During this time that’s full of uncertainty, we desperately need people we can count on. Of course dedicated healthcare personnel and devoted first responders immediately come to mind for their service on the frontlines.
I would like to add our Scottsdale Unified School District teachers to that distinguished group.
This is “Teacher Appreciation Week,” and I can think of no better time to thank the nearly 1,400 SUSD teachers for their continued commitment and frequent sacrifice, particularly in these demanding times.
I recall about 10 years ago when I participated in my first “Teacher Appreciation Week.” I was serving as the new Hohokam Elementary School PTA president. There was a lot of tension throughout the school district about the extreme lack of funding.
In addition, discussions were underway about possibly consolidating schools to save money. Hohokam was one of the schools that would have been impacted.
It was a warm day in May, but that didn’t deter us from celebrating outside with our teachers. I took the day off from work and hauled my grill to campus. Hamburgers topped the menu.
It was a great time that gave parents the chance to express their appreciation to teachers who were working under extreme pressure.
Today, there is a whole new set of stressful challenges at SUSD. Schools are closed. Students are cut off from their friends and learning from home in their virtual classrooms. But one thing remains constant: Teachers are teaching.
Teachers’ commitment to converting their lessons and learning methods to accommodate this new mode of teaching is critical to our students because it provides them with much needed normalcy in their everyday lives. That is especially important during this time of uncertainty.
So, thank you SUSD teachers from Yes To Children. You have our support through thick and thin. And you are absolutely appreciated, and, dare I say, loved.
Editor’s Note: Denny Brown is a former member of the SUSD Governing Board and a co-chair of Yes To Children.
Gulick: Scottsdale teachers’ admirable commitment to education Scottsdale Independent by Melinda Gulick (4/16/2020)
I was recently asked by Scottsdale Independent reporter Melissa Rosequist to respond to several questions about what it’s like being quarantined at home, particularly with having the SUSD school year canceled.
To be sure, as a working solo mother of two high-energy boys ages 4 and 7, the recent circumstances are challenging. I relied on school to keep us in a routine and on a schedule --- and to give me time and space to work, exercise and reflect.
As I worked on how to best describe the impacts on my family’s lifestyles, I thought about our SUSD teachers who have made the rapid transition from traditional classroom learning to virtual teaching.
SUSD was only one of several districts in the state that responded so successfully. In fact, while neighboring districts are having only one Zoom classroom session per week --- my first grader and pre-schooler are having daily Zooms with their class, providing a much needed connection to their teachers and friends.
On behalf of our organization, Yes To Children, I want to thank teachers for their commitment to put students first even in the most challenging of times. I am seeing it every day.
I got to thinking about all the teachers who are parents as well.
Like so many of us, their kids are learning from home. Teachers are not only experiencing the same challenges we are, but they are also continuing to help their students learn by using the latest digital tools and adjusting to new teaching methods. And dealing with parents like me who are admittedly ill-prepared to teach.
I have heard teachers’ stories that are both heartwarming and humorous. Some are even sad.
Many, if not most, teacher-parents are working under intensely stressful conditions. For example, one teacher recently worried that she was putting her young daughter on the “backburner” because of all the new and increasing demands on her time.
A teacher’s nine-year-old girl lamented that she didn’t want to see her mom on the computer so much. Another wrote that “Between the training after hours, lesson preparation, grading and the many hours I have been on the phone trying to connect with my students to get them online, my time with my daughter has dwindled.”
All of us are experiencing the challenges of this epidemic. But whenever the demands of work and parenting don’t mesh as well as I wish, despite my best intentions, I think of our SUSD teachers who are exceeding expectations time and again with grace, professionalism, humor and creativity.
Thanks SUSD teachers, we are in awe of your dedication and flexibility and thankful for your continuing presence in our students’ daily life.
Editor’s Note: Melinda Gulick is a co-chair of Yes To Children.
Jackson: A bright future ahead for Scottsdale Schools under Dr. Menzel leadership Scottsdale Independent by George Jackson (2/28/2020)
I would like to add Yes To Children to the chorus of voices welcoming Dr. Scott Menzel as the new superintendent of the Scottsdale Unified School District.
Our organization is looking forward to working with you and your management team to help keep the school district moving in the right direction.
I believe this is an exciting and wonderful time for SUSD.
Besides inheriting the support of the community from the overwhelming victory last November to renew the maintenance and operation budget override, Dr. Menzel will take the helm of a strong school district that is performing at an exceptionally high level.
There have been many recent academic achievements across the district that continue to make SUSD one of the most highly rated school districts in the state. We have rebuilt many of our aging elementary schools and many more are scheduled to be rebuilt in the coming years. And, of critical importance, teachers have received much needed and deserved pay raises.
From my perspective as a former member of the SUSD Governing Board, the school district has taken significant steps in rebuilding the trust of the community.
All of these accomplishments would not have been possible without the outstanding leadership of Dr. John Kriekard, our interim superintendent.
Speaking on behalf of Yes to Children, and I’m sure for many other groups as well, I can not thank Dr. Kriekard enough. He has proven to be the perfect person to guide SUSD through a time of transition.
I can say without the shadow of a doubt, Dr. Kriekard will be leaving SUSD a much better place than how he found it two years ago.
Dr. Kriekard will be with us until June when Dr. Menzel will pick up where he will leave off. I expect this transition in leadership to be seamless.
I truly believe our Scottsdale public schools have a very bright future and the school district’s best days are ahead under the leadership of Dr. Menzel.
Editor’s Note: George Jackson is a member of Yes To Children and a former member of the SUSD Governing Board.
Gulick & Brown: Celebrating SUSD during National Public School WeekScottsdale Independent by Melinda Gulick and Denny Brown (2/24/2020)
This week is National Public School Week, so it’s a perfect time to reflect on our Scottsdale Unified School District schools, our students and their teachers --- and to also express how proud Yes To Children is to be affiliated with all of them.
It’s wonderful timing that the selection of SUSD’s new superintendent Scott Menzel coincides with our celebration of Scottsdale public schools. Welcome to our SUSD community Dr. Menzel.
For those who may not be aware, the Scottsdale Unified School District has 30 public schools. There are five high schools, 15 elementary schools, five middle schools, four K-8 schools and one online high school.
There are currently almost 23,000 students enrolled in SUSD.
Scottsdale public schools, like others across the country, are one of the pillars of the community. Besides contributing to the civic fabric of the community, our quality public schools play a critical role in creating an expanding economy by attracting businesses that offer good paying jobs.
It is also a fact that SUSD schools, some of the most highly rated in the state, enhance our neighborhoods and increase the value of property throughout the city.
All that said, it’s students who benefit the most by attending SUSD schools. They are the ones who have the opportunity to learn from highly committed and qualified teachers and have diversified experiences that create balance in their education. They are provided with the tools it takes to continue their education and prepare them for life beyond their schooling.
Our SUSD public schools are fortunate to attract the support and encouragement of groups like the Scottsdale Parent Council, the teachers of the Scottsdale Education Association and Scottsdale Charros, just to name a few. These organizations believe that our SUSD schools are worthy of their involvement and validate the value of receiving a public school education.
The volunteers of Yes To Children invite the community to help celebrate National Public Schools Week. It’s a time to express your appreciation to educators and all those who make our SUSD public schools such a special part of our community.
Editor’s Note: Melinda Gulick and Denny Brown are co-chairs of Yes To Children.
Yes To Children: Committing to a continued focus, awareness on Scottsdale SchoolsScottsdale Independent by Melinda Gulick and Denny Brown (2/11/2020)
As co-chairs of Yes To Children, we can think of no better way to celebrate our organization’s 20-year anniversary of supporting SUSD than to announce our renewed commitment to the school district’s students and teachers.
