• For the Record

  • SUSD Principals 2020-2024 - by school

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 5/23/2024

    We would like to address misinformation that has been circulating within our community regarding the alleged turnover of principals within the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD).

    First and foremost, it is important to clarify that SUSD takes immense pride in cultivating and nurturing education leaders within our district. We celebrate the achievements of those who choose to spread their wings to take on new roles within our own district, as well as pursue leadership opportunities elsewhere. Some who have dedicated decades of service to our schools choose to retire or resign due to personal or family obligations. This turnover is a natural part of any organization's evolution.

    Specifically, inaccuracies have been shared regarding the number of principals who have left the district since 2020. Contrary to claims circulating on social media and repeated in the April 30, 2024, Governing Board meeting, the figure of 41 principals having left the district during this time frame is not accurate. To provide clarity, we would like to present a full and accurate list of our current principals. It reflects shifts in leadership, mostly from within, that have occurred during the past four school years, 2020-21 to 2023-24:

    Anasazi
    - Jennifer Waldron (since July 2019; former Redfield and Copper Ridge Assistant Principal)

    Arcadia
    - Dr. Cain Jagodzinski (hired July 2020; left to become Fountain Hills Superintendent, July 2022)
    - Dr. Janelle Danskey (since July 2022)

    Chaparral
    - Todd Dreifort (named Interim Principal, July 2018; named to permanent position, July 2019; resigned June 2022 to take position in Texas for personal/family reason)
    - Josh Pantier (since July 2023, promoted from Interim Principal; former Chaparral Assistant Principal)

    Cherokee
    - Walt Chantler (Cherokee principal since July 2010; former Tavan and Pueblo Assistant Principal; former Sequoya Interim Principal, former Zuni and Redfield Principal)

    Cheyenne
    - Grace Stombres (appointed July 2014; retired June 2023; returned 2023-24 as part-time district employee; former Chaparral Assistant Principal)
    - Alisha Kellum (since July 2023; former Desert Mountain Assistant Principal)

    Cochise
    - Sheila Miller (since July 2010; former Copper Ridge Principal; former Cheyenne Assistant Principal)

    Cocopah
    - Nick Noonan (appointed July 2017; former Copper Ridge Assistant Principal; former Kiva Principal; named Scottsdale Online Principal, July 2022)
    - Joseph Olney (since July 2022; former Coronado Assistant Principal)

    Copper Ridge
    - Tim Eyerman (since July 2019; departing June 2024 for out-of-state opportunity)
    - Brittany Walker (July 2024)

    Coronado
    - Amy Palatucci (since July 2018; resigned effective December 2024; named Interim Principal, July 2018; named to permanent position, July 2019; former Arcadia Assistant Principal)
    - Assistant Principal Melinda Splitek named Interim Principal, April 2024
    *Successor pending: Ms. Splitek is being recommended for the Coronado Principal position at the 6/11/24 Governing Board meeting

    Desert Canyon Elementary
    - Kim Mills (since July 2018; former Pima Assistant Principal)

    Desert Canyon Middle
    - Robert Akhbari (since July 2019; former Saguaro, Kiva and Cheyenne Assistant Principal)

    Desert Mountain
    - Dr. Lisa Hirsch (since July 2017; retiring June 2024)
    - John Andrews (effective July 2024; former Desert Mountain and Arcadia Assistant Principal)

    Echo Canyon
    - Kat Hughes (since July 2016)

    Hohokam
    - Chuck Rantala (since July 2013; former Desert Canyon Elementary Assistant Principal, Interim Principal and Principal)

    Hopi
    - Dr. Tamara Jagodzinski (July 2016; named Tonalea Middle School Principal, July 2022)
    - Anne Plenkovich (July 2022)

    Ingleside
    - Dr. Chris Thuman (former SUSD Community Education Director; named Principal July 2016; moved Dec. 2020 to oversee Scottsdale Online during COVID; left for district position in Queen Creek Unified School District, June 2021)
    - Erin Kadera (former Ingleside Assistant Principal, named Interim Principal Dec. 2020; named Echo Canyon Assistant Principal, July 2021)
    - Dr. Junior Michael (July 2021)

    Kiva
    - Alice Spingola (July 2018; retired June 2021; returned to district as ESSER Coordinator, 2022; named 2023-2024 Laguna Interim Principal; retiring June 2024)
    - Matt Gromek (since July 2021 – promoted from Assistant Principal position)

    Laguna
    - Dr. Brooke Williams (July 2018; promoted to SUSD Director of Special Education, July 2022)/
    - Dr. Gena Aikman (was Cochise Assistant Principal July 2010-June 2022; named Laguna Principal, July 2022; retired - personal/family reason, June 2023)
    - Alice Spingola (see Kiva)
    - Kristina Kelly (July 2024)

    Mohave
    - Dr. Chris Asmussen (July 2011-June 2022; left for district position in Paradise Valley Unified School District)
    - Scott Mohn (July 2022; reassigned Jan. 2023; resigned June 2023)
    - Kristen Tindall (Assistant Principal, became Acting Principal, Jan. 2023; named Desert Mountain Assistant Principal, July 2023)
    - Paul Ferrero (since July 2023; former Coronado Assistant Principal)

