For the children: voters approve Scottsdale Schools funding

Tanner Van Parys on right, with Mike Peabody and his daughter outside of a Scottsdale polling location on Nov. 8. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Tanner Van Parys on right, with Mike Peabody and his daughter outside of a Scottsdale polling location on Nov. 8. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Scottsdale Unified School District voters Tuesday, Nov. 8 approved two funding initiatives meant to aid students in and out of the classroom.

The $229 million bond to be used to repair failing infrastructure and school buses passed with a 57.6 percent approval by voters, according to unofficial results available at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.

The $8.5 million capital override to be used for books, curriculum, technology, chairs, desks and playground equipment passed with 55.5 percent approval, results show.

The school district operates 30 schools with about 24,000 students, according to the district’s website.

“Although the results are not yet official, I want to thank you on behalf of our district’s 24,270 students for the confidence you have shown Scottsdale schools by approving the bond and capital override questions on yesterday’s ballot,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell in a Nov. 9 prepared statement.

“We look forward to the opportunity of continuing to provide Scottsdale students with safe schools, facilities and transportation, and the curriculum, equipment and technology they need to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s world.”

The capital override impact based on a $80,000 home will be $1.20 per month, and $14.34 per year, school officials say. The last capital override ended two years ago.

It is being earmarked for: curriculum and technology resources; furniture, fixtures and equipment; cine arts, athletics and library programs; and playground equipment and safety codes.

The bond is one way the school district can ask the taxpayers to support them above and beyond what the state gives them, and can legally only be used for buildings and buses.

District officials have stated that repairs and price include:

  • Eight elementary schools need to be re-built; 56.6 percent
  • 22 schools need life cycle improvements; 21.5 percent
  • 9 schools need learning environment re-models; 9.2 percent
  • Transportation updates in all five learning communities; 2.6 percent
  • Security upgrades at every school; 3.3 percent
  • Physical education and athletics needs at all five high schools; 6.8 percent

The bond impact, based on a $100,000 home will be $2.38 per month, and $28.50 per year, according to school officials.

What now

Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board President Bonnie Sneed says the next steps following the voter approval will be to continue to focus on the needs of the students.

“We will continue to be focused on our never-ending quest for exceptional, well-rounded educational opportunities for our students, while providing quality educational options to parents,” she said in a Nov. 9 e-mailed response to questions. “We will continue to focus on retaining and hiring the very best, most dedicated, certified teachers, administrators, and staff who are highly-qualified and highly effective.”

The Governing Board, comprised of five seats, will be installing two new members in January: Allyson Beckham and Sandy Kravetz, after running unopposed. Board member Barbara Perleberg is also re-newing her seat on the board.

President Sneed did not seek re-election and board member George Jackson abandoned his re-election race at the end of August.

Additionally, the position of superintendent is up in the air, with tentative plans to be discussed at the upcoming 4 p.m. Nov. 17 SUSD work study held at Coronado High School, 7501 E. Virginia Ave. Following, the vote on how to proceed is expected to be slated for the regular board meeting at 5 p.m. on Nov. 22, said President Sneed.

Dr. Birdwell, who was hired to fill in as interim superintendent last January after previous superintendent Dr. David Peterson resigned, will be in the position until June 30, 2017.

While the superintendent position is important in making project recommendations to the board, the decision ultimately lies with the Governing Board, President Sneed explained.

“A lot of the preliminary work has been laid out over the past several years. Since funding from the bond will not begin until next year, there will be ample time to weigh all factors that are deemed most critical,” she said. “Hopefully, the new board will invite and value stakeholder input all along the way.”

It is the new board, says President Sneed, who’s hands the tough decisions will be in.

“The current board has examined an exhaustive list of needs, but the newly elected board members will have to be briefed on those specifications before any firm decisions are made,” she said. “The new Governing Board that is seated in January will have the most influence in determining the criteria for determining priorities.”

Dr. Birdwell ensures the best decisions will be made.

“The Governing Board and district leadership take on this responsibility willingly, but humbly, and we look forward to working with each school to do what is best,” said Dr. Birdwell. “We will be responsible stewards of your investment in the district and will not disappoint you.”

Support for the children

Voters at the polls on Nov. 8 expressed their support for the district initiatives because they support the local children.

Victoria Dolce (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Victoria Dolce (photo by Melissa Fittro)

“I have kids that go to school in the district and I like them to have their specials,” said Victoria Dolce after voting at the Via Linda Senior Center polling location on election day.

Scottsdale Parent Council chair, Mike Peabody, was showing his support for the funding initiatives in the parking lot of Hohokam Traditional School, another Scottsdale polling station, on Nov. 8.

Pointing to his daughter, he expressed she is the reason he was supporting the bond and the override.

“That’s ‘yes’ to override, that’s ‘yes’ to bond,” he said while standing alongside his young daughter. “That’s simple.”

“It’s for the kids, because we have 60-year-old schools that are starting to fall apart and if we don’t rebuild them they’re going to fall in on these kids,” said Mr. Peabody. “With the override coming in, that’s all technology. When we have to spend $1 million on licensing for computer programs, and the state gives us $1.8 million, there’s really not much leftover.”

President Sneed expressed her gratitude to the public for passing the measure that will benefit students.

“After enduring seven years of devastating budget cuts, it is truly rewarding to see stakeholders come together to demonstrate their commitment to educating our future generations in safe and supportive environments,” she said. “It is satisfying to know that our employees will be able to work in classrooms that are designed for student success, and that they will have the tools required to ensure that success. I want to express my enormous appreciation and gratitude to the people who tirelessly and selflessly dedicate their time, talent, and treasure to ensure that our next generation of children will be afforded opportunities to thrive and fulfill their dreams.”

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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