- Scottsdale Unified School District
- Monthly Board Update
March 2023 Board UpdatePosted by Julie Cieniawski on 3/1/2023
In reflecting back over the past 30 years as a Scottsdale resident and reviewing the history of our Scottsdale Unified School District, I can attest that many changes have taken place over time. Some of these changes have been embraced by the community and some have been challenged. Ultimately, what pulls us past the bumps in the road has been great leadership. I’ve seen change spearheaded by our students, employees, the community, and our Superintendents. Our Scottsdale history is deeply rooted in the success of our district public schools. It’s what makes our city noted as “most livable,” and for over 125 years, we have placed our district public schools at the center of our community. Our buildings house our schools, but the people who work, learn, and discover in them are the real success of our history in SUSD.
In the fast-paced world we live in, it is often hard to know whether information we receive is fact or fiction. Sometimes relying on the quick sound bite is easiest, and many media hubs are focused on the value of “clicks,” whether they have a sponsored interest in the information they distribute or are looking for a quick hit of attention. When it comes to our Scottsdale Unified School District, the best way to judge our success lies in the experiences that occur in our classrooms, on our campuses, and are displayed by the success of the multitude of individuals leading in our community who have a legacy connection with our SUSD.
Thank you to all the families who trust our schools to provide your child with relevant, enticing, and a meaningful, standards-based education. Thank you to the care providers who read with their children, drill them on math facts until they memorize these essential skills, ask their children engaging questions about their school experience and recognize the vital role parents play and have always played in the success of their child’s education. Thank you to the families who demonstrate to their children the importance of honoring difference, the art of respectful conversation, and those who model considerate behavior.
Students, teachers, administrators, governing board members all come and go, but it is our promise to uphold our strong traditions and our values, while demonstrating care for one another, that will maintain the long-standing history of our district far into the future. Characters and commercial interests may attempt to lure and even dissuade some from maintaining the value of our district public schools. But these attempts to divert our focus will be met with challenge. Why? Because our community cares about our future, and generations of lived experience supports both the legacy and future of SUSD. In a world of choice, parents can choose whether our history and visions match their interests. We have lots of choices even within our own district. Families who choose SUSD, do this for a reason. Our vision, mission, and values may not be for everyone, but they will continue to be the focus of our work because our children deserve the best.
All the BEST to you and your family,
Your SUSD Governing Board President
February 2023 Board UpdatePosted by Julie Cieniawski on 2/1/2023
I hope this SOURCE message finds you all doing well and navigating each day with joy. Though February is a short calendar month, it is filled with many opportunities for the public to experience the authentic accomplishments of our students and staff. From the assorted academic contests of robotics to the Spelling Bee, from performing arts to athletics events, every child can engage in learning beyond the confines of the classroom. Many such community events can be viewed on the Scottsdale Unified School District calendar.
The SUSD Governing Board members are encouraged to attend these student-focused, community events. Additionally, regular examples of student success are evident by the work students produce while in the classrooms. Have you seen the artwork produced by our students? Board Member Dr. Hart-Wells asked if a sampling of these exceptional masterpieces could be displayed in our Board meeting space at the Mohave District Annex. Now, the display of student artwork is common practice there, and selections for recognition are shared between the students from the assorted learning community complexes. Personally, I not only enjoy seeing the student artwork, but these displays help me stay focused on the objective of our governance work at hand ‒ our students. To engage all students in world-class, future- focused learning. As fiduciaries of our SUSD, it is important that we all experience firsthand the many district accomplishments, while similarly also being cognizant of areas which we can improve and the importance of seeking ideas to overcome the challenges. Facts drive our work, and our mission is to provide EVERY child with the support they need to recognize their dreams and the skills to actualize their future. For this to happen, our employees must feel supported and valued in their day-to-day tasks.