    Mountainside
    - Adam Luke (since July 2019; resigning for family reasons, June 2024; former Chaparral Assistant Principal)
    *Successor pending – Chaparral Assistant Principal Amy Hardy is being recommended for the Mountainside Principal position at the 6/11/24 Governing Board meeting

    Navajo
    - Matt Patzlaff (since July 2017; former Copper Ridge Assistant Principal)

    Pima
    - Chris Hodo (since July 2020)

    Pueblo
    - Shelley Hummon (since October 2017; former Assistant Principal at Pima and Hohokam; former Principal/ co-Principal of Supai/Tonalea)

    Redfield
    - Dr. Christine Bonow (appointed July 2011, promoted from Assistant Principal; promoted to SUSD Community Education Director, July 2021)
    - Dr. Amanda Rand (since July 2022; former Hopi Assistant Principal; former Copper Ridge Dean)

    Saguaro
    - Ann Achtziger (since December 2016); promoted from Interim Principal; former Saguaro & Mohave Assistant Principal)

    Scottsdale Online Learning
    - Dr. Chris Thuman (left June 2021 for district position in Queen Creek Unified School District)
    - Nick Noonan (since July 2022)

    Sequoya
    - Veronica Leiper (since July 2014, promoted from Assistant Principal; former Kiva Assistant Principal)

    Tavan
    - Julie Ballard (since July 2019, promoted from Assistant Principal)

    Tonalea K-8/Middle School
    - Dr. David Priniski (appointed July 2017; left July 2022 to be Yavapai Principal as part of the Coronado Learning Community’s reconfiguration; named SUSD Director of State & Federal Programs, July 2023); also, former Supai/Tonalea K-8 co-Principal, former Tonalea ES Principal)
    - Dr. Tamara Jagodzinski (since July 2022; former Hopi Principal; former Pima & Hohokam Assistant Principal)

    Yavapai
    - Dr. David Priniski (left July 2023 for district position - see Tonalea)
    - Kelley Perry (July 2023, promoted from Hohokam Assistant Principal)

    To summarize, since the 2020-2021 school year:

    • 16 SUSD Principals remain in their positions at the close of the 2023-2024 school year; 14 of the 16 will return for the 2024-25 school year
    • 25 out of SUSD’s 30 current or soon-to-be Principals have served as either Assistant Principals and/or Principals with the district prior to assuming their current positions
    • 4 Principals have retired or will retire: 2 in 2023; 2 are effective 6/30/24
    • 3 Principals have left schools to take district-level positions within SUSD
    • 3 Principals have left to take district-level positions with other Arizona school districts
    • 1 Principal moved out of state for personal/family reasons
    • 1 Principal is leaving for an out-of-state education opportunity

    We hope that this clarification dispels misunderstandings, concerns, and outright falsehoods circulating in our community regarding the stability and effectiveness of SUSD leadership. The fact that our schools have leaders who have and continue to advance within our organization is, in fact, a sign of SUSD’s great strength and good health.

    Our district remains committed to providing exceptional education and support to all students, and we are grateful for the dedication and hard work of our Scottsdale Unified School District principals, assistant principals, teachers, staff, and administrators who make that possible.

    Comments (-1)
  • 2024 U.S. News & World Report Ratings and Academic Challenges

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 5/14/2024

    Rebuttals to Recent Claims 

    Claim: SUSD blames declining enrollment on birth rates, instead of dissatisfaction. 

    Enrollment Data: Enrollment information was obtained for entry and exit dates. Withdrawal codes were examined. Students who graduated, obtained a GED, were incarcerated, moved out the state or country, or passed away were not included. Students who left to be homeschooled, dropped out, were dropped for excessive unexcused absences, left the district, or left without a record of what new school they were going to were retained for analysis. Note that students moving within the state of Arizona but out of SUSD boundaries are included in this total and could not be filtered out. Therefore, this chart is the upper range of students who have left as a result of parental dissatisfaction. The percentage of enrolled students who left for a reason that could possibly be connected to parental dissatisfaction was calculated for school years 2021-2022, 2022-2023, and 2023-2024.

    Fact: The percentage of students leaving SUSD due to parental dissatisfaction has decreased over the past 3 school years.

     

    SUSD Withdrawal Rates by School Year and Reason

    Year

    Moved Out of District

    Dropped due to Unexcused Absence

    No Record of New School

    Drop Out

    Home School

    2021-2022

    3.81%

    0.56%

    0.77%

    0.05%

    0.15%

    2022-2023

    3.41%

    0.24%

    0.66%

    0.11%

    0.12%

    2023-2024

    2.85%

    0.22%

    0.85%

    0.04%

    0.13%

    Analysis: An Independent-Samples Kruskal-Wallis Test was conducted using state enrollment data for the past three October 1 public file data sets.