The overwhelming success of the SUSD budget override last November proved that when citizens are reminded of the critical role SUSD’s quality schools play in our community, residents respond positively. More than six out of 10 voters chose to renew the override --- which was a new record of voter support for the school district.
Yes To Children is proud to have led the campaign.
It was a true grassroots campaign driven by passionate volunteers --- including parents, teachers, community leaders and education advocates. Students pitched in, too.
The campaign was fortunate to have the endorsements of a wide range of people and organizations as well as generous sponsorships from the business community. They all contributed to the campaign’s success.
Following the campaign, our steering committee agreed that if an intense four-month effort produced such significant support for SUSD, just imagine how much support for the school district we could generate with an ongoing effort.
Our organization intends to seize the momentum created during the override election. Our objectives are to carry on the campaign to increase awareness about the excellent job SUSD is doing to help children excel and to expand support for the school district and its students and teachers.
Yes To Children was established in 2000. Over the years, thousands of volunteers have contributed to help SUSD become one of the highest rated school districts in the state of Arizona.
Our mission continues to be one of creating an educational environment that helps SUSD students succeed.
We hope the community will join Yes To Children in continuing our advocacy for SUSD not only during bond and budget override elections, but also through 2020 and beyond.
Editor’s Note: Melinda Gulick and Denny Brown are co-chairs of Yes To Children, a non-profit organization and political action committee.
Ensuring school override dollars are used wiselyScottsdale Independent by Karen Treon and Cindy Bitcon (10/28/2019)
We have mailed in our SUSD override ballots and we both enthusiastically voted yes. We hope you do too.
Arizona public education is underfunded. Our children have never known a fully funded education in their K-12 careers, and one is a sophomore in college! As a result, we co-chaired the 2014 and 2016 Yes to Children campaigns for SUSD.
The override had failed in 2013, and 2014 brought significant changes to SUSD.
Every Wednesday became an early release day, elementary PE, art, music, and band decreased, and class sizes grew.
To say that we were desperate for an override renewal would be an understatement. Thankfully, our efforts paid off with a solid win in 2014.
It is hard to believe, but that same override is about to begin phasing out if not renewed. It is not an increase to your taxes, but a continuation. Homeowners in SUSD boundaries pay one of the lowest property tax rates in the Phoenix Metro area.
For the cost of a drink at Starbucks once a month, your yes vote will support nearly 23,000 children. We ask you to consider it an investment in our future.
These school-age children are our future doctors, mechanics, programmers, musicians, artists, politicians, and community members. We are grateful to the taxpayers who funded our public education years ago and consider our yes votes as returning the favor.
SUSD has had a rough few years in the administration and governing board departments, but the teaching and learning in the classroom never wavered.
Our schools and teachers are dedicated to educating SUSD children and preparing them to be good citizens.
Thankfully, SUSD is back on track after parents and community members fought fiercely for accountability and transparency. You can trust that your tax dollars are spent wisely in Scottsdale Unified because the community will accept nothing less.
Please join us in voting yes to the continuation of the M&O override. Our future depends on it.
Editor’s Note: Karen Treon and Cindy Bitcon were Yes to Children 2014, 2016 co-chairs.
Say ‘yes’ to teachers and mail your ballotScottsdale Independent by Mike Norton (10/28/2019)
That ballot on your kitchen counter --- the one you’ve been looking at for a few days. Fill it out and mail it today. Don’t waste your vote.
Those who we count on the most to support our city are counting on you to fill in the four little blank lines marked “yes” and go to the mail box.
If you ask Scottsdale residents how they feel about teachers, fire fighters, our seniors, our parks, or support for recreation and athletic programs for all ages, you hear people gush about how much they admire teachers. How proudly fire fighters serve. How much you care about our community.
Today I want talk about teachers.
If you really love your kids’ teachers, show them. This time they need you more than we need them. More than anyone, our teachers will suffer if you don’t vote yes.
In the early part of this decade two override elections failed. State funding for schools was also being cut, and despite stories to the contrary full funding has never been restored.
How were teachers and our classrooms impacted?
I sat on the 2012-13 SUSD Budget Committee. I saw first hand the painful decisions that were made.
If we fail to pass the override, expect a repeat of most or all of these devastating results.
Over 220 teachers received Reduction In Force notices in just one year. Over 100 of them were eliminated immediately.
Others were reassigned to lesser duties. We had 1,418 teachers in SUSD in 2011 when the first override failed. By 2015, only 1,240 were still employed.
That horrible number doesn’t tell the whole story. Those with the most experience were most likely to be pushed out and then replaced.
It’s not legal to discriminate based on age, but those who had the highest pay levels were at great risk of not showing up again --- something that the former administration should be castigated for having done, but it happened.
Those teachers who remained had their pay frozen. Their take home pay fell as they were charged more each year for things like health coverage.
We passed the override again in late 2014, but the budget for 2014-15 was already set in place. That same year average gross pay for our teachers had dropped by $5,714. Take home pay had dropped even more as deductions for health care rose.
We had increased class sizes. We had cut art, P.E., and music from the K-5 programs. We had even cut a half day on Wednesdays.
Yes, those same things will happen if the override fails. There is no “fat to cut” --- OK, that’s not true --- there is a little fat to cut as there is in every budget on earth. But not nearly enough to avoid the same draconian cuts that we were forced to make in 2014.
Here is one way to look at it. If we lose the override we will lose more than $19.5 million of annual funding. How would your neighborhood school possibly handle a $650,000 cut to spending? Walk on your campus. Count the people working there.
Realize that 8-12 of them have to be cut if we lose the override. What will your campus look like after that happens? Who would you want to see gone? Who do you think your school could do without? What would your school be like next year?
As state report cards, growing enrollment and state leading AZ Merits test scores prove, SUSD is arguably the top district in this state.
We have regained much of our luster over the last four years despite being forced to wrestle control of the district away from a couple of tyrannical people.
Don’t give back the progress. Don’t push SUSD back in to the darkness of the 2012-15 era.
Say “yes” to your teacher. And yourself.
You’re voting to give yourself a better city and school. Give yourself that present today. Mail that ballot.
Editor’s Note: Mike Norton is a Scottsdale resident and father of Scottsdale Unified School District students.
An engaged, prepared workforce is Scottsdale’s futureScottsdale Independent by Chris Casalena (10/28/2019)
I’ve had the privilege to be one of the founding board members of Business United for Scottsdale Schools (BUSS), and now proudly serve as the president.
As a native of Scottsdale and business owner, I am keenly interested in the importance of having great schools and great businesses in our Scottsdale community ... Further, when both are working in concert with one another, amazing improvements happen for our students and our businesses.
BUSS is a Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation business-to-education workforce development program helping orchestrate this concert. It provides opportunities for students and business leaders to interact with the goal to develop an informed and engaged incoming workforce.
We have coordinated numerous internships, mentorships, tutoring, job shadowing, business tours and more. Paramount to the success of this collaboration is for our Scottsdale schools to be strong partners in this collective effort. Having an engaged and ready workforce is arguably the most important ingredient for successfully moving Scottsdale forward.
The upcoming Scottsdale Unified School District override renewal is critical to maintaining our excelling public schools in Scottsdale.
This override funding supports programs like robotics, nursing, and culinary studies, which provide our students with skills that Scottsdale businesses desire. We believe a community that embraces education as a means to economic prosperity is central to the quality of life for all.
I encourage all voters in Scottsdale to support this override and join me in voting yes.
Editor’s Note: Chris Casalena is president of Business United for Scottsdale Schools.
