Scottsdale Schools name Birdwell as interim superintendent finalist

The Scottsdale Unified School District is now at 7575 E. Main Street in downtown Scottsdale. (File photo)

The Scottsdale Unified School District is now at 7575 E. Main Street in downtown Scottsdale. (File photo)

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board has appointed Dr. Pam Sitton as temporary superintendent as former Higley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell has been named the finalist for an interim position that could be filled later this month.

Denise Birdwell

Denise Birdwell

In a special study session Monday, Jan. 4 the Governing Board voted unanimously to enlist the service of the Arizona School Boards Association in its search for an interim superintendent while appointing Dr. Sitton to her temporary post.

The Governing Board Thursday, Jan. 7 voted unanimously to bring back only Dr. Birdwell, which is one of five candidates for the interim superintendent position, for an interview Monday, Jan. 11, officials confirm. Dr. Birdwell served as superintendent of the Higley Unified School District until her retirement in June 2015 and was employed by that district since 2007, according to published news reports.

In addition, the Governing Board voted unanimously Jan. 7 to appoint Bonnie Sneed to a consecutive term as board president while Barbara Perleberg has been appointed vice president.

Dr. Sitton, who has served most recently as the district’s director of elementary education and as assistant superintendent of human resources, will serve in her role until Sunday, Jan. 31 or until an interim superintendent is announced, school officials say.

Pam Sitton

Pam Sitton

“During this transition time, staff, parents and community members can reach the superintendent’s office through the e-mail: I look forward to working with all stakeholder groups to make the transition as smooth as possible,” Dr. Sitton said in a Jan. 5 letter to district parents.

“The Governing Board recognizes that choosing a new leader for our district will be a significant task and intends to involve stakeholders in the process. Additionally, the Governing Board intends to keep stakeholder groups informed as the process evolves.”

This evolving process comes on the heels of former Superintendent Dr. David Peterson’s abrupt resignation effective Monday Jan. 4. An action he claims after nearly two years of bullying, intimidation, harassment and even extortion by two members of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board.

In a document coined a “Chronology of Events,” Dr. Peterson, takes specific aim at the actions of two Governing Board members: Pam Kirby and Barbara Perleberg.
Superintendent Peterson abruptly announced his resignation Friday, Dec. 11, after only about one year into a three-year contract renewal.

In the report, Dr. Peterson claims that over the last 24 months Ms. Kirby and Ms. Perleberg cultivated a bullying culture that included “intimidation and extortion,” which ultimately forced him to resign — and even contemplate legal action against the district.

Both board members deny the allegations and claim they always acted in the best interest of the district. The internal investigation is still ongoing, district officials say.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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