Perleberg: it’s not just politics at Scottsdale Schools as leadership strives for excellence

Strengthening our education system has become one of the top priorities in Arizona, and rightfully so.

Barbara Perleberg

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board and district leadership committed a year ago to shift our status quo of decline and turn our efforts toward the pursuit of innovation and reform, with the vision of creating a new student-focused culture. Embracing accountability, data-driven assessment, and empowered campus leadership, we strive to support great teaching and our actions are reflecting that goal.

With efficiencies found in our budget, critical investments were made in quality teaching, training, and instructional leadership. The Coronado Success Initiative offered our teachers a professionally and financially rewarding challenge to redefine excellence in our Title I schools.

With support of our educators, honors classes returned to our high schools, with more robust honors programs in middle schools, and focus on differentiated learning designed to ensure every student reaches their full potential.

Dedicated to hiring and retaining the best educators, joint leadership improved hiring practices, implemented a professional dress code for staff, and increased paid professional development days for teachers. In 2016, we publicly shared our goal to increase teacher salaries 10 percent by 2019. To date, our teachers have seen increases in salary ranging, relative to length of district employment, from 7.5-9.5 percent and we are optimistic that we will be able to meet, if not exceed, that 10 percent goal.

Principals were provided much-needed training and empowerment to lead their campuses, and instructional leadership roles for teachers were established to support them as they identify the unique needs of their community. Teacher voices increased and expanded as employee policies were reviewed by a committee of thirty teachers rather than a 3-4 member “meet and confer” process of union leaders.

Many embraced the growth, professional development, accountability, and higher standards despite difficult challenges. We are constantly inspired by the pride of our principals and teachers as they share the tremendous strides being made on their campuses. Unfortunately, that pride is frequently drowned out by another voice.

Actions needed to move SUSD forward have been criticized, undermined, attacked, or simply dismissed by union leadership. Connecting with disgruntled community members, they fueled a movement based on anger, and thus began an onslaught of personal attacks, crushing demands on administrative resources, and a campaign of negativity. With irresponsible disregard for balanced truth, the integrity of due process, and the real price our community pays for theatrics, this group makes their demands on the backs of threats, fear-mongering, and defamations.

SUSD must be the choice for the communities we serve if we are to remain strong. For years decisions were made from a place of fear and denial. Union leaders and shortsighted administrations negotiated weak practices and policies cutting training and collaborative time for our educators and lowering professional standards in a vain attempt to ease the pain of harsh funding cuts. Our budget and focus had disconnected from the classroom while student learning paid the price.

There is no desire to return to that backwards path of decline. Succumbing to union leaders and negative, adult-centric agendas will fail our students. When issues arise, we will continue to deal with them appropriately, transparently and lawfully. We will keep moving forward, working and learning. It’s what SUSD does, and it is our commitment to the community we serve.

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

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