Beckman: ‘SUSD Governing Board, when are you going to start listening to your community?’

Today is Sept. 4, and in exactly 119 days, Scottsdale Unified School District will have two new members of the Governing Board; I hope to be one of those two. I am humbled and gratified by the kindness and support shown to my family as we traversed neighborhoods and met with citizens of this great community.

Patty Beckman

As a parent and candidate, I have kept up with information and leadership decisions that impact our students and community. Last Wednesday night, I attended a meeting at the Oak Learning Center with approximately 100 concerned citizens from the Navajo community. The emotion in the room was felt by all who attended.

Parents spoke of their love for their neighborhood school and were eager to hear what the future would hold for their children. All applauded the supportive teachers and staff, school and district administration, and community members for coming together with resources to supply Navajo, in its new home, with the means to continue the educational work it does.

Navajo is more than just a building to attend classes. It is the heart of the neighborhood. It’s the place where children learn, grow, make memories and feel safe. The crowd asked many great questions and Dr. Kriekard did his best to answer them. The topic of closure and consolidation was brought up with regard to this small, but beloved STEAM school.

As a result of a community demand years ago that there be an expanded curriculum in critical learning areas at Navajo, the Navajo STEAM program was designed and now Navajo serves as a feeder school to the Mohave STEM and Saguaro Math and Science Academy. This successful program shows that parents make critical decisions about where they reside based upon the resources and programs their neighborhood schools provide.

In response to the parents’ anxiety-filled questions, they were told the SUSD board will make the final decision about Navajo. As I glanced around the packed room, I realized that not one current school board member was in attendance.

SUSD Governing Board, when are you going to start listening to your community? I am only one of many who wonder if you ever will. Your single most important duty as an elected public official is to represent your community. Our trust in you to make informed decisions about our district no longer exists. The schools you represent belong to the people of this district. It is disrespectful to even discuss the issue of consolidation and school closure at a time that is fraught with the trauma of a fire destroying the heart of a community.

It is time for this board to step away from determining solutions to issues of such import, namely, school consolidation and the hiring of a permanent superintendent. This board has stated publicly that they have learned much from the Hopi Elementary School process, primarily the necessity of the inclusion of involved stakeholders: neighbors, parents, teachers, in the conversations from the beginning.

Let us not forget the statements made by our Governing Board.

In July of this year, SUSD Governing Board member Pam Kirby wrote in the Scottsdale Independent,

“I learned something very important over the last two years. No matter how strong the need for change may be, the pace of that change needs to be calibrated. There can only be so much reform at one time and those who disagree with it deserve respect and communication along the way.”

In August of this year, Governing Board President Barbara Perleberg echoed those sentiments in the Independent as well, stating, “Perhaps the change we sought was too fast and too severe.”

With only 119 days left in the current board members’ terms, they now want to discuss and render decisions, before January, on arguably the most emotional and divisive topics that one can have in a school district: school consolidation, closures, and selection of the future leader of this district. We all know what happened to the last permanent superintendent and leadership team approved by this board.

The Board’s headstrong selection of a superintendent and creation of their own agenda for change, created chaos and anger, leaving many in the community feeling disenfranchised from their district. By failing to act in the district’s best interest at that time, they should not be left with the responsibility of deciding the matters of importance facing us at this time.

These critical decisions must be made using research, data, and most significantly, input from the citizens the Board was elected to serve. Only after these considerations are concluded, by a new and trusted Board, should decisions be made. It is time for this board to learn from its past mistakes and, “calibrate the pace of change.”

Let a new and trusted board work with the community to make the decisions about the changes they will be implementing. To the citizens of SUSD: If elected, I hope that my efforts as your public servant, enhance the academic and emotional success of all of our children and helps create outstanding future citizens, locally and globally.

Let us move forward together in making choices that are best for our children, our community, and our future. 119 days and counting.

Editor’s note: Ms. Beckman is a candidate for the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board

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