How your tax dollars will help Scottsdale Unified School DistrictScottsdale Independent by Patty Beckman (10/25/2019)
I am voting “yes” on the Scottsdale Unified School District Override and I ask our community to do the same.
If you have a student in school right now, as I do, you may be painfully aware that today’s students are facing challenges that did not exist when most of us were in school or even just a decade ago.
Teachers in 2019 have classrooms full of students dealing with test anxiety, social media pressure, technology distractions, substance abuse, poverty and more. The passing of the M&O override provides resources for our schools in specific areas of need so our students can be supported in a variety of ways and all can focus on reaching their academic potential.
When we discuss passing the override to give our schools additional funding, we often only hear “the school district needs more money.” We only lightly comprehend what these funds will be used for.
In Scottsdale Unified School District, we intend to use our override funds, your tax dollars, for the betterment of all students. SUSD anticipates your tax dollars will be used in the following ways:
•Maintain current class size ratios. SUSD’s educators are exceptional at getting to know the individual and unique needs of every student. Smaller class sizes make personalized attention possible and gives teachers the ability to recognize children that may be falling behind, as well as challenge those who are pushing ahead.
•Provide opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of Fine Arts and participate in athletics and extra curricular activities. In many cases, the one class that keeps a student wanting to come to school is choir or an art class. These programs are vital in giving children a “mental break” from brain fatigue and burnout. They are also essential in providing the well-rounded and diverse academic experience that have earned accolades for SUSD.
•Continue to provide competitive teacher compensation. In Scottsdale, we employ some of the best talent in the country. Most of our educators hold at least one master’s degree. The average teacher compensation for 2019 was $52,721. With inflation averaging between 2-4% over the last 30 years, it is vital that our educators’ compensation increase, as well.
We demand excellence in the classroom, the compensation should be commensurate with this demand.
•Continue the emphasis on technology. SUSD provides a world class education. How can we continue to provide this without technology? These override funds will allow us to keep up with ever-changing technological advances. We are proud to have recently made a substantial investment in Chrome Books for our students, but technology is evolving and needs to be sustained.
We must continue to invest in the physical technology, the updates, and the training of our staff and students. If we expect our children of today to excel in the community and workforce of tomorrow, we must educate them on how to appropriately use technology.
•Maintain all-day kindergarten. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, full day kindergarten can provide benefits such as: higher long-term achievement, higher achievement for disadvantaged and low income children, higher reading scores in early grades, fewer grade retentions, more time spent in individualized instruction, more time spent in free play, less time in large groups and higher self-esteem and independence.
The state does not provide full day kindergarten. In Scottsdale, we believe in the value of offering full day kindergarten and would like to continue providing it for our families.
This election, and community support, means a great deal to our district.
Voting “yes” will not increase your tax rate from where it is currently. “Yes” is simply a renewal of your current tax. These funds will enable Scottsdale Unified School District to continue providing families with the competitive world class educational experience Scottsdale children have known for generations. My family is voting “yes.” I hope yours does, as well.
Editor’s Note: Patty Beckman is the president of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board.
Well educated students make for an educated workforceMy yes vote for Scottsdale studentsScottsdale Independent by Dan Harkins (10/24/2019)
As an Arizona native, graduate, and long-time supporter of the Scottsdale Unified School District, I advocate for our SUSD students and teachers every chance I get.
I am all in for renewing the SUSD budget override.
It is vital that we maintain the quality of our schools. We need to make sure students are able learn and grow in an educational environment in which they can excel. It is up to us to invest in our schools to make that happen.
I employ a lot of young people. For many of them, it may be their first real job. So, I know how important it is to have an educated workforce.
When I hire someone, who is or has been a SUSD student, I know what to expect: bright people who are usually self-starters and appreciate the importance of customer service.
SUSD has a record of being one of the top-rated schools in the state.
In addition, SUSD high schools have repeatedly received recognition for our students’ academic performance. That’s something we can be proud of, but not take for granted.
Quality schools also play a significant role in attracting new businesses and retaining existing ones. Those businesses generate jobs. And the more jobs that can be created helps drive our economy and keeps our taxes some of the lowest in the Valley.
I would like to give a special shout-out to our teachers. They are the dedicated professionals who not only teach our children, they inspire them to achieve as well. The budget override will help keep teachers’ compensation competitive so our school district can continue to hire the most qualified educators.
I will be continuing my advocacy for our students and teachers by voting yes on the SUSD budget override.
Editor’s Note: Dan Harkins is the owner and executive chairman of Harkins Theatres.
What is that Scottsdale SUSD M&O override & why should I support it anyway? A ‘brief’ history & perspective from a Scottsdale parent and Realtor.Scottsdale Independent by Tracey Davis (10/22/2019)
My name is Tracey Davis and I have been a Scottsdale resident and licensed Realtor for nearly 20 years.
Both of our children were born and are being raised here, and are now 12 and 13 years old.
When we initially entered the Scottsdale public school system, our intention was to follow what generations had done before --- proudly raise our children in our community school.
At the time, the entire country was still reeling from the “great recession.”
As a Realtor, the previous five years were full of short sales, foreclosures, and bank owned properties. But, starting around 2012, the national economy was starting to crawl and walk again.
What we didn’t realize then was that our state, municipality and schools were still suffering.
In the 2012 and 2013 Scottsdale special elections, the city and district attempted to “band-aid” the lack of taxpayer revenue via a vote for city bonds and SUSD M&O override ballots. All were rejected by voters.
At the time, Scottsdale residents expressed their intention for the city and our schools to “do more with less.” Combined with regressing state funding (that continues today), the resulting budget cuts for SUSD schools were drastic and had a direct impact on classrooms.
Between 2012-15, the resulting budget cuts caused teacher job loss, the near-doubling of some class sizes, freezes of teacher pay and (for the 2014-15 school year) forced schools to implement a one-day half day per week for elementary schools plus a slashing of “specials” across the board.
The hardship of providing care for elementary-age children and the disruption of their school schedule as well as school studies was felt by many.
Finally! Scottsdale residents passed the “first” Scottsdale Schools M&O override in 2014 and the district started a slow process of recovery.
This history bears repeating because it’s important to remember from where we’ve come before we take for granted where we are today.
Our district faces “competition” like never before for student enrollment, especially from the families that fled SUSD during the cut-backs.
With respect to the real estate market, the good news is (since 2012) home values have been steadily increasing. Homeowners are once again renovating.
Investors are pouring back into Scottsdale because they know the potential. Much of that enthusiasm for Scottsdale is due to our reputation for great schools.
The quality of schools is a also top question of every client of mine who is moving here with children.
A few statistics: In 2012, 5,194 single family homes sold in Scottsdale for an average of $512,565.
By 2014, the average jumped to $630,752 for more than a 20% increase in home value.
Fast forward another two years to 2016: The average moved up to $650,360.
By 2018, 5,349 homes sold for an average of $736,940 --- that’s another 13% increase in property value.
For another snapshot, in 2012, the lowest home sale was $65,000. By 2018, that number jumped to $168,000!
Similarly, on the ultra-upscale side of real estate, the highest ‘12 home sale was $8.2 million and in 2018 that number was $17.5 million.
These numbers clearly illustrate a few things about Scottsdale.
First, the numbers attest to the city’s diversity. Second, they point to continued investment by people who want to work, live and raise their children here. And, third, we still have much room to grow.
According to the site fedprimerate.com, the average U.S. home price in December of 2018 was just shy of $294,000.
On the flip side, school related property taxes have actually decreased each year for six years. Property taxes have stayed consistent, but the portion that is allotted to the district has steadily declined.
This year’s M&O override does not increase anyone’s property taxes by even a cent. It’s simply a continuation of what was approved in 2014 and requires renewal this November 2019.
