• Monthly Board Update

  • April 2024 Update

    Posted by Libby Hart-Wells on 4/1/2024

    Spring is in the air! For our SUSD governing board that means all things finance. The board has been reviewing and approving employee contract terms for all staffing categories as well as planning the budget for the 2024-25 school year. 

    In that spirit, you may have read about the district's stellar fiscal performance in the recently released Arizona Auditor General's report for 2023. If not, then allow me (and if so, then you'll likely agree the highlights bear repeating):

    • Investing in the Classroom - increased classroom spending to 71.3% of the district's overall expenditures.
    • Investing in Students - increased per student spending to $15,636, far surpassing the state average.
    • Investing in Teachers - increased the district average teacher salary to $64,095.

    I hope you'll join me in expressing sincere gratitude for the good and diligent work of every staff member, in every building and every classroom who contributed to these successes. These outcomes are neither a fluke nor a coincidence. They resulted from dedicated healthy board governance in collaboration with staff based on common and collective academic and fiscal goals.

    Carrying over this dedication to the budget planning for 2024-25, the board approved a 2% increase in compensation for all staff. While there is uncertainty in the state legislature about how to invest in education, SUSD has no such qualms. Thank you to our supportive Scottsdale community for also expressing no qualms, as evidenced by the overwhelming support for all things SUSD. Because when SUSD wins, Scottsdale wins.

    Enjoy the springtime, folks. The heat will be here before you know it.

    Libby Hart-Wells, Ph.D.
    SUSD Governing Board, President

    Read more at The SUSD Source

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  • February 2024 Board Update

    Posted by Libby Hart-Wells on 2/1/2024

    Sincere greetings, Scottsdale Unified staff, families and extended SUSD community! At the top of each calendar year, Arizona district schools are required by law to organize their elected officers. On January 9th and in compliance with state statute and Board policy BDA, the SUSD Governing Board elected new officers: Board Member Lindsay was elected Vice President, and I was elected President. I am honored and humbled to serve in this important capacity and promise to be fair and firm in carrying out the board president’s duties.

    The Board is already busy working hard to support our students and staff. Recent efforts include budget development and revisions for next school year, important amendments and improvements to the Middle School Planning Guide, as well as electing Board members to serve on the Scottsdale City Council’s Subcommittee on Education and the district’s Self-Insurance Trust board, and name SUSD's delegate to the Arizona School Boards Association. These are each entirely volunteer (unpaid) positions and add to the already hefty responsibilities of our board members. If you get the opportunity, please take a minute to thank your board members for their dedication and service to our district.

    We've recently been reminded of the role each of us has in ensuring our district remains a safe place to learn for students and staff alike. You likely have heard that a loaded firearm was found on one of our campuses, and, like you, I was upset and alarmed. The site and district administration, in close collaboration with the Scottsdale Police Department, acted quickly to maintain a secure and safe environment while mitigating any threat. This only happens if appropriate planning and precautions are taken in advance.

    You, too, can take precautions in advance, because we do not have to be fearful. We have to be vigilant. This is the reason district policy IHAMD, in part, requires the annual education of our students on the safe storage of firearms. Please consider talking to your loved ones about firearms. It is always an adult’s responsibility to prevent unauthorized access to guns, not a curious child’s responsibility to avoid guns. Need help starting the conversation? The district webpage offers links to science-based resources on secure storage of firearms and how to talk to children and adolescents about guns. This includes Be SMART, a nationally recognized awareness campaign developed by survivors of gun violence. SPD, like most law enforcement agencies, provides gun locks for free because safe and secure storage of firearms is part of being a responsible gun owner.

    We are a strong community, one that supports its schools, its community, and each other. Let's keep that focus because it is right where it should be. 

    On behalf of the Governing Board, we are grateful to each of you for choosing SUSD. #SUSDProud

    Libby Hart-Wells
    SUSD Governing Board President

    Read more at The SUSD Source

    Comments (-1)
  • January 2024 Board Update

    Posted by Julie Cieniawski on 1/1/2024

    Greetings and best wishes for a more peaceful and fulfilling New Year.

    We do not have to look far to find many reasons why we can be grateful.  In our SUSD, we continue to find many opportunities to give thanks and appreciate the 127 years of success and continuous impact.  Many of our most loved and dedicated community members have either gone through SUSD as students or have chosen to dedicate much time to rolling up their sleeves and working hard to improve our neighborhood schools.  We are rich beyond monetary value in so many assorted ways in our Scottsdale community.  