Data shows parents are the key ingredient to a child’s success at school and in life. This includes routinely reading to your children and practicing math facts, creating routines for balance of obligations, and encouraging them to find relevance in their school lessons. Parenting can be a very difficult task and at times, sometimes daunting. Our schools are designed to support parents and their children, both academically and personally. Please communicate with your schools and ask for support if you need it. As community members, I implore you to get involved. Go to your closest neighborhood school and ask how you can help. Attend the school events and see firsthand the many student accomplishments. Our success is just as dependent on your support as the daily accomplishments of our students and the dedication of our employees. The Scottsdale Parent Council also exists to support parents and our district public schools. Together, we can approach our challenges with the students as our priority, make decisions that are factually substantiated, and put in place initiatives that further the progress of our community.
In closure, I note that February is Black History Month. It is important to recognize the struggles which have divided our nation collectively and as individuals if we are truly to become “one nation” united with liberty and justice for all. Our students deserve to learn factual information about the past, to be inspired to work towards a more collaborative, growth-minded culture with high expectations of authenticity, honesty, and distinction applied towards themselves and others. In our SUSD community, every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect each and every day.
Thank you for supporting our UNIFIED school district. Together we can accomplish much.
SUSD Governing Board President
January 2023 Board UpdatePosted by Julie Cieniawski on 1/10/2023
Happy New Year! With the start of each new calendar year, many people often create resolutions to make improvements in their lives, to learn something new, and challenge themselves. Well, it’s what we collectively do in our Scottsdale Unified School District every day. We work towards producing individual and collective growth on a daily basis.
As we change the calendar to a new year, we will also see a transformation in the composition of our district’s governing board. The public will note the change through the addition of Carine Werner and Amy Carney at the dais. Rest assured, the focus of our work will remain centered on caring for and serving the unique academic needs of every SUSD child, PK-12. We all have taken our oath of office and declared to uphold the Constitution of the United States and laws of the state of Arizona. Our work will protect the rights of every student and all employees alike. We will continue to focus our work that supports our district Strategic Plan and Key Performance Indicators. We will rely on the teachers, as the education experts, to assess their students’ present level of academic performance and determine which, if any, remediations and enrichments are needed to help them discover their talents, interests, and personal career endeavors. We will continue to count on parents as pertinent partners in their child’s success.
We are in the midst of improving our course offerings for our middle school and high school students. The members of our Student Advisory Board, our teachers, school counselors, and industry leaders all provide input in guiding our course offerings. We are driven to create academic options which will provide every student with a meaningful school exit plan.
With the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., upon us this month, many celebrations of diversity will surround us. I hope you all take a moment to reflect on the meaning this holds for us, our children, and our future. We can choose a future where we recognize and respect difference and see each person as unique and valuable. We can choose to lead by example and support others, regardless of race, religion, income, gender, or age. Difference is the great glory of our public schools. We don’t learn through sameness: we learn through difference. A great learning environment will ensure that every student and employee experiences a sense of belonging and feels the necessary support to be challenged and aspire to be their best self.
My best to you. PEACE.
SUSD Governing Board President
December 2022 Board UpdatePosted by Julie Cieniawski on 12/1/2022
Greetings, Scottsdale Unified School District Community,
As we roll into the month of December, we often get very busy preparing for the holiday season and the many related festivities and celebrations which correlate. It seems we seldom take the time to reflect on our accomplishments as individuals or collectively as a community. I believe we have much to be grateful for and that we continue to move forward in a better direction for the Scottsdale Unified School District. I appreciate living in a community where voters consistently choose to support our district public schools. Thank you for supporting our recent District Additional Assistance Override and thanks to the community members who volunteer to work and accomplish such actions on behalf of our children and the community.
Our adopted Strategic Plan has been approved and continues to guide our work. I recognize that as we delve into our systems and practices of doing business, we see many opportunities for improvement. High standards and meaningful expectations raise the bar for everyone, including students, employees, parents, community partners, and Governing Board members. When action items are brought before our board, many voices have influenced those recommendations. When the Governing Board members ask questions during our public meetings, they are bringing forward input, ideas, and concerns they have received from members of our community. Sometimes, we are not all on the same page with our opinions, information, or perceived solutions, but ultimately, we get to the point of moving decisions forward, based on what is best for ALL of our students, employees, and community partners.