Back to my family, we suffered through the increased class sizes and cuts to specials along with everyone else. But, we stayed and supported our schools in any way we could.
We voted yes in 2014 and since for education.
Backed the teacher walk-out.
On the flip side, we also started paying attention to the district’s actions and mis-actions through the mismanagement of monies by Dr. Birdwell and friends.
Thankfully, in the last year and a half, the district has happily flourished under Dr. Kriekard and the new Governing Board members.
SUSD is once again responsive to teachers and parents. We are once again headed in the right direction, and we all hope we never regress back to that place in time.
Currently the district is supporting the creation of more unique programs and specialties in our schools to better compete with private and charter schools.
There is reason to have faith in school building, renovations and additions in Scottsdale right now. The construction and renovation of schools, such as Cherokee and Hohokam also supports valuable jobs and boosts our economy.
In order for many more and future generations of “Native Arizonans” to be born and raised in our beloved city, we all need to support the sustainability and growth of Scottsdale schools.
By voting “yes” on the 2019 M&O override, you are simply continuing the progress of the last six years. To vote “no” is a statement that you do not care for this generation of students and teachers and those to come.
This is a vote for your children, your grandchildren, and all Scottsdale students.
Even if it’s a vote of self-interest, you will continue to see your property values rise as Scottsdale schools continue to improve and attract the families of new businesses coming to Scottsdale.
Either way, vote “yes” this coming November. It’s not a vote for new property taxes (there are none on this measure), it’s simply a commitment to continue our current level of investment into all of our future.
Editor’s Note: Tracey Davis is a Scottsdale resident and parent.
Scottsdale Parents: SPC is working to prevent school fund sacrificesScottsdale Independent by Lara Palles and Lisa Kanarish (10/21/2019)
Our state legislature provides less funding for education per student than almost any other state in the country.
That lack of funding means the Scottsdale Unified School District must ask voters to renew the budget override every five years.
By renewing the SUSD budget override, the school district will receive approximately $19 million more a year to maintain and operate our schools without raising the property tax rate.
If voters fail to renew the override, funding for the school district will automatically be reduced by $6.5 million a year.
The Scottsdale Parent Council is working to prevent sacrificing that much needed money, which helps fund full-day kindergarten, music, arts, world languages, athletic programs and SUSD’s emphasis on technology.
Renewing the budget override will contribute to keeping teachers’ salaries competitive, so the school district can continue attracting and retaining the most highly qualified educators.
In addition, the override will help SUSD maintain the lower-than-the-state’s-average teacher to student ratios.
Our organization is proud to join the SUSD Governing Board, HonorHealth, Scottsdale Charros and the Scottsdale Fire Fighters Association in working together to approve the renewal of the SUSD budget override.
Our groups know we cannot take this election to maintain the quality of our schools for granted. It’s critical that voters understand its importance to students, teachers and parents.
Because our schools are one of the institutional pillars of our community, we believe a yes vote for the SUSD budget override is an investment in not only the quality of our schools, but also the strength of our community.
Editor’s Note: Lara Palles and Lisa Kanarish are the president and vice president of the Scottsdale Parent Council.
Grandparents’ support for the school overrideScottsdale Independent by Wayne Ecton (10/17/2019)
My children have grown, but I’m still voting yes on the SUSD budget override.
Long ago my son and daughter set out on their own. Both of them have become very successful in their respective careers. I do, however, have grandchildren, so I know today’s importance of quality schools and a good education.
Just because some people may not have children of school age, does not mean that renewing the SUSD budget override won’t positively impact them.
Many studies show that quality schools increase property values.
Scottsdale is not an exception to those survey findings. Local Realtors know that quality schools in combination with rising property values also enhance neighborhoods.
Our friends at HonorHealth, the city’s largest employer and a supporter of renewing the budget override, recently reminded us that “The children in our schools today are our future doctors, nurses and community leaders.”
We should not take the quality of our schools for granted. Too much is at stake to do otherwise. Renewing the budget override will provide about $19 million a year to help SUSD maintain and operate schools — and it won’t increase our property tax rate.
In addition, all override funds will remain in our school district.
Many voters, like my wife and I, have grandchildren. Students are the ones who will benefit from continuing the budget override because it will help keep full-day kindergarten, maintain current class sizes and retain music, arts, world languages and athletic programs.
It will also allow SUSD to continue emphasizing technology, both as a teaching tool and as a critical part of the schools curriculum.
The Ecton family will be voting ues to approve the renewal of the SUSD budget override. We hope our friends and neighbors with grandchildren do the same.
Editor’s Note: Wayne Ecton is a former member of the Scottsdale City Council.
Scottsdale Charros support 15% school overrideScottsdale Independent by Dennis Robbins and Rick Carpinelli (10/16/2019)
As schools go, so goes the future of our cities.
That’s why we support education excellence and why we support the SUSD override.
For over 60 years, the Scottsdale Charros have been invested in SUSD through mentorship and programs. We know that SUSD is committed to providing the quality education our community expects.
The district must continue its tradition of excellence as one of the best districts in the state.
The override will be used to enable SUSD to attract the best teachers to deliver instruction that supports the kind of 21st Century educational programming to keep our schools in high demand, and our children well prepared for their future.
The override is intended to maintain class size and competitive teacher compensation, and funds programs like arts, music, world languages and athletics while supporting technology in the district.
This investment in our schools is important for our neighborhoods and the financial strength of our cities. With the support of teachers, family and community, students are rising to the challenge.
This is an all-mail ballot election. If you haven’t received your ballot in the mail yet, you should very shortly.
Please join us in voting yes for the SUSD M&O override.
Editor’s Note: Dennis Robbins is the executive director of Scottsdale Charros, and Rick Carpinelli is a Scottsdale Charros patron.
Time to again stand up for Scottsdale SchoolsScottsdale Independent by John Little (10/16/2019)
Five years ago I penned an opinion piece that was published in the local newspaper entitled, “Time to stand up for Scottsdale Schools.”
It was written to mobilize interest and support for the future of education on behalf of our children. I had felt at the time there was no more important issue facing our city and our schools.
Voters had rejected Maintenance and Operations (M&O) override proposals in 2012 and 2013. The 2013 vote failed by a mere 300 votes.Today we have an opportunity to pivot towards the future and pass a new override for our Scottsdale Schools.
My interest in Scottsdale Schools is not episodic or opportunistic. I led strategic planning retreats for both the SUSD board and the Scottsdale Education Foundation as far back as 1997.
Additionally while working with the City of Scottsdale I supported and actively promoted innovative shared-use concepts for libraries and field maintenance.
I continue my commitment today as a member of the Scottsdale Charros who provide direct and indirect support for students, faculty and facilities.
Presently, I continue to advocate for the City Council and the SUSD board to initiate discussions on the benefits of including an “education” element to the city’s 19-year-old General Plan.
A truly sustainable community should embrace the symbiotic relationship between quality schools and quality of community life. They are inexorably entwined.
My more intimate relationship comes from the fact that our children attended Laguna and Desert Mountain High, my wife attended Hohokam, Pima and Scottsdale High and her mother taught English for many years at Yavapai and Tonalea.
In a community as blessed as ours, complacency is the foe most likely to undermine our future.
Failing to support override funding for SUSD and infrastructure improvements for the city is a harbinger for trouble. We cannot afford to rely on the cathartic model of change in, which people wait for failure before they respond and we certainly can’t depend on the Million Monkey Theorum to hope that somehow random actions will produce solutions.
As you read this you will most likely either have already voted or you have your mail-in ballot on the kitchen table. Don’t wait, vote yes on the SUSD override. And one more thing… simply dropping your ballot in the mailbox cannot be the end of your support. Make this election the beginning of your ongoing investment in our children, our schools and our community.