    As we move into our new calendar year, please support our children and those who work tirelessly to engage them in world-class, future-focused learning experiences.  I will continue to choose to see our opportunities, work hard to stay positive, drown out negative energy, and focus on necessary tasks so we can continue to make sensible decisions and solid progress.  If we focus on the needs of our students, we all win.  

    I encourage you all to experience situations that instill joy and share those with your children, grandchildren, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.  Showing gratitude for the efforts of others and performing random acts of kindness can become a great lesson for our children to observe and it can become a powerful contagion.  Your gifts of compassion and empathy are priceless and demonstrate to others your ability to focus on what really matters in this lifetime. Happy New Year to you all in our Scottsdale Unified School District community.  

    Julie Cieniawski
    SUSD Governing Board President

    Comments (-1)
  • December 2023 Board Update

    Posted by Julie Cieniawski on 12/1/2023

    Season’s greetings! This message is sent with gratitude to our voting community for the continued support of our Scottsdale Unified School District. The recent approval to continue the Maintenance & Operations expenditure Override will allow us to continue to provide top-notch programs, diverse educational opportunities, and award-winning extracurricular experiences for all our students.  We improve as a district when we honor and support the needs of our students and recognize and appreciate the challenging work of the employees who work diligently to support our students. We must recognize the power of working together to create systemic improvements. 

    In the months to come, the Governing Board will be working to update policies, embedding them with required legislative updates, and improving systems of function for employees, improving methods of communication, and providing positive influence for all the children we serve throughout our neighborhoods and Scottsdale area in general.  We will be analyzing course offerings for middle school and high school students, making certain the future course offerings we provide support the rigor, variety, and creativity our students need to support a world-class, future-focused education. We can also be expected to continue to monitor budgetary measures and ensure our expenses provide the best return on our investment with our students' needs and interests as the focus of our work.  

    Upon us is the season of giving. The giving and receiving of treasures can have a beneficial and longstanding impact on us and others.  Engaging in random acts of kindness with your children can be the perfect way to express appreciation without the expectation of notice or personal gain.  The perfect gift for many human beings involves the gift of time, experiences, and meaningful tokens of appreciation.  If you are reading this, it must mean that you are engaged in your child’s education.  That is a great gift, and it is necessary for a successful education to have lasting and meaningful impact.  Regardless of your child’s age, please stay engaged by having conversations with your child about their interests, what they enjoy learning, who their friends are, what curiosities they have, and which tools are needed to engage them more joyously in becoming their ultimate self.  Encourage your children to be kind to others and solve problems with patience and grace. And as you move throughout this season, I hope you have many points of appreciation to consider and that you can be good to those around you and yourself. 

    Thank you for your commitment to a better future.

    Happy holidays!

    Julie Cieniawski
    SUSD Governing Board President 

    Read more at The SUSD Source

    Comments (-1)
  • October 2023 Board Update

    Posted by Julie Cieniawski on 10/1/2023

    Greetings community members and supporters of our Scottsdale Unified School District. I am certainly thankful for the commitment you have made to support our local school district. The success of our local school district is not only important to the students who attend our schools PreK-12 or online through our Scottsdale Online Learning option, but it is also important to the economic success of our community and state. If you have not seen the details of the recent Economic Impact Study you might be interested in diving into some of the details. Our rich and extended history of student success is evident, and the contributions of our graduates surrounds us in our great city. Supporting our SUSD is supporting our future. 

    In a few weeks, mail-in only ballots will be sent out to registered voters who live within our district boundaries. Be certain to carefully respond with your vote and return it by dropping it in the mailbox or deliver it to a local polling place so it is received by election day, November 7th. Your CONTINUED support of approving the Maintenance and Operations Override will enable our community to continue to offer excellence in education at each of our neighborhood public schools and online. The continuation of the 2019 voter authorized override will help pay for may important attributes which impact our student success including: free all-day Kindergarten to our youngest learners (the state of Arizona does NOT fund all day K in spite of the research which points to the value add of early learning experiences), help providing funding for our excellent fine and performing arts, support our successful athletics and assorted extracurricular programs, maintain class-size ratios, provide world languages, and most importantly support our goal of attracting and retaining top-notch employees who work tirelessly for the benefit of our students each day by offering competitive compensation. The process is simple, and the choice is yours. 

    The governing board continues to move along supporting the decisions which will ultimately help to obtain our district strategic plan. No matter how we get there, we value your meaningful input, ideas to implement improved practices, and your valued treasures of time, talent, and resources cannot be overlooked. Action is what separates a belief from an opinion and the steady work of all governing board members is necessary for our decisions to have meaningful impact on our students. Identifying issues can seem easy from a distance but creating significant solutions to our challenges requires many leadership skills including upholding an open mind-set. 