    Birth Rate Data: For the three school years examined, the typical 12th grade student was born in 2005 or 2006. The typical kindergartener was born in 2017 or 2018. Between the years 2005 and 2018, the United States as a whole has experienced a decline in birth rates from 13.945 to 11.968. The average birth rate for the years between 2005 and 2018 was 12.98. For 2004 to 2017, it was 13.127; for 2003 to 2016, it was 13.267. (https://www.macrotrends.net/global-metrics/countries/USA/united-states/birth-rate ). 

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the 2018 birth rate was the lowest in 32 years. (https://www.npr.org/2019/05/15/723518379/u-s-births-fell-to-a-32-year-low-in-2018-cdc-says-birthrate-is-at-record-levelOver).

    Fact: The evidence of declining enrollment due to declining birth rates is based in fact.

    If parental dissatisfaction resulted in less enrollment in higher grades, then withdrawal rates would be increasing. If birth rates were the only factor in enrollment trends, both BASIS and SUSD schools would show the same enrollment trends across grade spans. However, withdrawal rates in SUSD are decreasing and enrollment trends are different. To determine if the patterns in enrollment are statistically significant, SPSS statistical software was used to analyze the data set using three key grade spans: Elementary K-5, Middle School 6-8, and High School 9-12.

    Null Hypothesis: The distribution of enrollment is the same across Grade Span categories in Scottsdale-area schools.

    Data: The October 1 official enrollment data was obtained from the Arizona public files for School Years 2021-22, 2022-23, and 2023-24. Two test groups and two control groups were created. Group 1 used BASIS Scottsdale K-12 data, Group 2 used SUSD K-12 data, Group 3 used Arizona State K-12 Data, and Group 4 used Maricopa County K-12 data. Preschool data was excluded because BASIS does not have preschool enrollment.

    An Independent-Samples Kruskal-Wallis Test was conducted using state Enrollment data in Elementary, Middle School, and High School grade spans was conducted.

    The mean enrollments by grade span and distributions are listed here:

    Group

    Grade Span

      Mean

    Arizona

    Elementary K-5

    80213.28

    Arizona

    Middle School

    85642.33

    Arizona

    High School

    91626.17

    Maricopa County

    Elementary K-5

    52994.22

    Maricopa County

    Middle School

    56798.56

    Maricopa County

    High School

    61332.83

    BASIS Scottsdale

    Elementary K-5

    194.72

    BASIS Scottsdale

    Middle School

    170.33

    BASIS Scottsdale

    High School

    77.58

    Scottsdale Unified District

    Elementary K-5

    1388.06

    Scottsdale Unified District

    Middle School

    1538.44

    Scottsdale Unified District

    High School

    1973.00

     

    Analysis: The change in Enrollment across grade spans was statistically significant for all four groups, p<.001. 

    Both Control Groups and SUSD did show an increase in enrollment across the grade spans, while BASIS Scottsdale showed a decrease in enrollment. For Arizona and Maricopa County the change in Enrollment between Middle School and High School was not statistically significant. For BASIS Scottsdale and SUSD, the change in Enrollment between Elementary School and Middle School was not significant. What is distinguishing in these comparisons, is that while the change in Enrollment between Middle School and High School was statistically significant for both BASIS Scottsdale and SUSD, enrollment increased for SUSD but decreased for BASIS Scottsdale. For some reason, many students are leaving BASIS during the transition to High School while the trend in Arizona and Maricopa County is for there to be more students. Additionally, SUSD experienced an unusually large gain in enrollment when compared to either control group. This would suggest greater satisfaction among SUSD parents than BASIS Scottsdale parents as students move from middle school to high school.

    Claim: SUSD has ignored best practices (based on input from Mandarin teachers) and has failed to take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology

    Fact: SUSD has not ignored best practices. Multiple professional developments are conducted each year to instruct and improve upon best practices. Under Dr. Menzel’s leadership, SUSD has enacted Strategic Action Teams (StAT) that were created to implement the June 2022 Strategic Plan. The Strategic Action Teams include: MTSS-Academics, MTSS-Behavior, Innovation in Teaching and Learning, Talent Attraction and Retention, Strategic Partnerships, and Optimized Learning Resources.

    Beginning in 2022, the StAT members started Planning Initiatives. By 2023, all teams had begun the implementation phase. Currently, all teams are Implementing and Sustaining the Initiatives. 

    Part of the Innovation in Teaching and Learning StAT team has been to implement the use of AI across the district. This year, SUSD piloted the use of Magic School for all teachers. Additionally, an AI team was created to address the issues involved with student use of AI and how to educate students on the proper and ethical use of AI.

    During the current 2023-2024 school year,  22,355 students are taking classes from 1,295 teachers. In the World Language department, approximately 6,858 students have taken at least one foreign language class taught by 68 teachers. Of these, 179 students and 3 teachers were from Mandarin courses. Mandarin courses acounted for about 2.6% of all World Languge students and 0.8% of all students. The district’s Mandarin teachers account for 4.4% of World Language teachers and 0.2% of all SUSD teachers. Although any set of teachers expressing concerns needs to be explored further, this is the only group mentioned (and did not cite specific concerns) and a relatively small group. Using 0.2% of SUSD teachers to imply systemic dissatisfaction is misleading.

