2019 Outlook: Scottsdale Schools Governing Board freshmen identify priorities

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board is at Coronado High School, 7501 E. Virginia Ave. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

On Jan. 10, Jann-Michael Greenburg and Patty Beckman will take their seats atop the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board — and both say they are ready to see some change.

After the fall-out at the administration level, and concerns raised by educators in SUSD and statewide, Mr. Greenburg and Ms. Beckman both say they’re committed to seeing a better future for the school district.

Specifically, both new members are showing support for the community which elected them, they say.

Mr. Greenburg and Ms. Beckman were elected to the board in the November election, after past members Pam Kirby and Kim Hartmann opted out of re-election campaigns. They were running unopposed, but one community member was running as an official write-in candidate.

The upcoming override election for Scottsdale Schools, which, partially funds classroom programs and extracurricular activities, is top-of-mind for both Ms. Beckman and Mr. Greenburg. Additionally, restoring trust within their teaching staff and general public is listed as a goal for the upcoming year by the new school board members.

In the first installment of a two-part series, the Independent reached out to the new Governing Board members to glean a better sense of what their top priorities are for the 2019 school year when they take their seats at the local dais. Forthcoming is a report detailing priorities for the three sitting Governing Board members, who have two remaining years in their seats: Barbara Perleberg, Allyson Beckham and Sandy Kravetz.

Patty Beckman

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

I believe SUSD should focus on three areas: students, teachers, community and I have personal goals I’d like to see implemented within each area.

Patty Beckman (photo by SUSD)

Our goal as educators is to provide all SUSD students with the opportunity for a world-class education in preparation for higher learning or a chosen career path. At the primary level, SUSD offers rich programs that offer differentiated instruction as well as exposure to the arts and physical well-being. The secondary menu of college and career choices are enhanced by partnerships with colleges, universities and technical schools to offer opportunities in AP, IB, dual enrollment but also outstanding AIA athletics as well as celebrated art and music programs.

In my opinion, a successful student’s mental health is even more important than their academic scores. For 2019, I hope to have conversations on the re-establishment of the “lead” psychologist, one of many mental health positions eliminated under prior leadership.

Additionally, I’d like to see the recruitment of additional experienced psychologists to serve our 22,000 students. The health and well-being of our children trickles down to the health and wellness of our community.

My goal as a new board member will be to guarantee that our families are aware of the variety of academics, extra-curricular programs and professional support available through SUSD to ensure a successful learning experience for our children.

SUSD’s greatest asset is its teachers. District teachers meet or exceed the state qualifications for public school teachers, with an impressive number of our teachers obtaining National Board Certification. Given the teacher shortage in Arizona, we should be celebrating the quality of educators we have been fortunate to attract. However, over the past two years, communication between district leadership and our teachers has deteriorated, causing our teachers to feel devalued and marginalized.

Thanks to the efforts of current superintendent Dr. John Kreikard, SUSD is slowly making progress toward rebuilding the bond of trust and collaboration. My goal is to continue this endeavor and make sure that SUSD is able to recruit and retain the very best talent available to teach our students.

The greater Scottsdale community believes in SUSD. This belief was supported by Scottsdale taxpayers approving a $229 million bond issuance to rebuild the SUSD elementary schools.

The recent controversy surrounding the district’s lack of fiscal responsibility with taxpayer funds is an affront to every individual and family who fought to see their neighborhood school sustained for future generations. As a SUSD board member, I will demand complete transparency of taxpayer funds, support the rehiring of an internal auditor, involve the community in every aspect of our school rebuilds/remodels and finally, call for a public plan of schools to be rebuilt/remodeled and current timelines on each.

One of the greatest displays of democracy is the ability of the public to speak at a school board meeting during invitations for public comment. Historically, this was toward the beginning of the agenda but moved toward the end of the meeting last year. Regardless of the actual intent of this move, the majority of the public viewed this change as negative and the inconvenience of waiting for hours for the chance to be heard as a way to silence constituents. My goal will be to request that the SUSD Governing Board immediately consider moving public comment directly following student celebrations. We need to welcome the voices of those who elected us.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the Scottsdale Unified School District in 2019?

Scottsdale Unified is a destination district. Many families relocate to Scottsdale primarily to attend our district schools. Educators seek employment in SUSD with the hope of having long, successful, fulfilling careers and eventually retiring from the district.

Finally, community members invest in our schools to provide for a strong educated workforce as well as grow their property values. An investment in our schools is an investment in the lifestyle of our community.