    Speaking of leadership, did you know that our SUSD Superintendent, Dr. Scott Menzel recently received an accolade which warrants repeating? He was named Superintendent of the Year by the Save Our Schools Arizona organization! I recognize that he has faced many challenges in is short time here and he has encountered them head-on and while demonstrating dignity. I understand that the success of our school district is dependent on the support of each and every human being involved in our SUSD. Sometimes when we are striving for perfection, we lose track of the fact that our leaders are only as good as the support we provide to them. Congratulations, Dr. Menzel and our Scottsdale Unified School District! 

    I hope that you all enjoy the upcoming fall season. It will be nice to have the triple digit weather in our rearview mirror. Thank you again for supporting our SUSD where EVERY student and employee is treated with dignity and respect and nurtured to become their very best. 

    Yours truly, 

    Julie Cieniawski 

    Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board President

    Read more at The SUSD Source

    Comments (-1)
  • September 2023 Board Update

    Posted by Julie Cieniawski on 9/1/2023

    Greetings! As we kick this school year into high gear, we are consistently reminded of the importance of quality district governance.  To be effective, our actions must be coherently aligned with supporting the Strategic Plan of our district and supporting the thousands of employees we task with working on behalf of the best interest of EVERY single student enrolled in our district public schools. To be effective, we must understand and support the diverse needs of each scholar and see our children as more than mere data points. Their success is dependent on many factors, most importantly, from the necessary, supportive partnership which exists when parents work with their child and the teachers, together.  

    As Governing Board members, our decisions must be made and based on facts, and not evolve around personal interests, egos, political motivations, lies or conspiracy theories. Ultimately, no one else will bear the burden or legacy but the five elected officials who cast their votes for decisions. Individually, we own a voice, but collectively, we can move the needle on providing a future-focused education environment for our children and the employees tasked with the necessary wrap-around services to educate them. As required by law, many of our decisions must be made in public meetings. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Our school board meetings are open to the public for participation and though we are not mandated by law, we choose to allow public commentary at our meetings. I believe each one of our school board members value the constructive input of constituents from our SUSD community.  I define a constituent as anyone experiencing the impact of our work as school Governing Board members (students, their families, community members, businesses in our community, and our employees).   

    Let’s face it, school work can be difficult.  One size does not fit all, and no two human beings are exactly alike. Our mission of creating future-focused learning opportunities can be as challenging as fueling a plane while in the air (although I do not really know how challenging that task is, I can only imagine it is difficult). I entered this service as I was illusioned with the idea that we could be more effective and efficient in meeting the needs of our students. I recognize that ideas fostering creativity and imagination can lead to better outcomes. If you identify a specific element you think that we can improve on, please feel free to share that information at the campus level, with our district leadership, or through your elected Governing Board.  When we constructively address problems, we are more likely to have better outcomes. 

    In SUSD, we have proven ourselves as a worthwhile investment. The public can view evidence of the impact SUSD provides to our community and state by reviewing the results of the Economic Impact study presented at our last public meeting. Financial stewardship supports a great Return on Investment and although the term “transparency” is thrown around loosely, our decisions and the process we follow to make them is in full view. Your trust in our work and the outcomes of our commitments can be seen while driving through our school district. We will be asking the voters to support this community through the CONTINUATION of the Maintenance & Operations expenditure Override this fall. Community members can learn about this important upcoming Override and view dates for a related Q & A session Town Hall event near you. Our work is important to our community, and I hope you will continue to support, engage in, and promote the successes in our Scottsdale Unified School District.

    What makes us different from many businesses is that our mission is centered around the well-being of our children and their future. We are not profit-driven or greed-based. Personally, I did not respect the work of education institutions that do not honor, accept, and welcome ALL students regardless of ethnicity, race, physical or mental capacity, religion, medical needs, social class, economic stratum, or other personal concerns. In SUSD, we mean it when we say all means all.  We do this very important work for one reason … Because KIDS!

    Julie Cieniawski
    SUSD Governing Board President

    Read more at The SUSD Source

    Comments (-1)
  • August 2023 Board Update

    Posted by Julie Cieniawski on 8/1/2023

    Welcome to the 2023-24 school year in the Scottsdale UNIFIED School District.

    Everyone is valued and respected in our SUSD.

    Learning to see the world through diverse and assorted lenses will enhance the learning experiences and opportunities for our children.  Our actions will support the needs of all.

    Commitment is necessary to become the best.  Your message about our SUSD will enhance the success of our district and the economic interests of our community.  

    Outcomes of success will be based on many factors and standards-based instruction will guide our path.  Student achievement is multi-faceted and more than a test score.

