Editor’s note: this letter is written in response to the opinion piece by Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board President Barbara Perleberg that appeared on Page 26 of the November 2017 Scottsdale Independent newspaper and that was originally published Oct. 20 at scottsdaleindependent.com.
As a Scottsdale citizen, taxpayer, and registered voter for 17 years, I am offended that an elected office-holder would reduce the efforts of Scottsdale’s students, teachers, coaches, staff, administrators, partners, parents, volunteers, and especially, SUSD alumnae with dismissive statements that undermine incredible achievements:
“For the past decade our district struggled with a lack of strong academic leadership, focus, and accountability. Of course great things were happening in SUSD. But we were not as strong as we should have been and we were not healthy. Our teachers and principals knew it. Our Parents and stakeholders knew it. All cared deeply and were working incredibly hard, but we knew we were on the wrong path.”
I attended graduation events for my neighbor’s children, successful in their careers now. With this statement you diminish their efforts, achievements, and financial incentives to give back to the teaches and schools who ushered them through their formative years.
I understand that incoming school boards often replace previous leadership, but for a sitting school board president to state that “our district struggled, we were not healthy and on the wrong path,” alerts homeowners, businesses and Realtors.
You insult the community as well as the dedicated and hard-working teachers, coaches, volunteers, parents and amazing student athletes, who, persevered with academic, mental and physical toughness. I am amazed when I drive down Hayden Road to see consecutive state championship banners.
How did you contribute to Saguaro High School’s Championships: 2006- Football), Desert Mountain and Chaparral (Girls’ Volleyball and Boy’s and Girl’s Swimming awards, professional baseball players recruited from our community schools, and performing artists?
For years when I walked in my Scottsdale Ranch neighborhood, multiple A+ Awards peered at me from the concrete outer wall of Laguna Elementary. And, Scottsdale’s Tavan Elementary, whose only Latina principal has served a diverse student body for more than a decade, earned their second consecutive A+ award in 2017.
These are not handed out like Halloween candy. Both schools’ initial recognitions predate the current “reshaping model” noted in the board presidents’ opinion piece.
Scottsdale’s public schools offer families and employers in the community peace of mind, knowing that infant/toddler/preschool care is available on-site by certified early childhood educators. These community-based programs were initiated by previous district leadership who had vision and sought the input of the community stakeholders.
And, if you ask the neighbors, continuity in school-site leadership, matters.
SUSD offers programs for preschool children with special needs at several campuses, service learning teammates of high school students who visit elementary buddies, AP classes, a plethora of school-as-community events where teachers are on-site several evenings per month, father/daughter dances, literacy nights, and outreach to Scottsdale Charros and other local benefactors whose history with leadership means so much.
The Scottsdale Center for the Arts features incredible visual art, design and creative works by your own students, whose teachers encourage creativity, model approaches to design, and offer international opportunities. I was so taken by the artwork of a recent graduate of Coronado High School, who shared her international exchange experiences with the Sister School Project at Coronado, that I contacted the artist and complimented her work.
She is now enrolled at ASU in a teacher education program. That signals to me that SUSD, Coronado and the feeder elementary and middle schools, already embedded “a truly student-focused culture.”
You write, “So what does all this mean to the community we serve and that supports us?”
This is a two-pronged question. I realize that you and the other board members are serving the community — you are not compensated for your time intensive, “volunteer” job. Your hours are long and extend beyond scheduled meeting preparation and planning time. And, the race for an elected position to the Scottsdale School Board requires serious financial support and even longer hours campaigning.
The second part of this question assumes that Scottsdale residents, families, neighbors, volunteers, teachers, SUSD alums, and partners align with your policies. I for one request that you do not use the word “healthy” in any of your future statements. It is unbecoming for a school board president to consider that our children or our schools would be considered the opposite — ill or sick.
While you articulate several key policies that I was unaware of, there are other components that might interest readers of the community and the Scottsdale Independent. Class size research is one. The issue that concerns many parents, teachers and administrators is class size.
What is the board doing to reduce teacher/pupil ratio?
How many school psychologists, nurses are on site at each school to serve populations of 800 elementary students? Have you retained these professionals or contracted with a service to provide per diem support services?
How are you addressing the changing demographics in school populations in Scottsdale?
How is the Board directing the current school leadership to recruit and retain teachers and administrators of color?
How do you and the board define, “informed empowerment?”
Whose “education model” are you moving toward?
While you focus on the physical — major construction projects — your words signal to citizens, volunteers and others who provide time and tax deferred donations to our schools, that your messaging and leadership needs a public relations review.
The term “We Educate” is redundant. Set Scottsdale apart from every other school system that expects educators, to educate. Tell us how students will achieve, be accepted, and allowed to innovate with teachers/coaches/and administrators who have for the “past decade” utilized best practices.
Editor’s note: Ms. Veltri is a resident of Scottsdale