Below is a list and status report of my policy work as a member of Scottsdale Unified School District's Governing Board.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about any aspect of my work, please do not hesitate to contact me using the information provided here. Your communications with Governing Board members might be subject to public inspection pursuant to public records requests or court subpoenas.
Defending the First Amendment
Public comments permitted at Governing Board meetings are governed by A.R.S. § 38-431 et seq. and Governing Board Policy BEDH. It is my belief that Policy BEDH contains an impermissible restriction on free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as applied to state and local government by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Consequently, it has been requested that Policy BEDH be reviewed and amended accordingly. Click here for a full details.
Status: Governing Board Policy BEDH was amended as requested. The amendments were unanimously approved by the Governing Board.
Protecting Students' Rights
The protection of students' constitutional rights and maintaining the separation of church and state are critical components of public education. In 2019, my office discovered that Scottsdale Unified School District's Athletic Banquets featured a religious invocation at each of its events. After review, I determined that the invocations are likely a violation of the First Amendment of the constitution and filed a legal brief with the District's legal counsel for review and consideration (click here for a full details).
Status: The District has agreed to stop including the religious invocation on a going-forward basis and might replace it with a moment of silence.
Fiscal Responsibility Through Internal Auditing
The Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors explains that "the role of an internal auditing department is to provide independent assurance that an organization's risk management, governance, and internal control processes are operating effectively." Issues which came to light in 2016 and 2017 demonstrate the need for the District to form a proper internal auditing department which would help re-establish trust between the District and the community, improve the District's responsible and efficient use of its resources, and ultimately provide a better education to all of our students. Click here to read my memo to the Governing Board for more information.
Status: The Governing Board has entered into an inter-governmental agreement with the City of Scottsdale's Office of the City Auditor to conduct independent, internal audits of District projects, beginning with the $25 million taxpayer funded rebuild of Hohokam Elementary School.
Developing a Strategic Plan
Creating a strategic plan is integral to turning Scottsdale Unified School District into an internationally recognized, high-performing school system, and was a central focus of my campaign platform.
Status: Using the work of Marc Tucker, the founder and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy as our guide, the Governing Board and District administration have established a Strategic Plan Design Team and have retained Kamm Solutions to lead our strategic planning work.
Recognizing the District's Associations
Re-establishing strong working relationships with all of our District's employees is critical to the District's longterm success. For decades, the District collaborated with three employee associations in order to ensure a high quality education was being provided to all of our students. Beginning in 2016, the District's former administration and Governing Board chose to stop working with these associations, without providing any reasons for the change. The consequences of these actions were the alienation of our District's workforce and a significant loss of high-quality, experienced teachers, administrators, and classified staff from our District. It is proposed that the Governing Board should recognize each of these associations. It is believed this will help restore trust between the Governing Board and District administration on the one hand and the District's employees on the other. Pursuant to Ariz. Const. art. XXV and A.R.S. § 23-1301 et seq., the State of Arizona is a "right to work" state. No individual may be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. These provisions do not prohibit the right of workers to form a union or association.
Status: The Governing Board adopted Policy HA recognizing the District's employee associations at its April 20, 2021 regular meeting.
Hold More Board Meetings Each Month
Pursuant to A.R.S. § 15-321(D), the Governing Board must hold one regular board meeting at least once each month during the regular school year and may hold other meetings as often as called. Currently, the Governing Board schedules, in advance, one regular board meeting and one work study session each month. It is proposed we add an addition special or regular board meeting each month. This will allow the Governing Board to decrease individual board meeting times, narrow the focus of each board meeting, discuss more items on a monthly basis, and approve additional action and consent items as needed.
Status: In progress.
Time Change for Governing Board Meetings
It is proposed that all Governing Board meetings begin at 6:00 PM or 6:30 PM at the latest to accommodate the schedules of Governing Board members and the District's administration, and to ensure that interested members of the public, teachers, and other District personnel may more easily attend all public meetings in the interests of public accountability, scrutiny, and transparency. It is believed that such a change would help restore trust between the Governing Board and the community.
Status: All board meetings now begin at 5:00 PM.
Time Change for Public Comments at Regular Board Meetings
As permitted by A.R.S. § 38-431.01(H), Governing Board Policy BEDH states that the Governing Board "invites the viewpoints of citizens throughout the District, and considers the responsible presentation of these viewpoints vital to the efficient operation of the District." During a time of intense scrutiny and public criticism of the Governing Board, Governing Board Policy BEDB was amended by the sitting Governing Board in 2018 such that the "public comment" section was moved to occur after information and discussion items. The consequence of this change is that members of the public wishing to address the Governing Board would have to wait hours after the commencement of a regular board meeting before being able to speak, decreasing the number of speakers due to other commitments later in the evening. To improve Governing Board-community relations and to restore trust in the Governing Board, it is proposed that the public comment section should occur earlier at Governing Board meetings to allow more members of the public to speak.
Status: The Governing Board agreed to move the general public comments section to its original position in the board agenda. The Governing Board has also added an additional public comments section for each specific agenda item for those wishing to comment on matters being discussed during the meeting.
Implementing Governing Board Self-Evaluations
It is considered best practice for governing boards to complete self-assessments, whether in the public or private sphere. Many of Arizona's schools boards have policies requiring their respective governing board members to conduct self-evaluations at least once per year, but Scottsdale Unified School District does not. These evaluations are aimed at improving board effectiveness and accountability, and help the board (and individual board members) better gauge areas where it needs to grow. Click here to view draft policy. Click here to view draft evaluation instrument.
Status: In progress.