Scottsdale Unified School District voters will elect three individuals to serve on the educational entity’s governing board Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Board member candidates are: incumbents George Jackson and Barbara Perleberg and challengers Allyson Beckham, Sandy Kravetz and Mary Roaf.
School board members serve a four-year term on the board. Members Pam Kirby and Kim Hartmann’s terms end at the end of 2018.
Scottsdale Schools includes 31 schools serving about 24,500 students, according to the district’s website. More than 3,000 people are employed by the district, including about 1,550 teachers. It is one of the largest employers in the city of Scottsdale.
The district’s boundaries include most, but not all of, the city of Scottsdale, town of Paradise Valley and sections of the cities of Phoenix and Tempe.
Additionally, Scottsdale Schools voters will also be deciding upon a $229 million bond initiative and an $8.5 million capital override on the Nov. 8 ballot.
During a June 7 governing board meeting, the school board members voted to ask taxpayers to help fund needs in and out of the classroom district officials say are critical.
The vote came after months of discussion about aging infrastructure, failing students and declining enrollment. Conversations have already resulted in the consolidation of two schools, the inclusion of gifted programs and world languages, and a new literacy plan.
Read below for an introduction about the candidates. Nearing the election, the Scottsdale Independent will be hosting a candidate forum and running weekly question-and-answer series involving each of the candidates.
Ms. Roaf could not be reached for questions at the time of publication.
Ms. Beckham is a graduate of the now-closed Scottsdale High School, and is a third-generation Arizonan. She graduated from the University of Arizona and has a background in commercial banking and finance.
“I’m running for the Scottsdale school board because I believe I can make a difference in the education of our children,” said Ms. Beckham in an Aug. 16 phone interview. “I want to be a part of a team effort.”
Ms. Beckham said her financial background will help provide expertise in the district’s spending.
“Spending our money on what matters can be done in a more efficient way. I can use my financial background to help prioritize where the funds should go,” she said.
One of her beliefs is that strong leadership at the top of the organization drives strong leadership in the classroom. Her personal experience in the district has shaped some of her campaign platforms.
“I believe effective principals and teachers are the bedrock of our education system,” she said.
“Even though my own children are no longer in district schools, I have remained involved in SUSD, and have attended board meetings and have been frustrated by the attitudes in former leadership. I also see this starting to change with the new superintendent and want to build on this progress.”
Ms. Beckham wants to focus on goals and objectives, and would like to see the district measure student achievement. The mother of three considers herself to have a unique point of view to bring to the board because she has been involved with public schools, charter schools and private schools in Arizona.
“In the past they didn’t have a plan to quantify and measure student achievement, and I believe we need to have concrete objectives and goals,” she said. “And, ways to measure student academic achievement, growth and progress.”
“I really want to focus on making sure that we have an effective teacher in every single classroom so that when the student is going to school, their time being spent there is productive.”
Mr. Jackson is running for his second term on the Scottsdale Schools governing board. He is a finance professional, and a father of two SUSD students.
He is also a member of the Scottsdale Charros, a civic group that is involved with the school district. Previously, he served on the superintendent’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Group.
“The reason I’m running is because I feel like we’ve positioned Scottsdale Schools for strong growth going forward, and as I’ve worked as a business person to bring accountability and work hard to make sure the school district is efficient,” Mr. Jackson said in an Aug. 15 interview.
Mr. Jackson says he wants another term on the school board to help support the strong leadership the superintendent and board have been working towards. One of his personal goals is to get Scottsdale Schools to be the No. 1 school district in Arizona, he said.
“We have been working hard on overall academic improvement across the school district and I want to support that,” he said. “I’m not an educator, but I feel like the team that we put in place is focused on improving academic achievement.”
In addition to academic achievement, Mr. Jackson is focused on creating awareness in the community about the greatness of the district.
“We’ve had more competition then we’ve ever had,” he said.
“We’ve had some years of declining enrollment and a big goal is to that situation around. We need to do a better job of telling that story, and educating parents that choosing Scottsdale Schools is a great choice.”
Mr. Jackson is also the co-founder of Business United for Scottsdale Schools — known as BUSS. It is a workforce initiative to form a collaboration between SUSD, Scottsdale Community College and local businesses in the community.
The program is starting its second year, and Mr. Jackson hopes to see it continue to grow.
“It’s designed to bring all of those entities together to support education in Scottsdale,” Mr. Jackson explained. “Our main goal is to deepen and expand the business community; essentially an initiative to bring the business community and tie it into the district, with internships, speakers, volunteers, robotics coaches and more.”
Ms. Perleberg is also seeking a second term on the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board. She is a mother of two, with one still in school at SUSD.
A true-Scottsdale native, Ms. Perleberg graduated from Arcadia High School, and went on to graduate from Arizona State University with a degree in English. Additionally, her mother also grew up in the Arcadia area and her brother is a teacher in the district.
It’s an incredible challenge, and we are currently — in the last eight months or so — have had a lot of changes in our district, changes in leadership and I’m incredibly excited about the direction and conversations we’re having,” said Ms. Perleberg in an Aug. 15 interview. “As far as the timing, it seems like we’re on an exciting new path.”
Ms. Perleberg wants to continue focusing on accountability in and out of the classroom.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of examples in our district of kids falling through the cracks. We have a lot of things to help our students but somehow, for many of our students they weren’t connecting,” she said.
“It’s going to require a lot of changes and how we make sure these students aren’t falling through the cracks year after year.” Ms. Perleberg said she plans to focus on the needs of each individual learner.
“Whatever level they’re at as a learner, they should be growing,” she said. “Taking them to the absolute potential, and that they are learning to the best of their ability.”
Scottsdale is Ms. Perleberg’s home, she said.
“It just seems like the right thing to do, and I consider this a real honor.”
Ms. Kravetz is a graduate of Chaparral High School, and has two children who attended Scottsdale Schools. She has a background in public relations and corporate consumer products.
“For me it’s a natural progression, I’ve been involved with the district for a long time, since my kids were in elementary school,” said Ms. Kravetz during an Aug. 17 interview.
Ms. Kravetz has served as APT president at Sequoya Elementary and Chaparral High School, in addition to being a part of the site council for Sequoya, Cocopah and Chaparral, and being a member of the Scottsdale Unified School District Parent Marketing Committee, among others. She currently is a volunteer at Coronado High School.
“I think parents in our community are still looking for accountability,” she said. “They’re looking for accountability from the top down from the superintendent — any superintendent — they’re looking for accountability at all levels of the district.”
One challenge Ms. Kravetz wants to tackle is reaching the community and responsibly using the limited funds provided.
“We want a challenging curriculum for our students, no matter what level they’re at,” she said. “We want to make sure we invest our funding in our classroom. We need to put as much money as we can in our classrooms and make sure we’re doing that year-in and year-out.”
Providing differentiated professional development for the district’s teachers is also crucial, she says.
“We want to maintain and grow our enrollment numbers,” she said. “We have great teachers and we can provide for our students. We have great programs in our district and we need to let people know about them.”
Ms. Kravetz believes her background in public relations will be beneficial because it has taught her to be an effective communicator.
“I’m very good at responding to people. I’ve advocated for parents and teachers, and community members at large, in my role as PTA president.”