South Scottsdale parent Mike Peabody announces bid for school board

Mike Peabody, with his wife Lori. (submitted photo)

South Scottsdale resident and Scottsdale Unified School District parent, Mike Peabody, has announced his intent to run for the local school board.

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board is comprised of five elected members. Two seats — held by Pam Kirby and Kim Hartmann — will be up for re-election in the next general election, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

The Scottsdale Unified School District is comprised of 29 schools serving about 24,000 pre-kindergarten to high school students. SUSD includes areas of Scottsdale, the Town of Paradise Valley and Phoenix.

Mr. Peabody says he has been volunteering in his local schools for several years, but the time to run for public office has come.

“I don’t believe the school board has much objectivity when it comes to parents’ and teachers’ concerns when they come in,” he explained in a Dec. 18 phone interview. “Everything that’s being brought to light, the school board is acting like nothing is happening.”

Mr. Peabody says a pending civil suit within the Maricopa County Superior Court against the Scottsdale Unified School District, and employees Michelle Marshall and Louise Quezada were the last straw for him.

“To be honest with you, the SPED (special education) case at Desert Mountain is what really pushed me over the edge,” he says of his decision to run for the Governing Board. “The SPED department has been dismantled by Dr. Birdwell. She did the same thing in Higley and ran into the same problems.”

You can read about the court case here.

A parent of two, Mr. Peabody runs the robotics program at Hohokam K-6 school and is involved in a parent-community group United School and president of Scottsdale Parent Council.

“If there’s anything to be done at a school I’ve done it — short of teaching a class, I’m not a certified teacher,” he noted. “I’ve plunged toilets, helped kids get to the nurse, rebuilt generators and helped with crossing guard duty for the past five years.”

The Hohokam robotics club. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Mr. Peabody says the children are his No. 1 priority, and if he were to be elected to the school board he aims to bring in and retain better teachers.

“We’ve had shrinking enrollment but we can bring it back in, bring in educators, teachers,” he explained.

“I hate the word rigor — the stigma that’s now coming with ‘rigor’ — our academics need to improve. It’s about increasing the academic for the kids, bring in better teachers, and it all cascades up from there.”

Mr. Peabody says he believes the administration size and costs are too high, and more money should be directed to the teachers.

“Dr. Birdwell came in and said she’s student-focused. If she’s student-focused why aren’t teachers getting paid more? If she’s student-focused why are there more administration?” he asked.

“Why with all of the things that have come out about her cabinet, why are they still here? We can do better for the kids.”

This fall myriad allegations have surfaced against Scottsdale Unified School District from parents. An internal review on procurement procedures and an Arizona Attorney General’s investigation is being performed on the district.

At a Dec. 12 regular Governing Board meeting, Mr. Peabody and other members of the United School group presented financial and personal information about Chief Financial Officer Laura Smith and Chief Operations Officer Louis Hartwell through a series of three-minute public comment intervals.

The group outlined allegations of conflicts of interest, bankruptcy filings, past-due tax liens and questions of qualifications of the district employees.

Mr. Peabody says he will begin collecting signatures and campaign donations soon.

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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