Mystery surrounds Scottsdale Schools superintendent resignation

A view of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board. (File Photo)

A view of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board. (File Photo)

About one year into a three-year contract renewal Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. David Peterson has announced his resignation.

David Peterson

David Peterson

A day before it was formally recommended to close Tonalea Elementary School, the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board approved a three-year contract renewal for Superintendent Peterson in early 2014.

That new contract — replacing the then current one that expired Dec. 31, 2014 — was approved Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 by a 3 to 2 vote, with board members Barbara Perleberg and Pam Kirby dissenting. The new contract began Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015.

The contract included a base salary of $204,000 — 5 percent of which is performance-based with tenets set by the governing board.

If during the term of the contract Superintendent Peterson opted to retire or quit, he can provide the board with 60 days notice and cash out any unused general leave and vacation days allocated during the current year of the contract, the contract states.

Superintendent Peterson’s resignation — which is being classified as “retirement” — was announced to district employees Friday, Dec. 11 and becomes effective Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. No reason was given for Dr. Peterson’s announcement and no additional information has been provided to the Scottsdale Independent newspaper.

Calls for comment to Dr. Peterson and Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board members Pam Kirby and Bonnie Sneed have gone unanswered. Both calls and e-mails to district spokeswoman Kristine Harrington have also gone unanswered.

However, the Governing Board accepted Dr. Peterson’s separation agreement and approved a $2,500 cost justification to enlist the Arizona School Boards Association to facilitate a search for an interim replacement at its Dec. 15 meeting, records show.

“The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board would like to recognize the enormous contribution that Dr. Peterson has made to our district, our children, our teachers and staff, to the community as a whole and also to public education across the state of the Arizona and the nation,” Ms. Sneed said in the Dec. 11 internal statement announcing Dr. Peterson’s resignation.

“Very few superintendents have the vast array of knowledge and abilities that Dr. Peterson possess. His influence extends from serving on international boards to being consulted by governors, lawmakers, and policy makers regarding education issues.”

President Sneed commended Dr. Peterson’s earlier work focused on building both high schools and middle schools withing the district.

“His job has been 24 hours a days, seven days a week and 12 months per year and he has met each day and challenge with enthusiasm and an eye to problem solving,” she said. “Each day was able to balance very divergent interests with a collaborative, creative, positive approach to solutions.”

Ms. Sneed said, in her statement, a search for a new superintendent will begin in the new year.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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