Turning the page: committed to achievement and accountability in Scottsdale Schools

Dr. David Petersen deserves our thanks and praise for a lifetime devoted to educating children. For 10 years he led the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) as Superintendent through both challenging and changing times.

He is a man that wears many professional hats, but his expertise in finance has contributed greatly to the challenges of the past several years.  He is the hardest working individual I have ever served with in both private and public sector.  I wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

Pam Kirby

Pam Kirby

His retirement offers us a chance to praise him for his service. It also gives us a chance to bring new ideas to the table.

SUSD is entering a new season.

The District Governing Board is now tasked with finding new leadership best suited for this changing season.

Populations are shifting. Demographics are changing. Charter schools are competing for students. Funding is always in flux. Over 1,000 students left our classrooms in just the past two years. These factors have taken their toll. The district is facing declining enrollment, waning test scores, and we’re seeing too many great teachers and principals leave SUSD.

We have seen two rejected budget overrides and one that was recently passed. While we are grateful for the most recent passage, we need to review our batting average and ask ourselves why we need to keep coming to the voters for more money.

Let me talk a bit about SUSD.

We know who we are.  We know who we want to be.  We know we need to get back on track to improve achievement, improve staff retention, particularly our principals and teachers, recapture the market that SUSD serves and demonstrate the financial stewardship that prioritizes our dollars to where it matters most – in the classroom – with our teachers and kids. With all due respect to private and charter schools,  SUSD schools can and should offer the ultimate choice.

Moving forward, we need leadership with the courage to ensure funds flow to the classroom on behalf of parents and taxpayers rather than towards layers of administration, overhead, excess capacity schools and large, empty busses.

We need leadership willing to make bold decisions that build a culture of support and empowerment of the educational professionals closest to our children – the principals and teachers. We need to make sure these decisions are made in the light of day so that stakeholders understands our goals and supports them.  And we need to tie those to decisions to specific, measurable actions.

As elected officials, our job as a board is to represent the people, not rubber-stamp administration.

Our job is to do the homework for the people we serve. I will never apologize for a tireless commitment to student achievement and accountability at all levels of the organization.

I am not satisfied with where our district is at. This doesn’t make me or like voices unfortunate critics. It makes us the district’s biggest cheerleaders.

For our community knows the potential of our students and teachers, and will not rest until we get them to the great place they deserve to be.

Editor's Note: Ms. Kirby is a Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board Member.

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