    Claim: SUSD’s academic performance is due to having advantageous demographics and when adjusted for Socioeconomic Status (SES) and racial mix, SUSD “significantly underperformed” and that when adjusted for SES, Chandler outperforms SUSD.

    Two sources for this claim were cited, U.S. News High School Rankings and the Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University. Educational Opportunity Project current data reflects information from 2008-09 through 2017-18 for District-level reports.

    Analysis: Its most current report indicated the SUSD was performing as well as or above expectations for districts with similar SES; however, this data is too old to be useful for a current evaluation. There is also limited data for COVID recovery in Arizona between 2019 and 2022. Incomplete SES data made comparisons for these years impossible.

    Data: Each year, U.S. News and World Report publishes rankings for each U.S. high school. 2024 rankings are actually created from the 2021-22 school year data. Within these pages are Overall Student Performance adjusted for Demographic Expectations. SUSD high schools did not underperform. SUSD and Chandler performed similarly. To find this data, use the links in the table below, scroll down to Test scores and select “See more test scores.”

    Analysis: Since both data sources cited were from the 2021-2022 school years, data was collected to determine the trends in demographics and test scores since 2021-2022. First, the demographic percentages was analyzed to see if the demographics has changed since 2021-2022. Students were coded as either belonging to an advantageous or disadvantageous demographic group according to the groupings used in the U.S. News rankings. Over the past three school years, SUSD’s demographic profile has slightly shifted, with the advantageous group decreasing and the disadvantageous group increasing.

    School year

    Advantageous

    Disadvantageous

    2021-2022

    70.35%

    29.65%

    2022-2023

    70.29%

    29.71%

    2023-2024

    69.87%

    30.13%

    Beginning this spring, the ACT is reporting National Percentile Ranks for each student. Additionally, the National Ranks have been added to roster reports for the past three school years. The State Contract ACT data was accessed to evaluate and compare the trends for SUSD students to the nation. The ACT reports content scores for Math, Science, Reading, and English. There are also three additional scores reported. The Composite score is the average of the four content areas. The STEM score is an average of math and science. The English Language Arts Score is the average of Reading, English, and Writing. The national ranks for SUSD have been consistently increasing.  The table below displays the data.

    Year

    Composite

    Math

    Science

    English

    Reading

    Writing

    ELA

    STEM

    Spring 2022

    54

    55

    53

    55

    53

    74

    59

    54

    Spring 2023

    56

    57

    53

    57

    53

    70

    61

    55

    Spring 2024

    58

    59

    56

    58

    55

    74

    63

    58

     

    Fact: Given the slight gain in disadvantageous students, ACT rankings would be expected to either stay the same or slightly decrease, yet the opposite is true. During the past three ACT, the spring 2024 has the highest national ranks, contrary to the claim made.

    Claim: U.S. News is a balanced approach to school rankings

    Data: The annual U.S. News & World Report High School rankings are based on lagging indicators. First, while stating these are 2024 ranks, the data is actually from 2021-2022, technically representing 2022 high school rankings.

    Second, the rankings are not balanced. The college Readiness and College Breadth indicators compose 40% of the total score. These indicators rate the number of students taking and passing Advanced Placement (AP) tests. BASIS students are required to take multiple AP tests to graduate. Traditional public high schools do not require this of students. According to the College Board, approximately 34.6% of 2022 U.S. public high school graduates took at least one AP exam and 21.6% had a score of at least 3 on one AP exam. Using this indicator as 40% of a grade greatly favors schools that have AP exams as a graduation requirement.

     

    Appendix 1: Methodology of the U.S. News & World Report High School Rankings

    The U.S. News & World Report High School rankings use six indicators to produce an overall national ranking (methodology of U.S. News rankings, 2024). The six indicators and their weights are as follows: College Readiness 30%, College Curriculum Breadth 10%, State Assessment Proficiency 20%, State Assessment Performance 20%, Underserved Student Performance (equity gap) 10%, Graduation Rate 10%. Although the ranking is stated as the 2024 Rank, all six indicators are lagging indicators from the 2021-2022 academic school year or earlier. Unlike the mandated Career and College Readiness Indicator used for state letter grades, no indicator was used to represent career readiness.

    Each school in the rankings is given a directory page that indicates the score for each indicator. These scores are then paired with district (if applicable) and state scores. Also listed are other distinguishing characteristics used in the rankings.

    To be ranked, schools must have an enrollment of at least 15 students enrolled in 12th grade and assessment data available. “…missing data for student body, subgroup level assessment data and graduation rates was imputed.” In some cases, this meant that even though no statistics were available for graduation rates and underserved populations, the data was included in the rankings. Scores were standardized about their means and divided by their standard deviations. If there were not at least 10 students in at least one underserved subgroup (Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, or Economically Disadvantaged students), the Equity Gap was not calculated. These schools were assigned an external gap of zero. Only schools with an equity gap ‘measurably below the national average’ were given an equity gap score.