I hope you all will take the time to participate in festivities which bring you joy. As the semester wraps up, many of our schools will offer examples of our student and staff excellence through various musical performances, and they would love to share these experiences with you in the audience.
As this month comes to a close, so does the tenure of two current Governing Board members. Both Patty Beckman and Jann-Michael Greenburg have served our district for four years. They have weathered their leadership roles in challenging times and have many transitions. I have great respect and appreciation for both of them. Board member and past president Beckman has been a very public advocate of our SUSD in her role as a dedicated parent, community advocate, and respected Governing Board member. I believe that she will continue to be a force supporting public education. Board member and past president Greenburg has provided a perspective which our Governing Board has not had before. As a young adult, he provided a lens which is rare, yet beneficial, to our district. Although neither of them may receive the credit they deserve for their many contributions to our Scottsdale community, it is with great appreciation that I am able to follow in their footsteps.
Patty and Jann-Michael, thank you for the many, many sacrifices you have made. Time on the board often means many hours away from family, friends, and other opportunities. Thank you for the guidance and support you have provided to employees in trying to improve learning and work conditions. Thank you for asking the tough questions of your Board colleagues, district employees, and parents to help create better decisions. Thank you for being bold enough to share your perspectives on issues, even when others didn’t agree. Thank you both for your perseverance and staying focused on creating a better school district than when you first took your oath of office. When the gavel drops at our December meeting, know that you both had a lasting impact on thousands of lives and that you did make a positive difference. THANK YOU!
Wishing all of you peace, health, and joy throughout this holiday season.
SUSD Governing Board
* Click here to read the farewell letter of outgoing Governing Board Member Patty Beckman.
* Click here to read the farewell letter of outgoing Governing Board Member Jann-Michael Greenburg.
November 2022 Board UpdatePosted by Julie Cieniawski on 11/1/2022
Greetings Scottsdale Unified School District COMMUNITY,
I emphasize the word community in this greeting, as it is of utmost importance to this Governing Board. Our district not only looks out for all our K-12 children, but is also responsible for the well-being of its employees. Though none of us is perfect, we strive to improve, learn from our mistakes, provide relevant and rigorous education experiences, and implement policies and practices that will improve the future of our community at large. If we are serious about the notion that one of the most important ways for people to learn is to take risks, we need to do more than pay lip service to “mistake ownership.” We need to publicly practice it.
Mistakes are necessary on our path to learning. When we talk about high-risk mistakes or the mistakes that have more impact for those on the mistake’s receiving end, we still need to hold onto the awareness that there is such a thing as “good” mistakes. Knowing that there are different types might feel like semantics, but that knowledge helps reduce negative errors, and increase and welcome the positive errors. Innovation requires a risk cycle. In SUSD, we continue to audit systems, and seek input from students, employees, and families within our school district to identify our growth opportunities. Our students are at the center of every decision we make, as they are the reason we exist. As our world changes, our students’ needs and interests change. We must be willing to honor the change and respect the students’ evolving needs, as we help design a school district that strives to be world-class and focuses on the future.
A good teacher will encourage critical thinking skills, motivate students to become academic scholars, and engage in calculated risks in the world of academics. Similarly, a good system of governance will have checks and balances in place, seek input, remain receptive to innovative solutions of identified challenges, and share factual information in a timely manner. Recognizing that many of our challenges continue to be budget-based, we must continue to make up for the absence of adequate funding with an emphasis on collaboration and creative problem-solving. A future-focused community will recognize, partner with, and support the needs and interests of the district public school system. This Governing Board will continue to work hard for our district, your family, and the health and well-being of our Scottsdale community.
I am grateful for the long history of support provided by our community. We will continue to pursue high standards of excellence for ourselves, our employees, our students, and their families because the future of our students depends on this.
Please take care and embrace the importance of our collective action as a healthy community.
SUSD Governing Board
October 2022 Board UpdatePosted by Julie Cieniawski on 10/3/2022
Happy Fall, Y’all! As the calendar ticks away and the seasons begin to change, it always reminds me of the fast pace in which our school year progresses. Teachers, and all the dedicated employees who support our students, have been working at a very fast pace to identify and meet the needs of our students enrolled in the 2022-23 school year. The SUSD Governing Board is also working vigorously to make beneficial and effective decisions that will provide a positive impact on every child and employee in our district.
