Eskildson: SUSD turnaround needs more than lip-service

Last week your Scottsdale Independent column belittled those “who do not have faith in what is being built, who cannot or who refuse to see what will be there when the construction is over.”

Loyd Eskildson

Yes, there are some who lack faith in the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board and administration — but your column failed to consider how the board and administration have handsomely contributed to that problem.

Specifically, there are a number of fellow Kiva residents and myself now worried if SUSD even intends to rebuild that campus. Lacking specific and credible feedback from the district, they are left with trying to interpret other “signs” like the district’s inexplicably having quickly shut off open enrollment for that campus this year, suddenly transferring out its long-time respected principal, the lack of a master plan — despite that having been paid for.

Kiva residents and others are also aware of a number of published complaints about Ms. Birdwell’s conduct prior to SUSD — plagiarism, lying, hurrying through enormously expensive construction projects that now hobble that district’s finances, churning through staff, and publicly abusing both a board member and new electee.

Thus, absent clear, honest information from the board, there is no reason for them, I or Hopi residents to “pardon your dust” and assume all will turn out well.

Next month I’ll begin my 41st year of living within and helping pay for SUSD in general, Kiva in particular. Overall, between my direct tax payments and indirect further funding by enrolling two sons in SUSD, I estimate having contributed about $200,000 to SUSD. Others have contributed considerably more.

Can you imagine ignoring requests for information from 40-plus year customers contributing $200,000 or so in district revenues? Do you think Great Hearts would do such, BASIS, McDonald’s, Walmart, Earnhardt Ford, etc.?

When is it ever acceptable to disrespect customers? Why then is this par for SUSD and the board?
Yes, the SUSD Board “invites” citizen input — prior to presentations, board discussion, etc. How can concerned Hopi residents contribute meaningful input absent knowledge of what the board/administration is headed for? Pure farce!

Why should anyone bother, when well-founded complaints about unqualified new hires and dubious procurement actions are not just unheeded, but sometimes repeated?

In addition, I challenge you to show any objective AZMERIT evidence of improved SUSD pupil outcomes post D.B. That’s what SUSD is all about, its sine qua non! (Using your words, ‘We Educate.’) I also challenge you to find any management turnaround expert that would endorse not having any specific relatively short-term performance improvement goals — that, per my experience, is the “kiss of death” for any turnaround leader.

Where are those improvement goals for SUSD in general, each school and grade, CSI? Why do you allow such turmoil in the district – especially when great hearts reportedly is opening another 500 seats next year? Why, instead, do you blame us for your shortcomings!

Bottom-Line: I suggest the SUSD board use tomorrow’s Hopi meeting to simply present its proposal to interested Hopi residents able to attend a daytime meeting, then listen to citizen feedback. Afterwards, take their input into account and reach a decision.

In addition, invite the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to investigate all credible allegations of nepotism, unqualified hiring, and fraud. That’s what organizations that respect their customers would do.

And stop rubber-stamping anything and everything put before you – a trained bear can do that!

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