Long term vision for our District and our students

For seven straight years, we have faced declining enrollment of more than 11% while the population of the City of Scottsdale has grown more than 13%. Our Board has clearly failed to turn this trend around. Below are my 6 goals for our District's long term vision to end this decline and make our District the first stop for students:

1. We need to develop opportunities for students to study STEM subjects, introduce computer programing and vocational training into every high school, and develop various introductory courses on a wide range of topics, like law and politics.

Our District must have a place for every student, and every student must be given the opportunity and freedom to try new things, learn new subjects, and prepare for his or her future. The economy is undergoing extreme changes: many of the employment opportunities that exist today might not exist tomorrow and vice versa. The importance automation will play in our future, and the ever-increasing need for qualified engineers, computer programers, and math and English proficient professionals, cannot be understated and is well-documented by the World Economic Forum, McKinsey Global Institute, and many others. These trends must be carefully monitored by our Board members and District to ensure we are providing necessary educational opportunities for our students and laying down the proper foundation for their future success.

Our District is fortunate to have so many resources at its fingertip. Potential cost effective ways to introduce some of these types of programs are to bring in university students and professionals who know and love their subject and are willing to teach voluntary courses after or before school at cost plus minimum pay. Imagine having tax attorneys or accountants provide courses on how to fill out tax returns, or a law student teaching basic principles of law, to our students?

2. We must focus more resources into math and English classes and establish new ways of helping students with their studies - including creating peer-to-peer tutoring sessions.

Students cannot afford to graduate from high school without being proficient in math, English, and reading. Given the above-referenced changes in our economy, the need for students to be able to solve math problems, break down and draft arguments, and read at grade level is clear: these tools are universal and are necessary for any individual to succeed in life. By focusing more resources into these classes, and providing students with plenty of opportunities to reinforce their skills, it is hoped that no student will perform below grade level.

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3. We must provide opportunities for all students to learn soft skills and gain professional experience, while developing internship schemes with Arizona businesses.

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4. We will provide students with the proper care and support required to accommodate their specific needs, especially in special education, and retain highly qualified professionals in the special needs and mental health fields.

Since 2016, our District has seen drastic changes in how it works with and educates its students, especially those with special needs. In a short time span we saw several key psychologists resign in protest of new restrictions imposed on their ability to help students. We have also seen the hiring of dozens of unqualified individuals to work with our most vulnerable students. This practice must stop: only the most qualified individuals should be hired to teach, work with, and help our students.

5. We must begin providing students information on a variety of learning options and career paths after high school.

In education, one size does not fit all, and that is certainly true of post-high school education and employment options. There are many opportunities available to students after leaving high school, from attending vocational schools, to undertaking apprenticeships, to accepting immediate employment. Students should not be limited in their decisions and the importance of these alternatives should not be understated. In fact, in 2017 California announced its plans to spend over $200 million in advertising and upgrading vocational education opportunities as alternatives to university or college studies. Students should be given honest information about the benefits and drawbacks to undertaking any post-high school education or employment decisions.

6. We must champion better funding for our District and high-quality education opportunities for our students.

Research has shown time and again the importance of providing a high quality public education to students, the need for proper funding to do so, and the relationship between a high quality public education system and a student's future success (see a recent study here, or ask our team for a copy of the original report). While providing better funding for our District might seem like an obvious goal for our District and our Board Members, that is not the case. The current Governing Board failed to oppose the expansion of Arizona's Empowerment Scholarship Accounts in 2017 (so-called "Vouchers"). In 2017, it was found that students eligible to attend SUSD are the fourth largest recipients of vouchers in the State of Arizona. Some 122 students received an average of $19,336, totaling $2,359,036, to fund their private education (not public education, not charter education). Since SUSD is largely awarded funds on a per student basis, such a loss of students has only increased SUSD's financial burdens. ESA has also been the target of numerous investigations concerning financial improprieties, poor oversight, disproportionate use by those living in wealthy areas compared to those living in poorer areas, and detrimental effects on the public education system.

 

Although I support a family's right to choose which schools their children will attend, the Governing Board of a public education institution has a fiduciary duty to argue against measures which cost our District its funding and its students, while simultaneously supporting measures which only benefit its competitors. Coca-cola would never support a law which harms them while benefitting Pepsi: why should our District's Board act any differently? Their collective failure to argue against this expansion is dangerous and violates their duties to the District.