Dr. James K. Zaharis, Ed.D., '63 

Zeta Omicron Chapter Founder




Dr. James K. Zaharis, Ed.D. Northern Arizona ’63 is recognized as a longtime leader in Arizona education.  During his 15 years as Superintendent of the Mesa Public Schools District, 1984 to 1999, oversaw the district’s growth to be the largest in the state of Arizona, growing from 50,000 to 72,000 K-12 students.  In a district that covers over 200 square miles and has over 8,000 employees, Dr. Zaharis orchestrated the funding and construction of 23 elementary schools, 6 junior high schools, and 3 senior high schools. The district currently has 56 elementary, 11 junior, and 6 senior high schools.  This rapid expansion served the explosive growth of the East-Metro Valley.  His leadership, expertise, and stewardship are embodied in his saying “The two most important things we handle are the community’s children and money.”  His other professional activities include:


The Zaharis Group, a private consulting firm - Sole Owner and President.

Mesa Unified School District – Superintendent (Ret.), Deputy Superintendent, Associate Superintendent for Educational Services, Director of Special Projects, and Director of Title I

Mesa High School - Teacher and Coach



Northern Arizona University - B.S. Psychology & History (1963)

Northern Arizona University - M.A. Ed. (1968)

Arizona State University - Ed.D. (1970)



Member of the Board of Directors of -

  • Greater Phoenix Leadership, a CEO business organization, Vice President for Education (since Feb. 2002)
  • Arizona Business and Education Coalition (ABEC)
  • The Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona, a statewide study on “Adequacy of School Funding for the State of Arizona”
  • All A’s for Arizona
  • Center for the Future of Arizona 
  • Mesa Bank-President
  • Mesa Economic Development
  • STAY in School
  • Arizona State University-Arizona Educational Information System
  • Arizona State University-East Advisory Board
  • Arizona State University-East Housing Board
  • First United State Credit Union
  • Good Samaritan Hospital Corporation and PreHab (now known as A NEW LEAF) home for prevention and rehabilitation
  • Helaman House, Inc.-past chairman of the board of directors.  The Helaman House is one of three residential treatment centers of A NEW LEAF.

Member & Past Member of-

  • East Valley Think Tank- Founding member
  • East Valley Partnership- Founding member & past president
  • Good Samaritan Hospital Corporation
  • United Way & Mesa United Way Strategic Planning Committee
  • The American College Testing Service
  • Advisory Board to Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne
  • Advisory Board to the State Advisory Board on Capital Financing and State Testing and Assessment
  • Board of Advisors for the National Center for Family Literacy
  • Region 2025 Vision Committee for the Maricopa Association of Governments
  • Mesa Rotary
  • Mesa Chamber of Commerce
  • Advisory Council of the American College Testing Program
  • Special Assistant to the president of ASU East
  • Special Assistant to the president of Mesa Community College
  • Primary author and consultant to- Arizona P-20 Initiative (to improve and align Arizona’s education systems from early childhood through postsecondary education as well as align Arizona’s education systems to the expectations of 21st century employers)
  • “Educating Arizona”, a statewide, yearlong media campaign1
  • Development of the Arizona Educational Leadership Academy
  • Governor’s Task Force on School Readiness

Provided research briefs for-

  • Greater Phoenix Leadership
  • East Valley Think Tank
  • Arizona Department of Education
  • Has served as a consultant to various universities, school districts, and corporations in over 47 states and 5 foreign countries, in areas such as technology, educational planning, career education, differentiated staffing, teacher evaluations, negotiations, educational change, needs assessment, performance contracting, accountability and job analysis. 

Visiting professor at-

  • Arizona State University
  • Mesa Community College
  • American Association of School Administrators
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


  • Honored by the naming of James K. Zaharis Elementary School, 9410 E. McKellips Road, Mesa, AZ 85207  http://www.mpsaz.org/zaharis/about/  http://www.mpsaz.org/zaharis/about/jameskzaharis/
  • Mesa High School Teacher/Coach of the Year
  • Named to the “100 + for “The Valley’s Most Influential Business Leaders” in Education, The Business Journal (Phoenix,
  • Named to the “The Executive Educators 100” as one of the best school managers in North America
  • All-Arizona Superintendent
  • Distinguished Professor to the American Association of School Administrators’ National Academy of School Executives.
  • Cox Communication’s Excellence in Leadership Award
  • Rotary International Community Service Award
  • Award of Honor for Outstanding Contributions to Education through Exemplary Relations Practice from the National School of Public Relations Association