SUSD Candidates on Closing Scottsdale Schools

Mary Beth Faller’s AZCentral statement compilation of Scottsdale Unified School District governing board candidates provided some additional insight on the upcoming SUSD board election.

One question I’d like to have heard answered:

Why we are going to build NEW buildings for the relocation of the SUSD administrative offices, when we are going to close schools and leave the buildings empty or sell off these taxpayer assets?

In my humble opinion, the district offices should be relocated (from Phoenix) to vacant space already in the inventory. In fact, they should be co-located with the poorest performing school in the district.

Faller’s article:

Scottsdale candidates weigh in on closing schools

Mary Beth Faller, The Republic | azcentral.com 9:54 a.m. MST October 27, 2014

The Scottsdale Unified School District has too much space.

Eleven of the 15 elementary schools are at two-thirds or less of their enrollment capacity, according to a district report released last spring.

And enrollment has continued to erode, down about 4 percent in August compared with the same time last year.

Four candidates are running for two open seats on the governing board: Kim Hartmann, a businss executive and longtime school volunteer; Pam Kirby, a former financial analyst and current board member; Laddie Guy Shane, a student at Arizona State University; and Francesca Thomas, a longtime school volunteer and former president of the Scottsdale Parent Council.

Here is what they said about the school space issue, in remarks sent to the Scottsdale Republic and during a recent forum:

Kim Hartmann

Hartmann said every dollar should be scrutinized and spent on the classroom, and the district should aggressively market its successes, including its “A” grade from the state Department of Education. She also said principals and teachers should be empowered to develop a curriculum that serves the needs of the neighborhood.

“We will need to look at our facilities very creatively,” she said.

“We’re doing some great things, but we may need some tough love. The average bus to take a group of students to an activity is about $225 and we charge $75.”

Pam Kirby

Kirby advocates a two-pronged approach: Principals and teachers at each school should be able to meet the needs of their communities and the district must consider consolidating schools.

“While nobody wants to close a school, we must act responsibly with taxpayer dollars, directing savings to the classroom to fund the investment required to deliver the enrollment-building strategies,” Kirby said.

Laddie Guy Shane

Shane said consolidation is a “much-needed reality” and the district has survived previous school closings.

He also would consider redrawing boundaries to be more efficient.

“We cannot maintain what we have right now,” he said.

“It is the people at the schools that create the optimal educational environment, not the buildings.”

Francesca Thomas

Thomas said school consolidation should only happen after community input.

“I can tell you that no parent under the sun will say, ‘Please close my school,’ ” she said.

“We have to have the conversation with the people who own the space. If the best choice is to close a school or consolidate schools, we have to be able to explain that with enough time and enough facts and enough context for the stakeholders to understand that.”

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6 Comments

  1. Many years ago in the mid 90’s, a long time teacher at Saguaro HS told me the members of the SUSD administration we talking about the possibility of closing Saguaro. I later was able to confirm that with a then current surerintendent. It was discussed.

    The plan discusses was simple. Close and sell the district office. Move it to the Saguaro schools grounds. The Fine Arts building would be kept for community use, and the board meetings to the public would be held there. The site was also big enough that all the buses and the maintenance of them could be done on that site also. The gyms could be leased to the city for community use. Keep in mind, this was before the remodeling of Saguaro.

    Well, being a Saguaro grad mand my kids about to attend I wasnt happy with that idea. What came of that “idea”? Nothing. I was told later there were to many people with money in the attendance area that would oppose it. Looking back, it should have been done.

    Going forward, they same option is still open…………..except I would reccomend that the district use the Coronado High School Complex. The district and bus facility could be sold. Both could be located on the Coronado campuss. The Fine Arts building could be maintained. The gyms could be leased to the city………….and there is plenty of room for the district administrative needs. The students could be divided between Arcadia and Saguaro.

    There might even be enough room to move the area middle school into the Coronado facility. I wonder how much money that would save the district?

    I wonder why my idea hasnt been brought up?

    1. I perceive (but am not completely knowledgeable) that Coronado is doing OK. Not great, but OK. Certainly not slated for closure.

      On the other hand, Tonalea has been discussed (and I believe is slated) for closure. Empty building. Move the administrators in!