Last month marked a pivotal point in this school year. To date, we have hired and welcomed over 400 new employees to our school communities. We also approved over 2,000 personnel financial stipends. In SUSD, we believe professionals should be compensated for work performed. Granted, we still have quite a way to go to be able to provide professional and livable wages for all employees, but it is a priority. Though we’ve elevated our classified/support staff compensation levels, they do not yet meet the level we’d like to provide throughout our district.
Our goal is to provide professional and livable wages for all of our employees. Much of our limitations are the result of consistently underfunded education allocations provided by the legislatively determined state budget in the state of Arizona. The Scottsdale Unified School District is a large economic force in our city and the well-being of our employees elevates the health of our city. And yet, again we are faced with dealing with the issue of the archaic state constitutionally implemented Aggregate Expenditure Limit. Reach out to your local legislative representative to learn more about the AEL and the plan to alter or remove the budgetary restraint.
We are asking our community to learn about the upcoming District Additional Assistance Override, which will be on the ballot this election cycle. Our district has hosted information meetings in all five of our learning complexes, and the specific details can also be found on our district webpage. Our Governing Board values fiscal accountability and transparency in utilizing our tax-generated, state-distributed budget. That is why we make financial decisions according to our state laws and district policies, in our public meetings, and also share the specific details on our webpage. If you ever have questions about expenditures or priorities, please reach out to one of our qualified staff professionals to learn more.
A great accomplishment of this Governing Board has been the ongoing support and implementation of a comprehensive audit practice. The purpose of this assessment is to evaluate and determine our efficiencies/deficiencies and the effectiveness of our systems of function within SUSD. This past month we approved and adopted the Audit Committee Charter. This will help us continue to identify the greatest opportunities to improve as a school district. We also approved revisions to our long overdue district Strategic Plan, which will help us stay focused on our collective priorities. Additionally, we approved revisions to policies IGA, regarding Curriculum Development, and IHA, concerning Basic Instructional Programs. The audit process is vital to improve our District business practices, and policy updates provide a better path forward to achieve our goals. These are also visible on our district webpage.
As parents, you are vital to the academic and personal success of your child! We must work in partnership for the best outcomes. Your support of academic challenges is appreciated, and your input and ideas for improvement are important to the success of our community as a whole. We recognize that, at times, there are issues which need to be addressed. As discussed openly in our last Governing Board meeting, if you suspect things are not quite right with your child’s learning experience, please reach out first to the professionals closest to the issue. That progression would be your child’s teacher, counselor, school site administrator, Director, Assistant Superintendent, Superintendent, then Governing Board. When you skip the progression and line of communication, you may not be seeking the most efficient path to problem-solve, and that is our ultimate goal. Including your child in this communication process helps them develop tools to communicate and self-advocate for what is needed, and both are pertinent life skills.
Thank you for entrusting your children to our Scottsdale Unified School District. Your child’s academic and personal success is our ultimate priority.
SUSD Governing Board
September 2022 Board UpdatePosted by Libby Hart-Wells on 9/1/2022
Welcome back, SUSD students, staff and parents! We hope these first weeks of the school year have you and your students settled into a healthy routine of learning.
The Board kicked off the school year with its retreat at which we worked collaboratively with district leadership to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) aimed at operationalizing the district Strategic Plan goals. We are grateful for the commitment to common cause shown by our community, staff, parents and students that got us to this point - working together with focus on our collective future.
Speaking of working together, you may have read the state legislature authorized and appropriated a K-12 education budget that reflects Arizonans’ long-held priority of increasing investments in our public education system. Much of this budget is restricted to specific items, but where there is discretion, the increased investment is intended to support learning in the classroom. And that is where SUSD’s additional investment is going, starting with recognizing great organizations are made up of excellent people. Stay tuned for actions this month in support of our outstanding employees and students.