Post Script: The Million Monkeys still haven’t accomplished typing the complete works of William Shakespeare nor have we completed the duty of insuring excellence in education for our children and grandchildren. It is a work in progress and we should never let their future be subject to chance.
Editor’s Note: John Little is a 2020 candidate for the Scottsdale City Council and a former city manager.
Planning ahead for the benefit of our studentsScottsdale Independent by Sasha Weller (10/14/2019)
A significant part of our job as Scottsdale firefighters is practicing and training in order to take the necessary precautions that keep the community safe.
Of course accidents happen. However, many can be prevented through preparing and educating citizens about how to avoid dangerous situations.
As firefighters, many of whom are also parents, we know the importance of ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed. That begins by creating an educational environment and providing them with the tools and teaching for students to excel.
In other words: education, like staying safe, is about planning ahead.
The men and women of the Scottsdale Fire Fighters Association are enthusiastically endorsing the renewal of Scottsdale Unified School District’s budget override.
There are many reasons our organization is supporting the budget override, including making sure teachers continue to be paid fairly. That is critical to both attracting and retaining the most highly qualified educators.
Our students deserve nothing less than the best.
Renewing the override, which, by the way, does not increase the property tax rate, will also help SUSD:
The Scottsdale Fire Fighters Association’s motto is “We’re Here For You.” Voters have the chance to be here for our students and teachers by voting yes to renew the SUSD budget override.
Editor’s Note: Sasha Weller is a Scottsdale Fire Department fire captain and president of the Scottsdale Fire Fighters Association.
Voting ‘no’ on SUSD override cripples future students’ potentialsScottsdale Independent by Haley Linnig (10/14/2019)
My name is Haley Linnig and I am one of the many students that have benefited from growing up in Scottsdale public schools.
I have had countless opportunities open to me due to the education I received. I am currently a third year computer science student at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and have been working for Raven Industries as a Software Development Intern.
I would not be where I am today without the programs and teachers that were available to me through our public-school district.
SUSD (Scottsdale Unified School District) is responsible for my knowledge and experience in Mandarin Chinese (always a surprise to employers on my resume), orchestra, calculus (allowing me to begin college in Calculus III), theatre (where my public speaking skills stem from), English (from persuasive writing to rhetorical analysis), robotics, engineering (specifically a college credit course offered at my high school that detailed different engineering disciplines), and many other fields.
Voting no on the SUSD override is equivalent to crippling our future students’ potential, no matter where they intend to continue after school.
These students are the future of our community and they will be affected by class sizes, lack of arts programs, and a decrease in overall opportunity for development.
We also can’t expect teachers to be able to do their jobs with an overall decrease in scholastic funding, it’s bad enough already with how many teachers are forced to pick up multiple jobs or simply leave the district to find someplace that will pay a living wage.
I am so thankful for the teachers who worked tirelessly for my education, despite their limited resources.
I will be voting yes on the SUSD override and I hope that you will as well for the sake of every student in our school system.
Editor’s Note: Haley Linnig is a graduate of Scottsdale Unified School District.
Yes To Children: With volunteer help, SUSD override is expected to passScottsdale Independent by Melinda Gulick and Denny Brown (10/11/2019)
In this day and age, we suppose our campaign to renew the SUSD budget override is considered “old school.”
It is a grassroots campaign driven by volunteers — including parents, teachers, community leaders, education advocates and even students who are pitching in to help SUSD succeed.
The school district is fortunate to have scores of community members so committed to SUSD students and teachers. On behalf of our Yes To Children committee, we want to express our deepest appreciation to all the volunteers who are taking the time and making the effort to pass the override.
With the hard work of our volunteers, we expect to win voter approval to continue the budget override — which, by the way, does not increase the property tax rate. But we are not taking winning for granted. Neither should you.
We understand not everyone can work on the campaign. You can, however, tell your family, friends and neighbors how important it is to vote yes on the budget override.
They should be interested in hearing that renewing the override will provide SUSD with approximately $19 million a year, all of which will remain in SUSD. Those funds will be invested in maintaining quality schools that increase property values and enhance neighborhoods.
Of course, and most importantly, students and teachers benefit too.
The budget override will keep full-day kindergarten; maintain current class sizes; retain music, arts, world languages, athletic programs and extra curricular activities and also continue an emphasis on technology.
In addition, the override will help the school district keep teachers’ compensation competitive, so SUSD can continue attracting and retaining the most highly qualified educators.
Renewing the budget override is critical. Don’t take this election for granted — because every vote counts and your vote matters.
Ballots were mailed Wednesday. So, please, vote yes on your mail-in ballot for the SUSD budget override.
Editor’s Note: Melinda Gulick and Denny Brown are co-chairs of the Yes To Children campaign committee to renew the SUSD budget override.
Vote YES on SUSD Override for Our Students and Our Communityby Councilmember Virginia Korte (10/6/2019)
Obviously, renewing the SUSD Budget Override is about helping provide students, many of whom will go on to be future leaders in our community, with the environment they need to excel.
But continuing the budget override, which won’t change the property tax rate, will also benefit teachers, our economy and your property values.
Renewing the budget override will create funds for SUSD to continue attracting the most highly qualified teachers. The override will also allow the school district to keep employing our best educators.
Businesses, ones we are attempting to attract and others we are working to keep, all stress the importance of an educated and well-trained workforce. SUSD is one of the most highly rated school districts in the state. Our students are setting new standards of excellence that will make them appealing and reliable employees in the future.
These businesses create jobs that help make our economy strong and keep our taxes low.
In addition, it’s a statistical fact that SUSD schools increase our property values. And it’s our high-caliber schools that also enhance our neighborhoods.
I will be voting YES on the SUSD Budget Override for our students and teachers as well as our economy and property values.
I urge you do to the same.
My vote will put Scottsdale students, teachers first Scottsdale Independent by Christian Serena (10/3/2019)
I graduated from Saguaro High School in 2003. In fact I still live within walking distance of the campus.
My years as a “Sabercat” helped shape who I have become today. My teachers and coaches instilled in me the importance of giving back to the community. They taught us that making a difference takes hard work and dedication. Often times, they explained, we need to put others before ourselves.
Next month we have the chance to put our Scottsdale Unified School District’s students and teachers first by voting yes for the SUSD Budget Override. Doing that isn’t just a matter of principle, it’s making a good investment — because maintaining the quality of our schools helps increase our property values, and also enhances our neighborhoods.
I know that our school district recently had issues surrounding its leadership. I believe those days are over and SUSD is back on track.
The Governing Board has the school district headed in the right direction once again, which includes passing the budget override.
Renewing the budget override, which doesn’t change our property tax rate, provides the school district with about $19 million a year. If voters fail to do that, funding for SUSD will automatically be reduced by $6.5 million a year.
I believe that’s something we shouldn’t allow to happen.
It’s also important for voters to know that all budget override funds stay in SUSD.
I intend to put our students and teachers first by voting yes on the SUSD budget override on my ballot.
Editor’s Note: Christian Serena is a resident of Scottsdale.
Saying yes to school override benefits city, kids Scottsdale Progress by Guest Writer Melinda Gulick (9/30/2019)
As a graduate of Chaparral High School, I remember my days as a “Firebird” fondly. I had great teachers and made wonderful friends, many of whom I still see regularly today.
When it came time to enroll my two young sons in school, I didn’t have to think twice about where to send them. I wanted them to attend Scottsdale Unified School District schools.
In fact, we moved to the school district so that our family could have the benefits of neighborhood schools.
