Arizona has always been a destination for adventurers and visionaries. Chief among them, Scottsdale’s founder, Chaplain Winfield Scott. Within a couple of years of arriving in the Valley of the Sun, he quickly realized offering a premiere educational experience was key to providing pioneers a reason to stay in Scottsdale and, with that, the Scottsdale School System was born. Scott was a member of the first school board and was instrumental in building the first schoolhouse. Excellence was relentlessly pursued then, as it is now.
Scottsdale Unified was established as District #48 on July 13, 1896. Just 17 children were in the community. Land was donated, a one-room wooden schoolhouse was built and Mrs. Alza Karr Blount was hired as Scottsdale’s first teacher. She had intended to teach her three children at home for free, rather than trust them to someone else. Then she learned the teacher salary was $40 per month, so she agreed to teach the eight to 10 students from the seven families with school-age children that resided in Scottsdale at that time. Later, she went on to serve as the school board’s clerk, her husband, George Blount, served on the school board and their daughter, Mrs. Bertha McFarland, would grow up to follow in her mom’s footsteps, accepting a teaching position in 1904 for $50 per month. It would be 16 years before Scottsdale required two teachers! What a difference 125 years makes. From one teacher in 1896 to 1500 in 2022. From eight students to 22,000. From one, one-room schoolhouse to 29 schools, plus one online.
Even then, Scottsdale students were visionaries, future-focused, and went on to build and serve their community well as educators, lawmakers and entrepreneurs. Later generations became scientists, astronauts, artists and Olympians. Like those who came before them, today’s students are world-class innovators, and our Scottsdale teachers are dream makers, preparing students for jobs not yet imagined.
Our district has always been on a mission to inspire, motivate and empower all to think critically, act collaboratively and embrace diversity for a life of intellectual exploration, community engagement and personal growth, as is evident in the results of our first bond election. Held May 1, 1909, all 14 citizens voted "yes." The amount of the bond, $5,000, was used to build the new Scottsdale grade school. Scott urged the construction of the new school to reflect Scottsdale’s permanence. Today, 113 years later, the brick building still stands and is affectionately known as the "Little Red Schoolhouse." Representing not only Scottsdale’s longevity but its excellence and integrity. The building, a historic site on the Scottsdale Mall, is now the home of the Scottsdale Historical Society.
Scottsdale has a long legacy of success in the classroom and the community. For 125 years, it has been the premiere choice for pre-k through grade 12 public education. Many lessons have been learned over the years, in physical classrooms and Google classrooms alike. Most importantly, we have learned that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Scottsdale was, is and always will be a student-centric, safe and supportive place where excellence is relentlessly pursued; where excellence, integrity, empathy, trust, inclusion and unity are valued above all else. Scottsdale’s founders wove all of that into this community’s fabric 125 years ago, and that remains who we are and what we do today.