Since I moved here in 1993, the Scottsdale Unified School District has had nine superintendents, which equates to an average of 3 years in the position.
This constant turnover caused a massive breakdown in leadership in the district. By the time current superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell came on the scene, nothing in the district was working correctly. This breakdown had already trickled down to the schools and was affecting student achievement, which had steadily declined districtwide over the last decade.
Dr. Denise Birdwell is the first superintendent in a long time to take a close look at student achievement and work on improving our schools by installing academic leaders as principals. Unfortunately, as Dr. Birdwell learned the hard way, it is not easy to fix anything when everything is broken. Despite the odds, Dr. Birdwell is succeeding at Coronado High School.
The Dons were allowed to languish by former administrators and teachers who subscribed to the mantra that poor kids come to school to eat but cannot learn. Students were simply moved through the system. Some children spent four years attending Coronado but could not speak English when they graduated.
Dr. Birdwell and her team are changing the culture at Coronado. The administrative and teaching staff is focused on improving academic achievement and college and career readiness. This year every senior took the SAT, filled out at least one college application, and has or will experience a mock job interview. The number of students accepted to a four-year university almost doubled from last year after the staff worked diligently to eliminate obstacles these students faced including an inability to pay the application fee.
Astonishingly, the Scottsdale Education Association’s leadership opposed these changes and recently expressed “no confidence” in Dr. Birdwell despite gains already made as a result of her Coronado Success Initiative.
Kudos to Mayor Lane for recognizing in his State of the City address what is important for the continued success of Scottsdale. Education is supposed to be about academic achievement.
Unfortunately, many adults in the District do not see it that way. The teachers’ union, with assistance from Respect Our Scottsdale Students principal editor and Facebook political gadfly Mike Norton, seem determined to force Dr. Birdwell out by any means possible.
Interestingly enough, just two years ago this same teachers’ union and Mr. Norton were determined to force out former Superintendent David Peterson. Is there any school superintendent that will ever be good enough for the teachers’ union or ROSS?
It appears the answer is: no.
Editor’s note: Ms. Schild is a longtime Scottsdale resident and former member of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board