It’s important to me that my boys have the diversified learning opportunities that quality public schools like the ones in SUSD offer.
I’m a working mom and I do my best to stay active in our community, just like I did before I had children.
I have served as a volunteer on several Yes To Children bond and override campaigns. I worked with outstanding people, including teachers, parents and even grandparents.
Our grassroots efforts were remarkably successful, thanks to voters who understood the importance of continuing to invest in our local public schools.
Earlier this year, when I was asked to serve as co-chair of the 2019 Yes To Children campaign to renew the maintenance & operations budget override, it was easy for me to say “yes,” knowing that I would have the chance to work with Denny Brown as co-chair.
For those who don’t know what a budget override is, it’s simple: The override must be approved by voters every five years for SUSD to continue receiving above state funding.
If voters renew the override this fall, SUSD will receive approximately $19 million a year without raising the property tax rate.
Will renewing the budget override benefit residents? Yes.
Maintaining quality schools helps increase property values and enhance our neighborhoods, not to mention boosting Scottsdale’s economy. Businesses and families move here every day.
Quality SUSD schools often factor into those decisions to relocate here, which makes the school district one of the primary economic engines in our city. That, by the way, helps keep our taxes some of the lowest in the Valley.
Continuing the budget override is an investment in our schools and students.
Renewing the override will help keep teachers’ salaries competitive – and that allows SUSD to continue attracting and retaining the most highly qualified educators.
Besides contributing to the strong academic performance of SUSD students with top-notch teachers, one of the most appealing aspects of renewing the budget override is how it will continue creating well-rounded students.
The override will help retain music, arts, world languages, athletic programs and maintain an emphasis on using technology as a teaching tool.
I will vote YES on renewing the SUSD budget override in early October when my ballot arrives. Remember, this is an all-mail ballot election – and I hope you vote yes as well.
Editor's Note - Melinda Gulick is a Scottsdale resident and co-chair of the Yes to Children campaign.
Great Scottsdale public schools play a role in recruiting, retaining business Scottsdale Independent by by Mark Stanton & Matthew Benson (9/26/2019)
We can all be thankful to live and work in a community served by Scottsdale Unified School District, arguably Arizona’s premier school district.
This kind of excellence deserves the full support of our community.
That’s why we ask that you vote yes on the SUSD Maintenance & Operations Override when you receive your ballot in the mail in early October.
Quality public schools provide the foundation for Scottsdale’s workforce and the cornerstone of our high property values. SUSD is also a great selling point when it comes to both recruiting new businesses and retaining existing employers.
An investment in SUSD is an investment in our community and its future. Without approval of this M&O override, Scottsdale public schools face the prospect of tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts — hurting our students and teachers. We can’t let that happen.
Please join us in supporting SUSD so our schools have the resources necessary to continue providing an excellent education. When you receive your ballot this fall, vote yes on the SUSD M&O override.
Editor’s Note: Mark Stanton is president & CEO of Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce; Matthew Benson is vice chairman of Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.
Supporting Scottsdale Schools override reinforces a thriving community Scottsdale Independent by Kris Ambri (9/23/2019)
The Scottsdale Education Association invites you to join us in supporting the SUSD override renewal — not only with your vote of YES, but also by helping us to get the word out about this important vote.
Through this all mail-in ballot election, a yes vote authorizes the continued increase in our district’s budget. A yes vote allows our Scottsdale schools to remain a source of pride for this wonderful city.
A yes vote preserves the programs and facilities our communities and children rely on. This override is not new income; these are the funds we’ve counted on over the past years simply to remain solvent as a district.
The loss of this override would result in the loss of an estimated $21.4 million per year for the next five years. Our highly rated schools attract families and businesses, and we simply cannot afford to lose tens of millions in funding.
This continuation of funds is needed in order to maintain current class size ratios, maintain all-day kindergarten, continue an emphasis on technology, and continue to provide students opportunities to deepen their understanding of fine arts, as well as participate in athletics and extracurricular activities.
As the president of SEA, as well as a full time middle school social studies teacher at Copper Ridge K-8, it is both my honor and pleasure to have met and worked with so many amazing students, teachers, parents, district leaders, and community members here in Scottsdale.
Our schools are made of all of these citizens, and the best way we can make sure we continue to have a thriving city is to support them.
Communities are based on great district schools, and here is an opportunity to demonstrate that we value our children and our teachers; that we support our community.
SEA is working with Yes To Children in the coming weeks to get out and walk in our learning communities to show and share our support for this override. We have offered to set up campus by campus listening sessions to educate our teachers and staff about this important vote.
SEA remains committed to keeping the promise of quality public education.
As Scottsdale Unified School District’s professional organization for educators, the Scottsdale Education Organization requests that you join us in voting YES on the SUSD override — and to tell your friends and neighbors to vote yes, too!
Editor’s Note: Kris Ambri is a Scottsdale Unified School District teacher, and president of the Scottsdale Education Association.
Access to quality public education essential for Scottsdale, all children Scottsdale Independent by Ava Budavari-Glenn (9/11/2019)
I’m a sophomore at Emerson College in Boston, but I still remember that week in high school when we ran out of paper — and had no designated funding to buy more.
Teachers were forced to ask students to bring some in.
It was embarrassing for the district. And, who even needs paper anymore when we have this amazing technology? Well, if you don’t have money to buy paper, you certainly won’t have any to buy computers that actually work. Or any computers at all.
For years, the Arizona legislature has continued to cut the education budget, reducing SUSD funding by about $30 million. They will continue to do so until we elect new, pro-education legislators. But for now, the override is something that you, as a voter, have the power to vote “yes” on, that can make up for many of the losses that the district has faced.
If passed, the override will bring millions of dollars in for SUSD schools without increasing their property tax. It can provide for competitive teacher compensation, technological investment, unchanging class size and more. If it fails, SUSD will lose millions annually.
The passage of the override is especially important for the lower-income schools within the district, who need the money more than anyone else. And, don’t fret about your taxes — we would still have one of the lowest tax rates of any district in the Valley.
But here is the philosophical question you need to ask yourself when you are voting: Would you be able to look a child in the eye and tell them that they didn’t deserve a good education? Something that is an inalienable human right? Would you be able to look your child in the eye and say those words? Because you will see the consequences of your vote, regardless of whether you have a child that goes to an SUSD school or not.
An investment in education is an investment in the economy. If citizens are well-educated, not only will they become productive members of society by having jobs, they will also have the money to be consumers. It’s a logical cycle.
I saw the impact that lack of funding has had firsthand. My favorite teachers never stayed for more than three years because they couldn’t afford to, we had computers that didn’t work, facilities that needed renovation but never got it.
And I was in one of the wealthier schools in the district. The Arizona Legislature still is not adequately funding us, so it’s time to take matters into our own hands. Because the reality is, no one can really learn all that they need to in a learning environment that is dysfunctional and unstable.
Vote “YES” on the SUSD override by mail-in ballot, Nov. 5.
Editor’s note: Ms. Budvari-Glenn is a graduate of the Scottsdale Unified School District
We need to pass the Scottsdale Schools override renewal Scottsdale Independent by Christine Marsh (9/9/2019)
I spent almost all of my time as Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year just trying to make sure students’ learning and lives didn’t get worse.
While the teachers of the year in other states were implementing programs to enhance students’ learning, I focused almost 100% on trying to stop the bleeding.
The teachers in other states had cool initiatives, like creating a music-across-the-curriculum, or publishing books of students’ work, or creating an entire anti-bullying campaign for a state that was experiencing an uptick in bullying behavior.
I was — and still am — jealous, because in Arizona, our schools are so underfunded that we need to approach every issue from the perspective of a triage nurse: Will whatever-it-is reduce class size or help retain teachers? If the answer to that is “no,” the idea needs to be shelved for now.