  • I would like to see Dr. Kriekard commit to providing us with his skilled and experienced leadership through the end of 2019. It is imperative that we pass the M&O override that will be on the ballot in November. It is with his guidance that this will be possible.
  • I would like to work with Dr. Kriekard, and the rest of the governing board, to establish a vision that includes short and long term goals for SUSD. Within this vision, I would like to see goals that challenge SUSD to become an innovative leader within the education community. First steps might include a curriculum audit for stronger academics and rebuilding our once nationally recognized special education department.
  • I would like to see aggressive marketing of our schools and our programs. I have often stated that parents are not aware of the unique and competitive programs available through SUSD. Spotlighting communication and marketing will continue to expand SUSD enrollment.
  • I would like to regain the faith and trust of our community. SUSD needs to prove it is capable of ethical financial stewardship. Every dollar, whether it be spent “in the classroom”, or used for school renovation needs to be handled with integrity and transparency. It is paramount to regaining faith and trust that the rebuilds/remodels in 2019 are handled seamlessly and with community involvement.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think district parents should be aware of in the new year?

Because of the way Arizona funds public schools, this community must pass the M&O override in November. These funds are for the operation and staffing of the schools, and completely different and separate from bond funds, which were to rebuild our aging structures.
In 2014, when the override failed, my twins were in 4th grade at Kiva Elementary School. The district cut all elementary school ‘specials’ (examples: music, art, physical education) and established half-day Wednesdays.

It was, quite frankly, devastating. My family, and many others, felt a tremendous hardship.

My daughter could no longer play her violin and we scrambled to find Wednesday childcare. Other families felt the loss of all-day Kindergarten. As a result of the failed override, Scottsdale Unified School District, as a whole, lost considerable enrollment, which in turn dictates state funding.

In 2019, our budget is smaller and the funds from the override are needed more than ever. Currently, we have a proven, experienced and trusted superintendent, as well as, a new board with a fresh approach.

The number one issue I think parents should be aware of, is that we have turned a corner and SUSD, and the children it serves, are worthy of community support. I welcome the opportunity to partner with parents and citizens toward working together for our children and our community.

Jann-Michael Greenburg

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

Jann-Michael Greenburg (photo by SUSD)

I believe that our district’s top priorities must be to (a) restore our community’s and our employees’ trust in the district and its administration, (b) promote efficiency, accountability, and responsibility in our district, (c) address the very critical issues in our District’s special education department, (d) obtain the community’s approval for an override and, most importantly, (e) continue building a district with a strong academic track record and a clear place for every family to feel welcome.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the Scottsdale Unified School District in 2019?

As a candidate, one of my top goals was, and is, to form an internal auditing department.

This is a standard department in any large-scale operation like the Scottsdale Unified School District, which handles anywhere from $160 to $190 million each year. Such a department would be beneficial in strengthening and monitoring our district’s internal controls and management, which was a focal point for the 2017-18 investigations into our district’s former administration, as well promoting the efficient and responsible use of our limited resources.

Many other key challenges our district faces must also be tackled, though I would argue that an internal auditing department or work management team would be the lead in handling many of them.

There are clear issues in how paperwork and documents are filed and retrieved (a matter which is the subject of a lawsuit against our district), special education generally (a matter which is also the subject of a lawsuit against our district), academic standards, recognizing the Scottsdale Education Association, and the like. All of these are matters that our district must address, but I believe the first step must be to ensure our district is at the forefront of responsibility and accountability and quickly earn the trust of our community.

In addition, we must address the way in which the Governing Board conducts its business so that it is done in an efficient, professional manner. This includes reviewing how meetings are conducted, implementing a self-assessment tool for board members, and ensuring that we are always studying and using best practices in our work.

My website, www.Jmg4susd.Com, features an “agenda” page listing all matters I have submitted for board discussion. More matters will be added, but this is a useful tool for watching my work in the district.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think district parents should be aware of in the new year?

I think the No. 1 issue district parents must be aware of is the override election.

As our current override phases out over the next two years, our district’s funding will drop off quite precipitously. Without approving a replacement override, our district’s staffing will likely be cut, as well as extra-curricular activities or programs funded by the override.

Because Arizona’s public education funding is so low, these voter-approved measures are necessary for our district in providing a high-quality, well-rounded education to all children.

Failing to approve a new override in 2019 would directly impact our students and community alike.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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