Fiscal responsibility was front and center this past month on the Board’s agenda, starting with the SUSD Self-Insurance Trust. We wish to thank Board Member Lindsay for stepping into the role of Trustee, replacing Board Member Beckman as she gracefully hands off this important work and winds down her service to the Board. Please join me in thanking both for their strength in commitment and support of our district through thick and thin.
The Board approved the Audit Committee’s recommendation to re-engage the City of Scottsdale for an audit of the district Human Resources department. Like last year, this audit will provide actionable recommendations to improve efficiency and effectiveness of this important administrative function. Thank you to all the Audit Committee members for their work that draws a straight line to the district core values of integrity and trust, and special thanks to Board Member Greenburg for his sustained good efforts in advocating for this oversight.
The Board also approved receipt of new funding from the State Facilities Oversight Board to reimburse costs for replacing roofs on three of our schools. We owe our district Facilities team a hearty pat on the back for their behind the scenes hard work, including securing this new funding.
Last but not least, the Board heard summary findings of the district Climate Survey taken last spring. The district core values ‒ with special emphasis on empathy, inclusion and unity ‒ require all of us to take seriously the thoughtful recommendations made. Our students deserve no less.
In close, I wish to thank my friend and colleague, Board President Cieniawski, for allowing me to guest-write this month’s letter, and thank her for her leadership this year.
The Governing Board wishes each of you a year of growth and success.
Thanks for reading,
Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board
August 2022 Board UpdatePosted by Julie Cieniawski on 8/1/2022
Greetings, Scottsdale Unified Community,
Our Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board welcomes the ability to continue moving our student-focused work forward in the new school year. A new school year always brings a sense of optimism into our community. Many stores focus retail efforts on back-to-school shopping, children are excited to meet their new teachers and classmates, and they are eager for a fresh start, as well as a return to a routine filled with assorted learning opportunities, challenges, and adventures. Staff positions are being filled at a frantic pace, principals are busy welcoming back returning personnel and onboarding new employees, while also opening their doors to invite new and returning families to merge into their school communities. Teachers are busy molding the four walls of their classroom learning environment into an inviting and comfortable atmosphere where children will not only flourish academically but also personally feel a sense of belonging to a community where mistakes are viewed as a springboard to improvements, creativity is nurtured, and self-worth becomes a starting point for endless possibility. The SUSD Governing Board will continue to focus its work on real, student-focused, local priorities.
Past work has been meaningful to our current destination and will help us move toward a better future. Much time and effort has been spent in the development of our new SUSD Strategic Plan. With the extensive partnership between many community stakeholders and district employees, the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board was presented with and approved this guiding proposal this summer. I encourage you all to look at this important, focused commitment. The Strategic Plan will help us target our work, focus our investments, and adopt policy, practice, and expectations that are future-focused and centered on the well-being of all of our students and the thousands of employees who provide support to them.
We have many opportunities ahead of us and will continue to seek out solutions to improve our Scottsdale Unified School District. Please know that each employee, student, and parent/care provider is appreciated and viewed as an integral part of our school district community. Throughout this school year, we welcome your feedback, creativity, and support.
Thank you for entrusting your children to our Scottsdale Unified School District, where every child is valued and encouraged to pursue their destiny.
Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board
July 2022 Board UpdatePosted by Julie Cieniawski on 7/1/2022
Dear Scottsdale Community,
This is an exciting time of the year. It is the moment for transition from one school year to another. While “summer vacation” allows us to push the reset button and reflect on our interests and values, it also provides us with the time to mix things up a bit. Numerous students are engaged in our Scottsdale Unified School District summer learning opportunities. They are doing this to keep their minds engaged, catch-up academically or continue with forward progress, and many are focused on setting the foundation for another successful school year. Though many are participating in assorted summer camp experiences, holding jobs, taking art classes, learning to swim or rock climb, experimenting with cooking classes, some are diving deep into reading - just for fun - and hanging out with friends.
Like many of our students, many school employees are taking a break from the routine of the school year. With the absence of the bell schedule, many employees take courses and work to sharpen their workplace skills through assorted professional development classes. Some are already busy planning for the new school year, while others are catching up on much-needed self-care, busy with family or experiencing new adventures through travel. Regardless of how you are spending the summertime, it is our hope, as a governing board, that our students and employees are making time to unplug, engage in new life experiences, and focus on what creates a sense of happiness and rejuvenation.