    Source: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/articles/how-us-news-calculated-the-rankings

    NOTE: BASIS schools require students to take multiple AP exams to graduate. This would provide a score of 100% in both the College Readiness and College Breadth indicators (40% of score). Traditional public high schools do not have this requirement; therefore, all traditional (non-charter and non-magnet) public high schools are at a disadvantage in the high school rankings.

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  • Mountainside Middle School Incident: Safety and Security Meeting Recap

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 1/29/2024

    Here is a summary of the Mountainside Middle School meeting held Friday, January 26th. We appreciate all the parents, staff, district leadership and Scottsdale Police who were in attendance. It was a great demonstration of our strong community and its shared commitment to keeping our schools safe.

    • On Thursday, January 25th, a teacher reported a gun in a classroom, prompting the School Resource Officer (SRO) to quickly secure the area and initiate a lockdown.  Eighth grade students in their classes stayed in their classes.  Sixth and seventh graders who were at lunch, were led to the gym.
    • SUSD and SPD have recently enabled police officers with city ID’s to access schools during a lockdown.  This is the first time the enhanced approach to policing was actually put to use. As such, responding officers were able to immediately gain access to the school saving time.
    • The lockdown, lasting three hours, involved extensive efforts to determine the origin of the gun, identify the responsible party, and address potential threats.  The police worked through the night, conducting interviews, ultimately making an arrest around 1 a.m.  The ongoing investigation requires further steps, including search warrants and additional interviews, before formal charges can be brought. The priority remains ensuring the safety of students, and any new information will be addressed as the investigation progresses.
    • Lockdown drills are required three times a year. We are not experts at carrying out the real thing because thankfully we don’t have a lot of lockdowns in our district.  Each time, we learn lessons and continue to get better at our response and communication.
    • Two command posts were established—one at the school and another elsewhere in the district, involving district leadership and the Scottsdale Police.  Collaboration between SUSD and the police ensures coordinated communication, prioritizing parents and staff with accurate and regular updates.   Additionally, the information flow extends to other district leaders to equip them with the knowledge necessary for addressing questions or concerns from various stakeholders.
    • A major challenge is the prevalence of misinformation on social media.  Factual information will come from SUSD and SPD.  Suspicions should be shared with police or administrators, not on social media.  Our first priority is the safety of the students and staff on campus, preserving investigative integrity and communications with families.
    • There was a proliferation of false charges on social media.  Parents are urged not to contribute to misinformation and are reassured that the student wrongly associated with the incident had no involvement.  
    • There was uncertainty about the duration of the situation, prompting the preparation of a team at a different school to accommodate the potential need for student/guardian reunification.  The initial plan was to implement a reunification process, a nationwide procedure where parents/guardians fill out forms, verify their identity, and reunite with their children.  This entire process can take several hours.  It was unnecessary because, as the dismissal time approached, in consultation with the police department and district personnel, a decision was made to delay the dismissal, and avoid the potential complications and additional stress for families with a reunification process.  The messaging might have seemed confusing due to these considerations, but the delay was implemented to ensure a smoother and more organized release.  Our messaging was never meant to mislead but rather reflected what we knew when we knew it.  Lessons learned: We recognize a need to better communicate with the students as there was some confusion with what to do and where to go in a delayed release.  
    • Police did not yet have an arrest at the time of the release but also did not have a reason to continue to hold students back.  The gun was secured and there was no known threat.  Releasing students to their parents is what led to conversations and additional investigative leads ultimately resulting in an arrest.
    • Some students at lunch brought backpacks with them to the gym.  A better option would have been for those to be left in the cafeteria.  Students in the gym were not all searched because police were able to narrow their investigation to those students who were in the classroom where the gun was found.
    • SPD did have two dogs on campus to assist with their search/investigation.
    • SPD will work with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to determine charges as well as any culpability for the owner of the firearm.  Police can confirm there was no intent to harm and no criminal intent, and the family is cooperating. They also confirmed the student who found it brought it.
    • The Student Code of Conduct outlines potential discipline.  SUSD will conduct its own threat assessment and investigation.  The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the student’s privacy.  The district will not identify the student or share the resulting discipline.  Every student is entitled to due process.  Appropriate discipline will be applied after considering all relevant factors and gathering all the necessary facts.  Any recommendation for expulsion goes to an impartial hearing officer who makes a recommendation to the Governing Board.  The parents can appeal the hearing officer’s recommendation. Ultimately the Governing Board votes to expel or not. In accordance with Governing Board Policy  JICI Weapons in School and JKE Expulsion of Students.
    • Cell phones are supposed to be “away for the day” at school.  However, this is something we will be reviewing as there was not consistent enforcement of this during this incident and we recognize the value of students being able to communicate with their parent/guardian during an emergency to confirm they are safe.
    • The primary goal of a lockdown is to maintain a quiet and controlled environment when there is a perceived threat.  However, once it is determined that there is no active threat and the situation is under control, they transition to a "shelter in place" protocol.  This approach allows students to resume their activities in a more relaxed manner, avoiding the need for prolonged hiding.  The aim is to provide a space where students can feel more comfortable, receive guidance, and shift their focus back to normalcy.  This transitional period is another opportunity for improvement, ensuring that students and teachers are well-informed about the situation during this phase.
    • Crisis counselors from the district were available to talk to students and will be back next week. The school staff, along with the Director of Student Services, met to discuss messaging and strategies for helping students process the event.  They emphasize the importance of addressing the emotional impact on students and providing a supportive environment for them to express their feelings.  Additional security, and police officers were also present on campus Friday.
    • The district is always evaluating opportunities to enhance school safety. It starts first with reinforcing the basic fundamentals of DIG-IT (Lock Doors, Wear IDs, Lock Gates and IT - keep computer passwords safe). Other ideas like clear backpacks, no backpacks (going back to lockers) and metal detectors are also ideas that have been considered.  With 29 schools and many points of entry there is the question of feasibility as well as effectiveness.  The challenge lies in striking a balance between security and a welcoming learning environment.  Parents, students and staff are encouraged to be vigilant and "See Something, Say Something,” especially regarding social media where students might come across concerning information.  The goal is to foster an environment where students feel safe and empowered to report potential threats.

