Schild: the focus of Scottsdale Schools must be the children — not the adults

When I moved here in 1993, if a parent did not want to send their child to a Catholic school, the Scottsdale Unified School District was the only other option. Parents who sent their students to public school had to accept whatever they were offered in the way of education.

Christine Schild

Children who fit into the “round hole” tended to do well. Square pegs suffered. Scottsdale had the worst reputation for special education and gifted services.

One of the most common stories I heard on the school board mirrored my own experiences. If a parent had a problem with a teacher that could not be resolved, the next step was to speak with the principal who inevitably said, “you are the first person to complain.”  The problem was never resolved and the parent had to work around it or move their student to a different school.

Another frequent comment I heard was, “thank God my youngest child is graduating because I am so done with SUSD.” By the time my youngest was a senior in high school, I felt no one cared whether he lived, died or graduated. Not one adult in his high school knew my child. When his grades suddenly plummeted junior year his teachers blamed him and his counselor blamed us. He was finally given a 504 none of his teachers honored.

Does the district currently have an adult-centric culture?

Teachers have been showing up at meetings and asserting they are student focused but is it true? Without a doubt, Scottsdale has been adult-centric since I moved here in 1993. Yes, there are good teachers doing good things, but that is not the universal SUSD experience. Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell is working to erase 20-plus years of we’re-the-only-game-in-town mentality and replace it with “we are all about the kids.”  She is getting push back from people who believe accountability is a dirty word. However, the community has demanded accountability for at least a decade and parents have demonstrated their displeasure by leaving SUSD in droves.

Parents want to support their teachers.

They want teachers to earn a decent wage so they do not have to work two jobs and can focus on educating our kids. Parents want teachers to have a decent working environment and a voice in how our kids are educated. But parents want a voice too. When we are belittled, made to believe our concerns about our child’s education do not matter, and basically told to fit our children into that round hole or take them elsewhere, we feel voiceless too.

As a board member, I cringed every time I heard the phrase “it’s for the children,” because in my experience it never was. Now I’m hearing real conversations about how children learn. Principals and teachers are focused on improved academic success for all children. The parents have been waiting for this conversation for a long time and should not let a few angry voices derail this process.

Editor’s note: Ms. Schild is a Scottsdale resident and former Scottsdale school board member

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