Smith: vilifying the public will not solve Scottsdale Schools criticisms

Recently, the Scottsdale Unified School District CFO, Laura Smith, resigned after conflict of interest concerns were reported by citizens, media and the district’s own attorney.

Rose Smith

This was the residual of due diligence of citizens like myself. I have learned that Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell, at a meeting of school leaders, allegedly disparaged a number of constituents who have exercised their legal right, through legal methods, to ensure that SUSD adheres to the highest ethical and legal standards.

I was among those unfairly accused.

Although I never expected to be thanked for my efforts on behalf of a district I love, I certainly never imagined that I would be identified in a context that suggested I was negatively impacting the district!

This notion is further supported by Board President Barbara Perleberg in her opinion piece to the Scottsdale Independent, where she states:

“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.”

The truth is so much more compelling than “fake news.”

The truth is that we, as public citizens and taxpayers, have a right to expect our elected board members will faithfully discharge their fiduciary duties. When we hear troubling concerns and witness open meeting law violations, we also have a right to request public records of our public schools.

If those public records do indeed suggest that a conflict of interest has occurred and the district — which is supported by my tax dollars — may have been swindled, I would expect that this board would be grateful that those concerns were brought to light so they could be explored before further damage took place.

I will not be intimidated for demonstrating my rights as a citizen to raise concerns of possible corruption and by cooperating with the Attorney General’s office of the state of Arizona. Please view the last governing board meeting of 2/13/18. At about the three-hour mark, Mr. Rony Assali asks Dr. Birdwell why his name was placed upon a white board at a leadership meeting. Is this the sort of behavior this board deems appropriate?

Have any of you questioned Dr. Birdwell or any of your other employees about this incident?

Remember, there were over two dozen witnesses present as well as the possibility of recording devices to tape the planned presentation. It shouldn’t need saying, but you should not include the superintendent if you discuss this incident with other employees.

Allegedly, the superintendent has reminded staff that they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all.

The Arizona School Board Association states that as governing board members you are the financial authority in the district and the employer of school personnel. While I never expected you to thank me for offering the financial oversight that was your responsibility, I never expected you to allow your personnel to vilify me and others for doing so.

If you fail to address this issue openly you become complicit in the tasteless behavior alleged.

Editor’s note: Ms. Smith is a resident of Scottsdale

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