     

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  • Statement: Lawsuit Settlement in Wray, et al. v. Greenburg, et al., Case No. 2:22-cv-00859DWL

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 12/15/2023

    The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board voted 3-0 on December 12th to accept the terms of the settlement reached by both parties. Two members abstained.

    Plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against the District in May 2022.  Plaintiffs initiated settlement discussions with the District shortly before Plaintiffs’ depositions were scheduled to commence.  The settlement agreement settles that lawsuit without an admission of liability and once the court accepts this settlement, the allegations will be dismissed with prejudice (without the ability to refile).

    Key points of settlement:

    No Admission of Liability: This settlement is a resolution aimed at avoiding the continued expenses tied to prolonged legal proceedings.

    Insurance Coverage: The parties have agreed to a settlement amount in lieu of incurring additional legal fees.  The decision is based on what is deemed reasonable and financially responsible for the District.  The District’s portion of the settlement is $25,000, which will be paid by insurance, not from the District's Maintenance & Operations budget.  The settlement amount is substantially less than the costs to the District and to its insurer of continuing to litigate the lawsuit. 

    Individual Legal Expenses: Each party is responsible for its own legal expenses.

    In sum, all parties involved have collectively decided to settle, recognizing the benefits of reaching a resolution without further legal proceedings.

    SUSD is committed to transparency and being good financial stewards of district resources.  This settlement allows both parties to move forward and the district to remain focused on providing world-class, future-focused education for all.

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  • Response to Concerns Related to Student Clubs and Reaffirming District Support for Safe School Environments

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 11/14/2023

    We’d like to address the concern in the community that arose following a joint meeting of two student clubs, UNICEF and Amnesty International.

    We want to make it unequivocally clear that Scottsdale Unified School District stands firmly against Antisemitism and Islamophobia both of which are on the rise, especially in the backdrop of the current Israel Hamas war.

    We stand firmly against any action that involves hate speech, and anything that diminishes the dignity of any human being based on their religion, race, ethnicity, gender, or any other factors.We are committed to ensuring that every student feels seen, heard, and valued for who they are.

    We are actively engaged in an "after-action review" to identify what happened, what could have been handled differently, and what safeguards can be implemented to address club content that may disrupt the learning environment

    This experience serves as an opportunity to reflect on our practices and make improvements. Additionally, clubs with links to outside organizations are subject to greater review by theschool.  It's also a chance to help students recognize the unintended consequences of their actions. For the record, no one in either club intended to hurt anyone.

    Federal law and Governing Board Policy is clear on this issue:

    • ​Law of clubs
      The District must apply the law evenly to all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, ancestry, genetic information, in its programs or activities (Policy AC).

    • Clubs are student-driven.
      Student clubs and club meetings are governed by board policy and law.  Policy JJAB states that all meetings shall be “student initiated and open to all students in the school.”  Non-school persons shall not “be permitted to direct, conduct, control or regularly attend such student group meetings.”

    • Club sponsors are guides, not decision-makers.
      The student activities club sponsor handbook further guides club activity.  Specifically, the club sponsor role is “not to make decisions for the club but to provide information, counsel on outcomes, implement decisions, and ensure compliance with District procedures.”

    • Federal law prohibits the denial of equal access to groups based on religious or political positions.
      The Equal Access Act provides: (a) It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings (Sec. 802).

    • SUSD has created a limited open forum that governs club activity.
      Because the district has created a limited open forum (see Policy JJAB) district rules that apply to those forums must be viewpoint neutral.  Administrators may regulate speech to maintain order and discipline on school premises and to protect the well-being of students and faculty but cannot regulate speech based on viewpoint.  