Our students already suffer through having the fourth highest class sizes in the nation; tens-of-thousands of kids are in classrooms without certified teachers because we have a teacher shortage that has reached epic proportions; they face the highest student-to-counselor ratio of any state in the nation; we have school buildings that are quite literally falling apart; and I could go on. And on.
On Nov. 5, Scottsdale residents will have the opportunity to make sure our students’ lives don’t get worse. We need to pass the override. We have to pass it. If we don’t, our students will suffer more than they already do—with class sizes that even larger than they already are.
For those of you who are saying that the override is not enough — I agree. However, it’s the best we can do right now, in this election. If residents want to be in a position of actually making sure students thrive, instead of merely surviving, then we need to elect different legislators to serve at our state capitol.
Until then, we have to ensure that their lives don’t get worse. Trust me…I know what a raw deal it is to fight so hard to merely make sure things don’t get worse, because I did it for a solid year as Arizona’s Teacher of the Year.
We need to do it, though: Vote “yes” on SUSD’s override on Nov. 5.
Editor’s note: Ms. Marsh is a longtime Scottsdale educator, recently named Teach of the Year
Scottsdale Schools November override key to beloved ‘neighborhood experience’ Scottsdale Independent by Dana Close (9/4/2019)
Our family lives in south Scottsdale close to Coronado High School. My neighbors and I look forward to this time of year when we hear the band practice in the morning. The excitement of the crowd that we hear during Friday night football games is almost palpable.
That energy flows through our neighborhoods and provides residents with a strong sense of community.
I imagine neighbors of other schools throughout Scottsdale would say something similar about how our quality SUSD schools enhance their neighborhoods.
I have the pleasure of producing the annual Scottsdale Home Tour. While the event only takes place once a year in November, during the remainder of the year I’m networking with homeowners in south Scottsdale neighborhoods of all types. I get to know families. I hear their stories, and why they have chosen to live in this area. Many of the people I meet say they like living in south Scottsdale because of the “neighborhood experience.”
The young families tell me they move here not only because of that feeling of “neighborhood,” but because they want to make sure their children can attend SUSD schools. It’s no surprise since SUSD is one of the highest rated school districts in the state.
A recent study found that the 85257 ZIP code is the home of the fastest appreciating home values in Arizona. Other studies show that quality schools are one of the primary things that contribute to increasing property values. That’s one reason why it’s so critical to do everything we can to continue maintaining the quality of our schools.
SUSD is asking voters to renew a budget override this fall. It will be an all-mail ballot election in which voters will begin receiving their ballots in little more than a month.
Of course voting “Yes” will help increase our property values without raising the property tax rate. But it does a lot more — including making sure our teachers are paid a competitive wage that helps attract and keep the most highly qualified educators to teach and mentor our kids.
Scottsdale voters have a history of supporting SUSD. I hope that commitment will continue by renewing the SUSD Budget Override this fall.
Editor’s note: Ms. Close, a resident of south Scottsdale, is a member of the city bond steering committee and produces the Scottsdale Home Tour, which is Nov. 10.
The time is now to support Scottsdale Schools!Scottsdale Independent by Gary Shapiro (8/28/2019)
As a Scottsdale REALTOR for the past 48 years, I’ve learned the three most important things about real estate are: location, location, and location.
In Scottsdale’s case, it relates to the attendance boundaries of the Scottsdale Unified School District, which include Scottsdale, most of Paradise Valley and parts of Phoenix and Tempe.
Buyer, sellers, landlords and tenants prefer to have that magical SUSD address when it comes to real estate because they know our schools are providing the best possible educational experiences and learning environment for our students to excel.
You don’t have to have kids or grandchildren enrolled in one of our schools to appreciate that quality schools increase everyone’s property values. They also enhance neighborhoods and enrich the entire community.
Scottsdale’s citizens have always had high expectations for their schools. I believe SUSD has met and often exceeded those expectations. That’s why we have a long history of supporting public education.
It’s time to step up again.
Renewing the budget override will provide approximately $19 million a year through 2025 without increasing our property tax rate. And, remember SUSD already has one of the lowest tax rates in the Valley.
Helping SUSD succeed is even easier this year, because this is an all-mail ballot election.
When your ballot comes in the mail, I hope you’ll join me in voting, “yes” for the SUSD budget override.
Editor’s note: Mr. Shapiro is a resident of Scottsdale and longtime community advocate.
A voice of support for Scottsdale public education Scottsdale Independent by Denny Brown (8/26/2019)
When I was a young actor, I had the great opportunity to work with awesome, well-known professionals who taught me about dedication to the craft of acting.
Later, I worked in the film industry with award-winning directors and other professionals who showed me the importance of having a vision.
Following a strange turn of events, I ended up working in racing. The complexities of engineering and the amazing skills of drivers gave me an appreciation of what it takes to be a winner. And, two years at the Indy 500 on pit row is where I learned about precision and teamwork. Serving four years as a PTA president led to four years as a member of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board.
Now I’m 23 years into parenting. I’m also 10-plus years into working in churches so I would have time to devote to being a good dad and husband.
After all my incredible experiences in which one thing has always led to another, I must admit that meeting and working with school administrators, teachers, parents and students of all ages are making these my greatest times.
Now, here I am today collaborating with Melinda Gulick, my incredibly committed co-chair on the Yes To Children campaign to renew the SUSD Budget Override. By the way, Melinda’s two young boys are just starting their SUSD experience.
Renewing the Budget Override will help maintain the quality of our schools – which, in turn, will increase property values and enhance neighborhoods. Voting YES on the override will also keep teachers’ salaries competitive, so SUSD can continue attracting and retaining the most highly qualified educators.
Please support the SUSD Budget Override in the upcoming all-mail ballot election. I encourage you to go to our organization’s website to learn how you can help SUSD succeed: YesToChildren.org
Editor’s note: Mr. Brown, a Scottsdale resident, is a former member of the SUSD Governing Board
Support Scottsdale public education through M&O renewal Scottsdale Independent by Laura Weeshoff (8/23/2019)
My husband was born and raised in Scottsdale and graduated from Chaparral High School followed by the University of Arizona. I grew up in southern California where I attended my neighborhood schools followed by Duke University and then Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona.
I have lived in Arizona for 16 years now, and Scottsdale for eight of those years. Around the time we moved up here we learned that our local elementary school was closing early every Wednesday due to lack of funding, which was very disheartening.
My husband and I feel very strongly that we wouldn’t be where we are today without our wonderful educational experiences that we gained at our neighborhood public schools.
This November, Scottsdale Unified School District is asking district residents to renew the previous maintenance and operations override to maintain the educational funding they need. Here’s why: From 2008-2015 Arizona cut more funding to K-12 public schools than any other state. In 2018, we were still spending 13.6% less per pupil than a decade earlier.
This has put Arizona at 47th in per pupil spending in the nation, leaving our public schools drastically underfunded. It is what drives districts all over the state to request the renewal of overrides in their cities to maintain the additional funding they need.
Renewing the current M&O override is called an increase — but because it is a renewal, it is important to understand there will be no increase to current property tax rates! Scottsdale property taxes are already one of the lowest in the state and ranked in the lowest third nationally.
Without a renewal of the override our already underfunded schools will suffer. It will be hard to attract and pay outstanding teachers. SUSD is privileged to be led by an accomplished and effective superintendent helping us attract quality teachers and allied health staff. However, with our teacher shortage in Arizona, being able to pay adequate wages is incredibly important too.
Without the renewal, we will also have to cut back on special programs like art, music, world languages and technology. Our manageable class sizes will no longer be manageable.
