Scottsdale Schools selects architectural firm for Cherokee rebuild

Cherokee Elementary School (photo courtesy of SUSD)

The rebuild of Cherokee Elementary School will move forward after the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board approved Orcutt Winslow to provide architectural design services.

The Governing Board rendered its decision at its Tuesday, Dec. 11 meeting at Coronado High School, 7501 E. Virginia Ave. This item was originally up for approval during a Thursday, Dec. 6 special meeting but the board tabled the item.

In October, the board decided to make Cherokee Elementary School, 8801 N. 56th St. in Paradise Valley, its next bond project. In early December, the board decided to use the Mohave Educational Services Cooperative — a service oriented public purchasing cooperative — to find architectural services.

The cooperative came back with four firms that then went through the data gathering interview process in late November which supplemented screening Mohave did. The interviews yielded a consensus to go with Orcutt Winslow after extensive interviewing.

That consensus was reached of a committee that featured Jeff Gadd, interim chief financial officer; Dennis Roehler, director of facilities; Ibi Haghighat, assistant superintendent of elementary education; Walter Chantler, principal of Cherokee; and Allyson Beckham, board member.

“All committee members, I believe at this point, believe that the architectural firm of Orcutt and Winslow would be best suited to complete the project at Cherokee Elementary,” Mr. Gadd said.

Originally, Ms. Beckham chose a different firm but later changed to Orcutt Winslow. She liked the project design and creativity of her original choice but realized that she and many others in the district were not qualified to select school design.

This pushed her, in her comments prior to the vote, to suggest the district hire a project manager or hire someone through a company as a consultant. She says she has been pushing for this for the past year.

“I am convinced such a person will save the district far more money than it would cost the district,” she said. “Absent of retaining a dedicated project manager, I believe our district does not have the sufficient resources and processes itself to adequately guide the design and construction of new schools.”

She said Orcutt Winslow did have the resources to fill in the gaps the district lacked. She also urged the board to push for creativity in its designs and not settle on “cookie cutter” models.

The district will next negotiate a contract under Mohave’s terms and conditions along with a fee structure. In return, Orcutt Winslow will provide a feasibility study report as part of the project.

The $229 million bond passed by voters in November 2016 has used Orcutt Winslow on other projects, such as Pima Elementary School’s rebuild.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at or at 623-445-2738

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