Perleberg: an unprecedented time of transition at Scottsdale Schools

The environment Scottsdale Unified School District faces today is unprecedented.

Barbara Perleberg

Pandora is not going back in the box, and we are in a competitive landscape taking a serious toll on our enrollment. Combine this, in the past, with a weak organizational focus on accountability for individual student achievement, and a 10 percent drop in enrollment over the past eight years is no shock.

Defining SUSD’s reality and shifting to a new, sustainable direction has been leadership’s top priority for the past year. The work has been hard and it has brought significant changes. For some it’s been too fast, for others too long overdue. Some are fearful, while many others are excited and re-energized. A lot of discussions lie ahead, but for those of us looking to the future, a new picture is forming — a picture focused on the student.

With new leadership in place and a new governing board seated in January, our district has had incredible conversations around what a student-focused district really looks like. At its core is decision-making centered on the critical relationship between student and teacher, rather than adult-driven agendas. How we do things will look different than in the past, and that’s necessary. Our world is evolving, bringing new challenges every day.

How are we tackling these challenges? Our efforts can be seen in the strategic decisions for schools in the Coronado complex and along the Granite Reef Corridor.

We have taken the first steps toward competitive salaries set to attract and retain excellent teachers and have established the goal of reaching a 10 percent increase by 2019. Improved staff training is being developed to strengthen accountable, empowered leadership at our schools that will engage and support teachers in the work necessary for high academic achievement. We also worked quickly to provide SUSD employees with a competitive benefits package that maintains coverage while reducing costs.

Our fiscal responsibility to the classroom is driving the budget, and we are making difficult, painful organizational decisions to support learning first.

With recently approved capital override dollars, teachers are being provided with new, improved technology bringing advanced learning opportunities to our students.  By methodically prioritizing the re-builds and construction projects of our older schools, we are respecting the bond dollars taxpayers approved last November while improving learning environments.

Just as teachers and students do every day, our governing board asks questions when we do not know the answers, and we try to learn from our mistakes. Our goal, though, is crystal clear: keep SUSD focused on every learner reaching their full potential. Accountable leadership at every level, including our board, must be dedicated to a true student-focused district and take the actions necessary to get there.

That is the SUSD identity we are committed to developing, and it’s the identity our community will embrace and choose.

Editor’s note: Ms. Perleberg is a member of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board

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