Like many young couples, my husband and I moved to Scottsdale to raise a family in an inviting community with outstanding neighborhood schools.
We are thankful Scottsdale has a reputation for strong neighborhood schools and when the time came to enroll for kindergarten we chose our neighborhood elementary school. As with other SUSD schools, ours offers a comprehensive curriculum with specials such as art, music, including orchestra and choir, foreign language with an immersion option, physical education and technology classes.
The SUSD kindergarten classrooms are also capped at 24 students per credentialed teacher and the students have a full day schedule. Our schools also employ counselors to improve our students’ social and emotional health, so they are not only successful, but also well adjusted human beings.
Our SUSD schools provide a well rounded and academically challenging educational experience for the students they serve beginning in kindergarten, and even earlier in our Early Learning programs, all the way through high school.
We are so thankful for the opportunities and support our neighborhood schools are able to provide our children and our community.
Support the Scottsdale Maintenance and Operations Override to continue to build on SUSD’s strengths, improve our property values and attract businesses with high-level talent to our community. Vote, “yes” on the Scottsdale M&O override to ensure a successful Scottsdale now and in years to come.
Editor’s note: Ms. Weeshoff is a resident of Scottsdale
A vote for the override is a vote for the Scottsdale community Scottsdale Independent by George Jackson (8/15/2019)
As a former member of the Scottsdale Unified School District’s Governing Board and a parent of two SUSD students, one former and one current, I know from experience the benefits of investing in our public schools.
We are fortunate to have excelling schools that have a history of producing strong academic results. That tradition of excellence continues with a long list of accolades.
Here are a few of them that were achieved in 2018:
Scottsdale is a wonderful city in which to live, work and raise a family. Businesses and families move here every day. And, our highly rated schools play a significant part in their decisions to relocate here.
It’s important that we don’t take our quality schools for granted.
This fall we will have the opportunity to continue our commitment to SUSD schools, students and teachers by renewing the school district’s maintenance and operations budget override. The override will provide approximately $19 million a year through 2025 without raising the tax rate.
Passing the override will help us maintain the quality of our schools — which, in turn, will increase property values and enhance surrounding neighborhoods. It will also keep teachers’ salaries competitive so SUSD can continue attracting and retaining the most qualified teachers.
I urge you to invest in SUSD schools by voting YES on the Budget Override.
Editor’s note: Mr. Jackson is a former member of the SUSD Governing Board and volunteer for Yes To Children
The students of Scottsdale Schools deserve our support in November Scottsdale Independent by Patty Beckman (8/13/2019)
It is back-to-school time and for my family this means high school. Saguaro is the final leg of our Scottsdale Unified School District journey.
My twin daughters began their love of learning at Kiva Elementary, experienced those awkward middle school years at Mohave, and now wear black and gold as Saguaro Sabercats.
From day No. 1, we were “all in.”
Even while my husband and I both worked full-time, we were determined that our daughters would have the same tremendous public school experience that we had as children. Just like many other families, we have helped in the classroom, joined committees, and worked on the PTO. I am proud to serve as the president of the SUSD Governing Board. Our dedication to our children, and this district, knows no bounds.
We knew that a district public school would offer the best, well-rounded educational experience for our daughters. However, Arizona continues to lag nationally in public school funding, and is dependent on resources such as M&O overrides to provide what used to be standard components to education, such as athletics and arts. Previously, when the voters of this community failed to pass the override, my art-loving students hung up their violins and put choir aside as SUSD was forced to cut all arts programs in the elementary schools.
Additional consequences of failure to pass the override included crowded classrooms and a half-day Wednesday schedule to address lack of funding for teachers and support staff. The burden of this impacted parents who struggled to juggle work hours to accommodate their students. Children learn best when they are in school. This loss of M&O funds negatively affected our entire community. Thankfully, in 2014, the SUSD community took notice and responded by passing the override. In Scottsdale, we pride ourselves on our high standards for living, learning and culture.
For 124 years the Scottsdale Unified School District has been known as the “Gold Standard.” Each day, students like mine are able to choose from competitive programs such as: dual language immersion, advanced placement classes (AP), STEM, dual enrollment, honors, career and technical education (CTE), exceptional arts and award-winning athletics. Is it any wonder that SUSD has been considered a “destination district,” attracting families and businesses who contribute to our robust economy?
I believe in the leadership of current SUSD superintendent, Dr. John Kriekard, a recipient of the All Arizona Superintendent of the Year Award, as well as the Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award. Dr. Kriekard has spent over 40 years dedicated to educational excellence – 23 of those years have been in SUSD. He cares deeply about this district and its students. We could not ask for a better leader at the helm, one who has earned the respect and confidence of this community.
I am pleased with the district’s direction with regard to financial transparency and accountability. SUSD has recently received a positive outlook from the financial lending and credit rating agencies, is in the process of acquiring an additional auditor, is collaborating closely with the community to rebuild many of our elementary schools, is upgrading security on all campuses, and is dedicated to directing as many funds as possible, to the classroom.
I am very proud that SUSD continues to attract and retain the most talented educators and staff. The district is third in the state for the number of National Board Certified teachers and has budgeted an average teacher salary of $55,971. Our students will continue to be successful in a district that respects and values it’s educators.
Although I am a 25-year finance professional, as well as, the Scottsdale Unified School District’s 2019 Governing Board president, I write this today as the mother of two SUSD students, my most important role.
Over a decade ago, my husband and I made the decision to entrust our children’s future to SUSD. As we navigate these last 4 years as public school parents, we are grateful for all this district has provided us, our students and our community.
This November the voters of Scottsdale will be asked to believe in the value of SUSD and approve a continuation of their current tax rate. Failure of the M&O Override to pass will result in an automatic funding cut of $6.5 million per year. The ripple effect of that will touch not only our students, but those who have come to appreciate the excellence that is the community we love. My family will be confidently voting “Yes” as we have for over 20 years.
Editor’s note: Ms. Beckman is the president of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board president
Yes to Children: SUSD can’t afford a failed override election Scottsdale Independent by Denny Brown and Melinda Gulick (7/9/2019)
On Nov. 5 voters in the Scottsdale Unified School District will have the opportunity to renew the school district’s budget override that will generate millions of dollars for schools over the next five years without increasing their property tax rate.
It will be the first all-mail ballot election ever conducted in the school district, which includes Scottsdale and parts of Paradise Valley, Phoenix and Tempe.
As co-chairs of Yes To Children, the longstanding political action committee committed to working on behalf of SUSD’s students and teachers, we believe there are plenty of good reasons to continue the maintenance and operations budget override:
If voters do not approve the much needed budget override, SUSD will automatically start losing $6.5 million a year. That is something the school district cannot afford to have happen, because during the past 10 years the state legislature reduced funding to SUSD by $30 million.
In addition, we do not consider being forced to reduce academic programs and the number of teachers to be an option.
The Scottsdale school district already has one of the lowest tax rates by far of many cities in the Valley. Voting to approve the continuation of the budget override will not change that. Renewing the override will also continue to create quality schools that increase our property values and enhance neighborhoods.
It is critical to continue cultivating a learning environment in which our students grow and excel and where teachers are provided with the tools to help our children succeed.
We hope you will join the hundreds of Yes To Children volunteers, students, teachers and parents who will be working to ensure that the budget override is approved in November.
Please tell your friends and family to vote “YES” for the SUSD Budget Override.
Editor’s Note: Melinda Gulick, a resident of Paradise Valley, is a parent of two SUSD students and Denny Brown, a resident of Scottsdale, is a former member of the SUSD Governing Board. Ms. Gulick and Mr. Brown are co-chairs of Yes to Children.