Student ID Badges and TransportationPosted 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.
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.
School ChoicePosted 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.
ParentSquarePosted 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 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.
Publication of Public Record RequestsPosted 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.
The Scottsdale Unified School District is committed to connecting with stakeholders.Posted by SUSD Communications on 5/9/2023
Whether through teacher, principal or district communications; in person, via email, through Let’s Talk or over the telephone, SUSD is in - and, in fact, promotes - constant communication with parent and community stakeholders. Education is not a one-way street. It requires transparency and honesty. It requires having the best interests of students in mind 100% of the time. It also requires business efficiencies in its $251 million operation.
Last week, the Governing Board approved its meeting schedule for the 2023-2024 school year. In order to streamline and make the Governing Board’s work more efficient, you will see that this new calendar calls for fewer “Special Meetings” next school year. Special Meetings accommodate reports by district leaders on the progress of Board initiatives, present ideas for new ones, and allow time for in-depth discussion and consideration. Additional Special Meetings can be scheduled at any time with 24-hour notice.
While Special meetings always have and continue to be open to the public, they are not – and never have been – the meetings at which public comment is taken from the community. That opportunity is reserved for the state-required, monthly, Regular meetings of the Board, and, contrary to what you might have heard or read, we are not reducing the number of Regular meetings that will be held next school year. All of the business matters requiring Governing Board approval will still be attended to over the course of the school year in the revised calendar, whether it is at a Special Meeting or a Regular Meeting. Other school districts around the Valley, such as Queen Creek and Higley Unified, follow a similar schedule.
You may have seen some recent social media, suggesting that the SUSD administration is attempting to “muzzle” public input or reduce transparency. This could not be further from the truth. Our staff remains committed to partnering first with parents and hearing from all community partners and stakeholders to serve the best interests of our students.
While most concerns are addressed by a teacher and/or principal at the school site, we understand that additional support from district leadership is sometimes necessary. District leaders are also available via Let’s Talk. Additionally, the district will host Town Hall meetings in each learning community next school year. We value connecting families with district leaders so they can answer questions face-to-face. We find it to be much more meaningful than engaging in misinformation being spread about us on social media.
To be even more transparent and enhance the trust our community has in our mission, vision and values, we are launching SUSD In-Focus. This is an opportunity for those who are not already familiar with this district to connect and learn about the breadth and depth of our organization. Through Learning Community tours, participants will see for themselves what world-class, future-focused learning looks like.
Public Comment is important, certainly; however, policy does not permit us to respond on the spot or engage in conversations during a Governing Board meeting to try to address the concern being expressed. While problems are not solved during the public comment portion of Regular meetings, it is an opportunity for our entire Governing Board to hear what’s on the community’s mind. That opportunity is available at each Regular Governing Board meeting, held once per month when school is in session. To be clear, SUSD is not reducing the number of Regular Board meetings or the public’s opportunity to connect with district leaders. That is antithetical to who we are and what we aim to achieve.
Update on Unitown and MinitownPosted by SUSD Communications on 4/19/2023
History: Unitown was brought to SUSD in 1989. Some staff and students attended the Anytown State version and brought back the information to share and created the district program. Since then, the program has been adapted to fit more of a leadership and education focus but it is still delivered in a discussion-based format using diversity topics.
Purpose: The purpose of Unitown is to build human relation bridges for understanding each other and ourselves. Unitown is designed to bring about greater appreciation of the similarities of people regardless of their diversities of race, creed, abilities or any other differences they may have.
Student-led clubs: There are some site-based clubs whose purpose aligns with Unitown. Please note that each student-led club identifies purpose in their own words.
Most Recent Camp: February 2023, Prescott, Arizona, 5 nights
87 students and staff attended this year.
Application Process: Students can apply to attend and are selected after an interview process. Parents are sent information on the topics we will cover and then we do a parent night where we answer all questions to parents who have students attending. There has been positive feedback – including one of the parents was a Unitown attendee previously in the district (1993).
History: Mini-town was developed as a way to get middle school students interested in supporting their direct communities and schools. The year is unknown.
Purpose: Kids need many skills to be successful students. Minitown will give them many of those skills (collaboration, leadership, making friends, ability to talk in front of others, unorganized play, manners at the lunch table, etc.)
Student led clubs: There are some site-based clubs whose purpose aligns with Unitown. Please note that each student-led club identifies purpose in their own words.
- Cocopah Clubs
- Desert Canyon Clubs
- Ingleside Clubs
- Mohave Clubs
- Mountainside Clubs
- Tonalea School Website (pending club link)
- Cheyenne Clubs
- Copper Ridge Clubs
- Echo Canyon Clubs
Last Camp: March 2019, Mountainside Middle School
Please note that March 2020 was canceled due to COVID
Last location held: Mountainside Middle School-1 night camp
Selection Process: Minitown is advertised on school announcements. Students interested in Minitown self-refer and complete an application that requires parent signature. Information, including a packing list, is provided to students and parents. Each school is alloted 7-12 delegates. Delegates are middle school participants. Selection of counselors is done via an application.
Aggregate Expenditure LimitPosted by SUSD Communications on 12/1/2022
Scottsdale Unified School District is Scottsdale’s fifth largest employer. It is a major economic driver, in addition to being a high-achieving public school district. However, if the Arizona Legislature does not act soon to rectify the archaic Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL), both the local and state economy stand to take a massive hit.
The AEL is a constitutional provision from 1980 that caps how much a school district can spend each fiscal year. It uses an outdated formula that is based on attendance and inflation rates. This year, the Legislature passed a bipartisan K-12 education budget, including a significant increase of nearly $800 million to public schools. Even so, Arizona ranks 47th in the nation for education funding and, according to the Arizona Department of Education, K-12 public schools across the state will have to cut their current spending by $1.38 billion this spring unless swift legislative action is taken to override the AEL. Keep in mind, these are the funds that cover the daily operation of Arizona’s public schools. The state has the money. The Legislature has already appropriated the money, yet schools cannot spend those dollars unless two-thirds of the House and Senate vote to override the AEL. This has been done in the past and is expressly permitted by the state Constitution.
According to numerous reports, as part of last summer’s state budget negotiations, Governor Doug Ducey indicated he would call a special session to address the AEL after the mid-term elections. There are a limited number of days remaining in 2022 for the Governor to honor his commitment. In the meantime, districts statewide consider the very real threat of having to reduce their budgets by 17.51%. For Scottsdale Unified, that equates to $30,196,497. That represents 45 school days in staffing costs. The impact would be real and would have a chilling effect on the district’s ability to attract and retain quality teachers and staff, and continue to deliver world-class, future-focused learning to our 22,000 students.
The legislature has until February 28 to override the AEL and fix this threat to funding for the current school year. Given the number of new legislators who will take office in January and the fact that they were not part of the budget approval process earlier this year, the hope is that Gov. Ducey will yet call a special session to address this unfinished business with the same legislature that approved the funding.
This is not the first time this has happened. A nearly identical scenario played out last spring.
Because a two-thirds majority vote of both chambers is required to waive the limit, bipartisan support will be essential again. Arizona lawmakers need to work together to rectify this year’s funding cliff and craft a permanent solution that avoids the annual need for such legislative action.