On the record: Scottsdale school board members talk pursuit of priorities in new year

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

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board is settling into 2019 with a singular focus of making good on a promise: Delivering an environment where a quality public education can be found.

Allyson Beckham, Sandy Kravetz and Barbara Perleberg — the three sitting Governing Board members — have several priorities for the new year, including continuing their initiative in the Coronado Complex, funding in the classroom and empowering their teachers and staff.

Newly elected Governing Board members, Patty Beckman and Jann-Michael Greenburg join the other three members at their first meeting of the year on Thursday, Jan. 10.

Ms. Beckham says in 2019, she would like to hear all students feel they are a focus and priority at SUSD; while Ms. Kravetz outlines her desire to discuss the importance of stipends for teachers and adjusting school bell schedules.

Ms. Perleberg, current school board president, says the strength of teachers and employees, coupled with a healthier SUSD organization, will be key to solving their enrollment and capacity issues.

In the second installment of a two-part series, the Independent reached out to the sitting Governing Board members to glean a better sense of what their top priorities are for the new year when they take their seats at the local dais. Read below for what they had to say:

Allyson Beckham

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

Allyson Beckham

I have many priorities for SUSD in 2019, but if I had to choose three, they would be to:

  • Establish a positive and effective working relationship with the Governing Board and superintendent.
  • Develop an effective evaluation tool for administrators and teachers.
  • Increase funding for student supports, such as additional guidance counselors and instructional assistance.

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

First, by the end of 2019, I would like to hear that all students feel they are the focus and priority at SUSD, as this will lead to increased student engagement, participation, and academic outcomes. SUSD must set high expectations, model the values we want to see in our students, and provide support and personalized learning to achieve results.

Second, I would like to see trust restored in SUSD through accountability, transparency and communication. The key to any achievement will be a positive working relationship among students, administrators, teachers, staff, and parents.

Third, I would like to see improved and effective communication — both internally at SUSD and externally with our community.

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

The No. 1 issue for parents is to understand the value of a quality education and the impact of parental support, whether that is providing encouragement or setting aside dedicated time for quality learning. Parents have a direct influence in their children’s success in school and life. In this new year, they will set the tone as their kids return to the classroom.

Sandy Kravetz

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

Sandy Kravetz

As 2019 unfolds, I look forward to continuing the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board’s commitment to empowering our site-based administrators to be the academic leaders for their schools and community. They set the tone for expectations and accountability and are on the front lines of helping all students reach their full potential.

“Choice” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in our state. The Governing Board must continue to allocate more money for teacher salaries if we are to retain and attract the best teachers from a wider pool of applicants from which to choose only the best talent.

Throughout the budget process in 2019 Jeff Gadd, our interim chief finance officer, will facilitate discussion and present his recommendations to the Governing Board for a responsible financial policy regarding the allocation of one-time payments in our cash account, and recurring income in our “Base Level Funding.” I anticipate covering topics such as: how much should SUSD keep on reserve for “emergency” or “rainy day” expenses, such as an increase in fuel costs; and what is a responsible amount to invest in our daily operations.

The Governing Board will be having a discussion during the first quarter about two issues I brought up several times since joining the board, 1) stipends for teachers that oversee extracurricular activities; and 2) an adjustment to our school start times/bus schedules.

I encourage our district administrators to review the current stipend formula for teachers to consider these important aspects of the program: who qualifies for a stipend; who currently is receiving stipends; who isn’t and why; and what sources are available for funding stipends to possibly include maintenance and operations monies, tax credit funds, and grants.

SUSD adjusted school start times approximately 10 years ago. Administration claimed that starting the school day and dismissing our high school students earlier would result in a reduction of class time missed by students. Anecdotally, I know that high school students are tired, and tardies and absences for first hour are significant.

Since SUSD changed school start times, more articles have been published about the sleep cycles of high school students. The majority of these indicate that teenagers fall asleep and wake up later than elementary school students. Starting school later in the morning results in improved school performance. It is time for SUSD to revisit and consider flipping our school start times. This discussion must also include our bus schedules. SUSD has a shortage of bus drivers. With three different start times for elementary, middle and high school, we may require fewer buses and drivers.

My colleagues and I will also receive an update about SUSD’s Teacher Employment Handbook from Dr. Jed Bowman, SUSD’s assistant superintendent of human resources. The handbook, which was developed with input from our teachers and administrators, will outline best practices and reflect procedures for carrying out District policies. I am hoping that Dr. Bowman and his team will collaborate with our marketing department to improve internal communications with all of our staff.

Speaking of communications, I am pleased to see the evolution of our communications department. I support Amy Bolton our chief information officer in her efforts to ensure all of our current and future stakeholders learn about the programs and exceptional teachers and students in our district. Ms. Bolton will be sharing her marketing vision for Scottsdale Unified School District at our special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10.

Our Governing Board will select more elementary schools for rebuild or remodel.

Pima and Hopi are nearly complete and the excitement at those two schools is palpable. Ribbon cutting ceremonies for the schools are being planned now for February. Cheyenne started the school year with science labs and a much needed gym, a promise that had been unfulfilled since it moved to its current site.

Lastly, we must continue to provide the resources, partner with community members, and review procedures to ensure the success of all students in the Coronado Learning Community.

We are doing so many terrific things on a daily basis in all of our schools. I would encourage you to take a moment to follow the District and school social media accounts and check in with us online at susd.org to keep up with Governing Board meeting activity, news and the latest events.

I look forward to working with my Governing Board colleagues to accomplish these goals in 2019.

Barbara Perleberg

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

Barbara Perleberg

The District and our community partners have made a commitment to academic growth and success in the Coronado Complex. This critical work must continue, as well as our investments in the training and development of empowered leadership throughout SUSD. New dollars from the state must be directed to our classrooms and competitive pay for our staff.

The strength of our principals and teacher leaders, along with a healthier organization supporting them, will be the key to tackling our issues of enrollment and excess capacity. Difficult decisions and challenges are still ahead for our District. We cannot, however, lose sight of our goal — an innovative and sustainable SUSD serving the full potential of each and every one of our students.

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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