Creek Schools as principal at Polton Elementary School.
"You interact with all employees. You deal with everybody from the temporary food service worker to the superintendent ... In a single school, there are the teachers, the secretaries, the principal, the custodians – all of them. You're able to see and get to know how all of the aspects of the district work, how all of the people come together to make the learning environment better."
-- Todd Fukai, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for CCSD
That move started a long career in the district, one that's always been tied to the diverse and dedicated group of people who make Cherry Creek's commitment to excellence a reality on a daily basis.
"I moved to HR as a director in 2007," Fukai recalled. "My gateway from a principal position to HR started with the recruiting piece – I was recruiting for Cherry Creek quite a bit, and that opened up the next step."
Recruiting, or traveling to conferences and events across the state and the country to find the best crop of future teachers, proved to be a critical component for Fukai's future path in the district. In traveling to different cities and communicating with prospective teachers from all backgrounds, Fukai worked to spread the message about Cherry Creek Schools. In the process, Fukai did his part to maintain the district's reputation for hiring and retaining the best and the brightest, as well as working to build a corps of teachers that accurately reflects the student body it serves.
"The recruiting side has always been an exciting challenge, trying to bring the best teachers for the district … It's great to go out and promote the district, and it's easy to promote Cherry Creek," Fukai said. "Trying to find that right fit for every school has always been exciting."
The recruiting piece led to the other components of working in the HR, a department that encompasses everything from benefits to vacation time. In 2007, he took on a full-time role as a director in the department, expanding his expertise from recruiting to the other diverse functions that make the department tick. It was the first step in a journey that eventually brought him to his current post on the Cherry Creek School District's Leadership Team, a job that touches on every element of every employee's role in the district.
"It's a lot like a move from assistant principal to principal. I was doing parts of HR when I was a director … Now, I'm providing overall leadership to the department and to the district regarding every facet," Fukai said. "Coming from the educational side, I had to expand my knowledge into things like the classified side of the equation and learning things like benefits and other functions."
For all of the added components, Fukai's core mission has remained rooted in the people and, as a result, the students they interact with every day. From addressing the nationwide teacher shortage in his continued recruitment efforts to create opportunities and practices designed specifically to help employees grow professionally, Fukai's work remains rooted in the district's mission as a place of learning. It's a commitment he shares with every other member of the District Leadership Team.
"Most of HR is around trying to support employees' ability to do their jobs," he said. "It's all geared toward ultimately making things better for kids. The recruitment piece is trying to find the best teachers, and employee relationship practices are all there to maximize the learning environment for employees and, therefore, kids. Even though I may be farther away from the students in HR than I have been as a teacher and a principal, I do know that what I do ultimately comes back to them."