Scottsdale Schools governing board candidates identify focus areas

school-board-elections

Three candidates are rounding the corner to the final leg of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board race to be voted on at the Tuesday, Nov. 8 general election.

The candidates running for the board are incumbent Barbara Perleberg, and newcomers Allyson Beckham and Sandy Kravetz.
Former candidates George Jackson and Mary Roaf have both withdrawn from the race.

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 30 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.

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 at the November general election.

The Scottsdale Independent is hosting a candidate forum in the Kiva at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. 6-8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3. Reporter Melissa Fittro will be moderating the forum.

Leading up to the October forum the Scottsdale Independent is offering candidates an opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer series to help voters better understand where they stand on local issues that matter.

This week’s installment covers the candidates opinions of what problems they would like to fix within the school district.

Allyson Beckham

•Once on the board, what specific issues/items/topics do you think needs attention and resolving?

1. As with any new team, the incoming board’s dynamics will be different than in the past because of its two new members. From the start, the board members need to get to know each other and discuss effective board governance and how board leadership influences academic achievement and student outcomes. In addition, the incoming board needs to discuss a shared, clear vision, communication and transparency at all levels, and their working relationship with the superintendent.

Allyson Beckham

Allyson Beckham

2. In the case that there is still an interim superintendent, the board needs to appoint a permanent superintendent. High student achievement, effective teachers and quality instruction should all be factors in the selection process. The permanent superintendent’s contract should also clearly outline expectations — including measurable objectives — that will be reviewed annually.

3. Interim Superintendent Birdwell has outlined many new changes and goals for the district. I believe several of these are of the utmost importance: implementation of data-driven decisions, shifting to an instructional focus and determining teacher and principal effectiveness. The board should continue to review and amend district policies to align with these upcoming changes.

4. The board should continue assessing the capital needs of the district, and determining how to prioritize resources so they are used most effectively. If the bond and override initiatives pass in the November election, the board will have more flexibility to make these important decisions, but will also have a greater responsibility for these additional funds.

5. The board needs to continue strategic conversations on teacher retention, teacher compensation, student learning and engagement, and ensuring dollars are reaching students and classrooms effectively.

Sandy Kravetz

•Once on the board, what specific issues/items/topics do you think needs attention and resolving?

1. Hire a permanent superintendent.

2. Review our district’s teacher salary schedule, and revise so SUSD is competitive with our peer districts and continues to attract the best talent.

Sandy Kravetz

Sandy Kravetz

3. Review budget to ensure funds are being allocated as designed.

4. Prioritize bond projects and devise a time table for implementing them.

5. Identify teachers’ best practices at each school/learning community and replicate (where feasible) district-wide.

6. Tabulate the percentage/actual number of open enrolled students from outside SUSD at each site and revisit SUSD’s lax open enrollment policy.

7. Increase awareness among seventh and eighth grade parents/guardians and students about SUSD’s career and technical education programs that are available in high school for those contemplating alternatives to college.

8. Revise parent and staff surveys with more detailed questions, delineated between those that are site specific and those that pertain to district-level personnel and operations.

9. Explore if it is possible to provide our teachers with larger stipends for projects payable with tax credit money and remind teachers (and site administrators) about eligibility for this funding.

Barbara Perleberg

•Once on the board, what specific issues/items/topics do you think needs attention and resolving?

Barbara Perleberg

Barbara Perleberg

With a new lens and focus, our district is taking a very critical look at our realities. Student achievement, enrollment, accountability, effective leadership and budget priorities are all under the spotlight as SUSD forges a solid path towards a strong future. While our stakeholders know this honest, unblinking look is absolutely necessary, and long overdue, we also recognize it is not easy. The light can be harsh, especially when trust is thin, and fear can undermine even the most motivated desires for meaningful change.

Our Governing Board will have the immediate challenge of clearly defining the new path our district is on and building our community’s confidence in the direction we are now headed. As we work to remove the roadblocks that were built up between our learners and their potential, we cannot fear uncomfortable conversations and avoid difficult questions any longer. This commitment is necessary at every level within SUSD, and our new Governing Board will be no exception.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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