      Additionally, in other South Scottsdale schools, the kids have real socio-economic needs that create significant risk from an educational perspective. For example, most folks don’t realize that Pima Elementary has almost 50% of their students on subsidized lunch programs. Yavapai has more than 80%. These kids have a constitutional right to a quality public education that is no less than that of kids in public schools in more affluent neighborhoods.

      I say, force the district administrators to face the problems first-hand, every day, and we’ll see some improvement in South Scottsdale schools!

  2. Where have you heard that there is a plan to build new buildings? My understanding is that the administration is going to do as you suggest: move into vacant space already owned by the district.

    1. The immediate plan is to A) ‘sell’ the 44th Street district HQ property if SUSD taxpayers agree (ballot question number 2) and B) in-effect swap some other district-owned land to the City of Scottsdale in exchange for a city-owned building. I carelessly stated this as “build new buildings,” though a large amount of ‘build out’ and remodeling is indeed planned.

      SOME employees will be moved into vacant space in buildings already owned by the district, but the plan is for top administration to be housed in downtown Scottsdale in buildings that the district does not currently own.

      http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2014/09/18/scottsdale-unified-schools-city-property-swap/15829631/

  3. Coronado High School – A monument to empty classrooms, and shows how SUSD wasted taxpayer dollars on a huge school (one of MANY) with a diluted educational product. Last year, the district went into this process of ‘mothballing.’ They took parts of schools and shutdown power, A/C, water, etc. so the utilization would increase. Those parts of the schools were not to be used.

    Now this year with those schools partially shut down (‘mothballed’ per SUSD), what happened? Students still continue to leave the district in record numbers. So with ‘mothballed’ schools SUSD has even more unused space. Nothing like more unused space right? Well, now the district needs to ‘trade up’ space for the administration. So what is wrong with the space at Coronado or any number of other schools?

    Oh yes, students go there! Yep, that old fashioned technology of fences, cameras, security staff and other things can’t work. Even if those schools have them already. So the district needs to trade with the city of Scottsdale for more space. Of course the power, water, etc. are going to be free too? NO. But two candidates want to take the tough choices head on (Kirby and Shane). The other two (Thomas and Hartmann), well you can read it yourself.

    Look, I have said it many times before, this district is run by people who have no idea how to run a school district properly. They are WASTING taxpayer funds for the needs of administration and NOT education. Some people want to defend this administration first stand, why? How many people will say – ‘I remember Superintendent XYZ’ or ‘Centralized Admissions clerk BCX was the best!’ NO! You say – ‘I remember Mr. ABC from 5th grade’ or ‘Miss. BCD inspired me to do better.” Teachers matter, and teachers are one of the most important parts of education. The administration of SUSD does not get it! They want to get another place for administration to live. Yes swap land with the city, which is just fine, right?

    The education center (Ed. Center) is a WASTE of TAX PAYER DOLLARS! It should be put inside the ever emptying schools. It is time for SUSD to realize it needs to be fiscally responsible and start educating the children FIRST and put administration LAST. Mr. Washington there is an easy division between the four candidates, but nobody has asked them about the Ed. Center relocation. Of course I have asked all of them questions, two parrot the district answers (Thomas and Hartmann). Two think for themselves (Kirby and Shane).

    I have to end with this, “Separate but equal” has still not been answered by the two are the district supporters – Kim Hartmann and Francesca Thomas. Of course Thomas also supported Jennifer Petersen, who proceeded to jeopardize the Saguaro band director with their illegal performance at a Yes to Children and Millhaven, Petersen, and Robbins event. Yes, you cannot legally have a school band perform in uniform and use school instruments. That is more than a simple mistake. Maybe there can be more training at the new Ed. Center right?

  4. Here is a ‘dirty secret’ about Tonalea. It is being STRIPED! Yes as we type and read this text. The district has been stripping the building apart. So you can’t put anything there. Even the new library that is stand alone is being picked apart. As in they are taking out the toilets and anything else usable for other schools!

    How nice right? This was told to the community during the GAIN meeting this past Saturday. But of course the district will not tell the community. No, keep the community in the dark. That is the best way to win votes and keep your best friends and your providers for tax dollars and children informed right?

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