Parents/guardians, know that you are valued and viewed as important partners in your child’s success. Your support is not only appreciated, but it is necessary. If you or anyone else you have connections with are looking for a way to help, whether it be as a volunteer or signing on as a paid employee, we need you. The predicted staffing shortage is real, and your assistance is needed. Please note positions available on our SUSD website, reach out to our HR department or your neighborhood school to learn of these opportunities. Also, if you haven’t done so yet, enroll your child in school today. We are better together.
With the state budget finally approved, we can now get serious detailing our next school year, setting our priorities, and improving the learning environment for all stakeholders.
Our school district governing board strongly values student success, and our commitments are evident by the investments we have made to support innovative measures and a focus on student achievement. And although the most recent release of standardized test scores indicate we are on the right path, we recognize we can and must do better. We must provide innovative strategies to engage and honor students, their care providers, and all of our employees. Encouraging all groups to think creatively and act collaboratively will be a key to the success of our community. We all play a role in keeping the promise of quality public education for all children. How will you help?
Thank you for trusting us and supporting us as we support our SUSD family.
Enjoy the summer break.
For the SUSD Governing Board
June 2022 Board UpdatePosted by Julie Cieniawski on 6/1/2022
Dear Scottsdale UNIFIED School District community,
As this instructional school year ends, we have much to be thankful for. Our community continues to rally around best practices to ensure every child receives the most appropriate education opportunities provided by highly qualified, formally trained, professionals. Although we have heard the echoes of discourse along the way, we have risen above such challenges and we will continue to remain focused on the reason we all exist: our children in our community, district public schools.
Thank you to the 92 retiring employees who have dedicated over 1,784 combined years of service to our district and this community. You have invested a good portion of your life with us, and we recognize the sacrifices you have made to your work, other people’s children, and to one another. Your retirement is our loss, but your service has been our gain, and your impact will be felt and appreciated for generations to come. At our recent Governing Board meeting, you were reminded that our SUSD family will always welcome you, as employees, volunteers, mentors, or simply ongoing fans of public education in our Scottsdale UNIFIED School District. We are grateful and feel much obliged to you all.
Congratulations to all our recent graduates. You will be moving on to jobs, other commitments, or to continue with your education. You’ve applied necessary, real-world skills just by making it through the past 2 years. None of this has been easy or normal, and you probably seek consistency. Don’t confuse that with complacency ‒ the future is yours now. You have many people on your team to encourage and guide you, so don’t feel pressured to have it figured out. Enjoy the encounters, be flexible, but keep challenging yourself.
Students and families who show never-ending support of being better, thank you for your commitment to support growth. Whether you chose in-person, online instruction, or a combination of both, we respect your decisions and honor choice in education. In SUSD, we honor choice by providing a plethora of excellent educational opportunities and learning options, and we will continue to do this because we understand that one size does not fit all children, or adults, and variety is the key to inspiring future significance.
Our SUSD leaders have remained nimble in unchartered waters, and our district-elected Governing Board has persevered because your children and our employees are all worth the challenge.
As fiduciaries, collectively, we have taken many steps to improve systems and have revised past practices to ensure fiscal accountability and to better direct our focus towards student success. These measures include putting in place audit systems, creating and nurturing community partnerships, investing in engaging curriculum, providing additional academic and personal support for all of our students, encouraging collaborative processes to solve dilemmas, improving the work experience and enhancing our employee compensation benefit packages, elevating the importance of student voice and input, and will continue to update our facilities. The Governing Board has been consistent at ensuring our district contracts include measured outcomes with qualified, high expectations laid out in conjunction with specific details well beyond a mere bill of sale. Our objectives are meant to provide extraordinary, meaningful, and safe education environments at every campus in our community, where every child can pursue an inclusive, world-class, future-focused learning experience.
We look forward to continuing our work directed by our vision, mission, values.
Much obliged for your kindness, dedication, and support.
SUSD Governing Board President