    It is important to note that high school club participation is always optional, and club meetings are designed to provide students with a safe space to connect with like-minded peers while being inclusive of all. These clubs are driven by student interests, and our staff sponsors are there to supervise students during the meetings, as well as to help students navigate sometimes complex subjects and discussions in a civil and respectful fashion.

    Because of the law outlined, the district would be violating its limited open forum rules if it were to disband the UNICEF and Amnesty International clubs or preclude students from meeting and presenting in their limited open forum.  The district oversees the activity to prevent disruption to the educational environment but does not regulate the viewpoints of the student club members.

    A version of the slide show to be used at the joint club meeting circulated on social media in advance of the meeting raised concerns.  When DMHS administration was alerted to these concerns, efforts were taken to work with the sponsors to address them. However, in many minds, the effort fell short.

    The Desert Mountain High School Principal has been communicating with students, parents and community leaders every step of the way. 

    Club Meeting Concerns – Thursday, November 2nd
    Update on Club Meeting Concerns – Friday, November 3rd
    There is no student “walk out” – Wednesday, November 8th

    We appreciate the parents and students who have engaged in conversation and brought concerns to our attention so we can act. The safety and security of our students, school, and community is a shared responsibility and we appreciate your partnership. 

    We remain committed to fostering a learning environment that values diversity and ensures that all students can engage in constructive dialogue and respectful discourse.  

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  • Student Club Guest Speaker

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 10/18/2023

    Our schools host a variety of student-initiated clubs that meet outside of class time, during lunch or after school. These clubs often invite guest speakers as part of their activities.

    We value the diversity of our student population and support their right to various opinions, beliefs, and interests as protected in the U.S. Constitution. Consistent with those rights, we do not regulate the viewpoints of student-initiated clubs.

    Recently, the Turning Point USA Club at Chaparral High School made plans to host a guest speaker on October 23rd, during lunch, from 12:45-1:20 p.m. This is not unusual for this club and others on the Chaparral campus.

    What made this request different is that the national Turning Point USA organization advertised the speaking engagement on its website as being part of a national tour, inviting non-students, and requiring tickets. We learned that adults not affiliated with the school were able to secure a ticket to the club’s meeting. We are not able to accommodate public events of that scale and magnitude during the school day. 

    After careful consideration and in light of these concerns, the speaking engagement has been canceled. Our mission is to educate students and teach them to think critically, while allowing them space to pursue additional shared interests and passions in a safe environment. While we support freedom of speech and expression, we must ensure the safety and well-being of our students and hosting a public event during the school day would compromise that commitment.

    Our high school and other facilities in the district are available to be rented for events outside of school hours. We have made that option available. Additionally, the club has offered to host this speaker in the future, assuming the speaker can agree to the same parameters as other guest speakers.

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  • Student ID Badges and Transportation

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 8/14/2023

    Safety is a top priority for the Scottsdale Unified School District. We are committed to putting your children first. That is true on school campuses, as well as on our school buses.

    The expectation is that all students and staff will wear their SUSD-issued ID each day. If a student loses or damages their ID card, they must report to the school office or high school bookstore for a replacement ID.  The Governing Board approved a $5 replacement fee.

    All student IDs have a barcode that is used to scan for meals in the cafeteria and to check out books in the library.

    This year, each student ID also has Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) capability. RFID is not a global positioning system (GPS) and has no tracking capability on its own. Like the RFID in your credit card and debit card, it only works when tapped. The district piloted this program last year and the Governing Board approved it.

    The RFID in student ID cards is ONLY scanned so that the district’s Transportation department is able to account for those students who board and exit a bus. This applies not only to those who ride the bus regularly to and from school, but also to those who attend field trips and athletic/extracurricular events. The RFID student ID will also be used in any emergency evacuation to assist with parent reunification. The RFID is used to ensure we have accounted for each child and is solely a safety measure implemented by the district.

    The RFID ID card system was purchased to work in conjunction with our Transportation routing system.  The transportation routing system allows parents to download an app that has the capability to track their student’s school bus, that their student boarded the bus, and the stop their student exited the bus.  Already during the first week of the new school year last week, the system proved invaluable and reassured several parents regarding their students’ whereabouts.

    RFID capability also exists in SUSD staff badges to provide building access.  

    FAQs

    How does the RFID capability work?
    The student IDs utilize passive RFID technology, which means the ID cards do not emit any signals unless one is near an RFID reader, typically within a range of 1-2 inches.  Within the district, the RFID readers are only installed on the buses to record when students board or exit the bus.  Each student scan is date/time stamped, and the encrypted data is wirelessly transmitted to the cloud.  It's important to note that the student ID card cannot be tracked once the student moves away from the onboard RFID scanner. The bus itself is tracked using GPS, and the student's location is only recorded when they board or disembark from the school bus.

    How is the solution secure?
    The RFID cards are encrypted and contain a unique ID number, which is associated with a specific student rider in the backend database.