    Motivating and inspiring all to collaborate, think critically, and respond creatively will better prepare our community for future challenges. This will require a mutual commitment from students, parents, employees, our governing board, and the community at-large.

    Engaging students in world-class, future-focused learning opportunities will continue to be our primary focus.

    Brain health requires adequate sleep, proper nutrition, physical activity, and stress management.  Develop and maintain healthy routines of self-care. You are worth it!

    Attendance is important.  Being present is the first step towards success.  

    Communication between home and school will be vital to student success. Be engaged!

    Kindness will guide our work districtwide. 

    Thank you for your continued support of our district public schools, where every child, family, culture, and aspiration is held with the utmost regard.  For 127 years, the future leaders of our community have been achieving in our SUSD classrooms. Why are we so committed to being better?  Because kids!

    Julie Cieniawski
    SUSD Governing Board President

    Comments (-1)
  • June 2023 Board Update

    Posted by Julie Cieniawski on 6/1/2023

    The summer season is upon us, and as the temperatures rise, so does the work that takes place behind the scenes to improve the delivery of great educational opportunities for all of our students.  Some of our certified staff members choose to take the eight weeks of time in between school years to set out on travel adventures, some choose to take or teach classes, while others choose to chill and reconnect with hobbies or spend time with family and friends.   A substantial number of our employees continue to work, regardless of the temperature outside or absence of children on our campuses.  Many support staff members are working with site and district administration to clean and amend facilities in preparation for the next school year. 

    Our district governing board is also still at work, holding meetings and engaging in conversations to help us learn more about our district strengths and the opportunities for improvements.  We are expected to make decisions that support updates to curricular resources so that our certified staff has the materials required to meet the unique learning objectives of each and every student, PK-12.  Our board continues to acknowledge the necessity for smart business practices, balanced with the obligation to implement decisions that demonstrate care for thousands of employees and students.  We will continue to target our actions to support our students.  We will be expected to trust our paid professionals, support the recommendations they bring forward, and verify that our actions provide sustenance to our students’ needs in a manner which will help them actualize their dreams and support their endeavors with meaningful experiences.

    As is routine for our work as a governing board, many consent and action items will be brought before us for consideration, including facilitating personnel changes, approving hiring decisions, helping put in place improved practices towards onboarding and mentoring new employees, and creating a sense of belonging for each and every employee ‒ hire to retire ‒ so that collectively, we may thrive as a community dedicated to our students, the future. 

    While some of us will be participating in summer leadership experiences, others will take time for family, friends, and traveling.  Regardless of your plans, know that our plans are to continue our work and prioritize our students.  Even in the summer months, we will continue to rely on our families to support student learning and success.  Please note all of the great opportunities SUSD provides to our students, year-round.  Take advantage of these exceptional learning experiences now or provide some great adventures on your own.  Encourage your child to read, explore, problem solve, and create over the summer. 

    We know that you have options and appreciate that you recognize the quality of education our district public schools provide is priceless and is definitely the best bang for your buck.  No hype, no sales gimmicks, and no for-profit concerns or political objectives.  Our primary shareholders are our students and employees, and their success is our collective gain.  For over 126 years, we have been providing great learning opportunities to children in our Scottsdale and surrounding communities.  Many of our most successful community members are part of our SUSD legacy.  Look around: our Most Livable City was created, in part, by our SUSD.  When we succeed, Scottsdale succeeds.  Thank you for your commitment to your children and support of our district public schools.  We are better together.

    My best to you and your family,

    Julie Cieniawski
    SUSD Governing Board President

    Read more at The SUSD Source

    Comments (-1)
  • May 2023 Board Update

    Posted by Julie Cieniawski on 5/1/2023

    It is hard to believe that we are near the end of another school year. The week of May 8-12, we will be recognizing National Teacher Appreciation Week.  Although anytime is an appropriate time to share your appreciation for our teachers, this week is a dedicated time to do so.  The Scottsdale Unified School District is very appreciative of the teachers, school administrators, building level and district support staff who work to provide each child with a great learning experience each day.  Thank you!  I will continue to work hard as the district’s Governing Board president to demonstrate that appreciation for you through my governance actions.  Personally, you know I appreciate you and will collectively work with the other Board members to advocate for increased compensation, workplace conditions, improved benefits, AND respect for you as professionals. 