    Will the Student IDs be used to track students? No, the student ID cards will not be used to track students within the school premises. While the cards have a passive RFID chip, there are no readers installed inside the school for the purpose of tracking a student's location.  The RFID reader will only be used on the school bus. It reads the student's ID card as the student boards or exits the bus, logging the time and location. This measure is in place to enhance student safety, particularly for younger students who might mistakenly disembark at the wrong stop.

    What information is stored on the student ID?
    The student ID card only stores a 40-bit card number. No personally identifiable information, such as ID number, name, grade, campus, or social security number, is stored on the card's RFID chip.

    Why is the District using RFID technology for bus ridership?
    RFID technology has been chosen because it offers efficiency in quickly boarding students onto buses without creating long lines or unnecessary delays. Compared to barcodes or magnetic strip technology, RFID provides greater security as each card has a unique identifier, rather than directly displaying the student's ID number. This enables the district to deactivate a student card if it is lost or if the student leaves the district.

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  • School Choice

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 8/14/2023

    Parent choice is not new.  SUSD strongly believes in school choice, and parents have long chosen the school that best meets their students’ needs.  As such, we offer various teaching and learning styles, including Traditional, Dual Language Immersion, International Baccalaureate and STEAM programs. 

    The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) is responsible for tracking the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA), or school voucher, program.  The information provided by the ADE regarding SUSD is the total number of ESAs that have been awarded to students who reside within the district’s boundaries.  The vast majority of these students did not attend SUSD schools prior to 2020 and, most likely, have never attended SUSD schools.  SUSD enrollment has not declined by 7,700 since 2020, nor has it declined by 5,872 in the last year, as some have claimed.

    As of 2020, SUSD has declined in enrollment by 1,319 students, 804 of whom exited during the pandemic, when enrollment in public schools declined nationwide.  Our own exit survey data shows that at least 734 of those 1,319 students left to attend other public schools, charter schools, or online schools.

    Because of how the ADE data is presented it can be easily misunderstood.  What it confirms, however, is that thousands of students who reside within SUSD’s boundaries who were already attending private school are now receiving ESA state funding that helps offset their tuition.

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  • ParentSquare

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 7/21/2023

    During the fall of 2021, IT and Communications partnered to learn more about messaging options on the market because of growing dissatisfaction with SUSD’s current solution for mass communication. A larger strategy unfolded to determine how various non-centralized tools could be eliminated to improve communication with families, support a broader range of home languages, provide support for staff, and provide messaging data to help staff enhance communication with families.

    After reviewing what was available and receiving feedback from users of other communication platforms in use in SUSD, ParentSquare emerged as a tool that could replace several others and also provide a more intuitive user-interface for staff and parents, with parents at the heart of the platform’s design and approach.

    ParentSquare was procured using a S.A.V.E. (Strategic Alliance for Volume Expenditures) Cooperative Purchasing contract. S.A.V.E. is a consortium of Arizona local government agencies that work together to make major purchases cost-effective. Tempe Union High School District (TUHSD) issued an RFP in March 2021 on behalf of all S.A.V.E. members. In May 2021, TUHSD awarded RFPs to ParentSquare and Blackboard. After District leadership explored multiple notification platforms, the SUSD Purchasing Department reviewed the cooperative’s RFP documents and, in September 2022, determined the RFP complies with all required state and district procurement rules.

    SUSD pursues data protection agreements with all vendors. In the case of ParentSquare, its data- protection agreement indicates which industry-recognized data-security framework the vendor has implemented and includes an exhibit for the deletion and verification of deletion of data upon our request.

    ParentSquare strictly adheres to all applicable laws and regulations, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and has received iKeepSafe’s FERPA Certification and COPPA Safe Harbor Certification. These certifications demonstrate ParentSquare’s commitment to providing the highest standards of student data security and privacy protection.

    ParentSquare was founded by a parent, for parents. In a statement it shared, “We understand and prioritize student data privacy and we believe that open and transparent communication is crucial in addressing parental concerns.” Read the company’s Privacy Policy here:  www.parentsquare.com/privacy.

    ParentSquare does not create content for families or communicate directly with families. Schools and district staff only have full control over the messages that families receive. The ParentSquare platform is the tool that allows staff to generate lockdown messages and mass notifications to parents. It is also the tool teachers, principals, coaches, club sponsors and the district will use to communicate with parents other than individual emails, telephone calls and face-to-face conversations. We are optimistic our use of ParentSquare will result in stronger, more streamlined, school-home and district-home communications.

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  • Publication of Public Record Requests

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 7/12/2023

    The District's public records department publishes all requests for public records with the exception of items that concern requests for student records or that would reveal personally identifiable information regarding students.  The District has withheld publication of two (2) public records requests this past school year. 

    The GovQA software allows for the posting of "trending topics" on the forward-facing District website. The District posts information regarding student counts in that location.  Each time there is a post, the software catalogs it and assigns a number.  The software also assigns numbers to any public records request submitted. These numbers are sequential and only the public records request numbers are shown in the portal. 

    Recent claims in social media that the District is not being transparent are untrue.  The items that are not displayed are either (1) related to students; (2) automatically generated from the “trending topics" portal; or (3) a request that was withdrawn.   

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