    Our community is welcome to learn, first hand, about the great learning opportunities that exist through curriculum, co-curricular, and our many assorted extracurricular activities.  Volunteers are appreciated, and we still have assorted, unfilled workplace vacancies.  You, too, can become an SUSD employee and share in the pride of working within such a noble profession and an attentive school district.  We are not perfect and are continuously working to improve the efficiencies and effectiveness of our systems.  Parents play a VITAL role in supporting the success of their children while in school.  Please make time to sit down and discuss what engages your child in learning while at school and encourage them to participate in all the opportunities afforded them to become their most exceptional self.  If what you hear from them does not sound quite right, seek clarifying consultation from your child’s teacher or school.  Also, our district website offers a wealth of factual information.  Communication with you is very important, and the district uses many assorted methods to convey meaningful and accurate information to you on a regular basis. 

    Our local school district is by far the best place for your child to learn, recognize their interests, and develop a path towards personal success.  As the school year ends, learning does not stop.  We will continue to provide engaging student enrichment and support intellectual exploration through our many enriching summer academic options.  Please learn more about all that we offer at your child’s school or from the district website.  I hope that your child has felt academically challenged and fulfilled this past school year.  The best appreciation you can convey to our SUSD is by sharing positive word-of-mouth communication within the community.  If your friend does not choose SUSD, encourage them to learn more about our quest for excellence, invite them to visit our schools, and please encourage them to join our vision and mission. 

    This year, we will continue to recognize the success of our students through many assorted celebrations.  Showcases, appreciation and recognition events, and graduation are many typical milestone celebrations for our students and employees.  I hope to run into you at one of these district occasions.  If your child is graduating from our SUSD, CONGRATULATIONS!  I wish your child success in their future life endeavors.  If you are continuing as an SUSD family, THANK YOU!  Enjoy the end of the year and create some great learning experiences over the summer.

    Warm regards, 

    Julie Cieniawski
    SUSD Governing Board President

    Read more at The SUSD Source

    Comments (-1)
  • April 2023 Board Update

    Posted by Julie Cieniawski on 4/1/2023

    Springtime greetings to our Scottsdale Unified School District community.  This is a spectacular time of the year.  Hope is in abundance as desert flowers are in bloom, temperatures allow us to enjoy our desert landscape, and our schools are heading down the home stretch with the start of the fourth quarter of our 2022-23 school year.  We have much to look forward to and celebrate this time of the year.

    This can also be a very stressful time of the year.  Some refer to this time of the year as “testing season” as many of our students are already participating in mandatory statewide assessments, despite still having a quarter of the school year remaining.  These tests are deemed important for many reasons, but they also have their shortfalls.  The legislature and state Department of Education use the reports to measure the success of our student learning, which ultimately can lead to the assignment of school “letter grades” and impacts the reputation of a school district and community.  Parents and educators alike know that these tests are simply indicators of a student’s success.  Did you know that while all of our SUSD schools are required to test all students, the legislature does not mandate these tests for students enrolled in private schools?  Were you aware that not all grade levels are administered the mandatory exams and the subjects tested are not comprehensive or indicative of all the meaningful learning opportunities our SUSD students encounter?  The skills, knowledge, and proficiencies gained through student learning experiences can often best be measured through an application, demonstration, or other meaningful outcomes, including the skills of talented educators who continually monitor the success of each student enrolled in a class.

    Though standardized tests are important indicators of learning, they are not the only indicators.  Recently, many of our SUSD students had the privilege of demonstrating their success through the display of their artistic masterpieces and participation in performances at the Scottsdale Family ArtsFest, hosted at the ASU SkySong facility.  Real success of learning can be measured in many assorted ways and is often best measured over time, beyond a typical school year. Help your children feel successful at school by engaging them in meaningful conversations about their school subjects, interests, and concerns.  Help them show up prepared to be the best student every day and take advantage of the many extended learning opportunities we provide to support our students throughout the school year and during the summer months. 

    Demonstrating respect for our school district employees is an ongoing quest.  Recognizing that respect can be conveyed through many assorted means: financial compensation, creating healthy work conditions, supporting professional autonomy, offering kind words.  Though we are often limited in the respect we can convey through financial compensation (our budget is determined through annual legislative action), we can demonstrate respect for our professionals in many other ways.  Trusting them as the trained experts is an excellent place to begin the necessary partnership between home and school.   As parents and care providers, your input and support are vital to the success of each student.  This is often the time of the year when our school professionals consider their future options.  Contracts for the next school year have been distributed, and one of our goals is to attract and RETAIN our highly qualified and skilled employees.  We appreciate that many employees will choose to stay with us in SUSD, and we recognize that some will choose to venture into other career options or are set to enjoy their well-deserved retirement plans.  Regardless, the appreciation we show towards others today can provide a brighter future for our children tomorrow.  Our future as a community and school district is dependent on your support.  We are better together.

    Julie Cieniawski
    SUSD Governing Board President


    Read more at The SUSD Source

    Comments (-1)