Guest Commentary

Finocchiaro Smith: Disruption continues in SUSD, why?

Posted 2/7/23

Once again, SUSD has made national news. It’s not because of our 125-year history of great neighborhood schools, or our nationally recognized academic, athletic and performing arts, or because …

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Guest Commentary

Finocchiaro Smith: Disruption continues in SUSD, why?


Once again, SUSD has made national news. It’s not because of our 125-year history of great neighborhood schools, or our nationally recognized academic, athletic and performing arts, or because SUSD has attracted the greatest number of National Board Certified teachers in the state.

Sadly, it’s because a small group of disrupters continue to beat the drum of discord for personal agendas and political motives.

Q. Who are “they”?

A small group of extremists with loud megaphones, dozens of phony profiles, and the time to spin conspiracy theories that attack district public schools, parents, community members and businesses who don’t align with them.

Political extremists who managed to seat two board members by raising over $100,000 to promote their slate of candidates without their having participated in candidate forums by the Scottsdale Parent Council or Scottsdale Education Association.

Q. How do they communicate?

Through political contacts, national media (FOX news) and podcasts to disparage SUSD. Through social media, on a global level, by putting hateful comments on SUSD’s Facebook page for the entire world to see, most under phony profiles. This practice not only insults the district but the city and all those staff and children being celebrated on that page. Additionally, it has attracted internet trolls from outside the state and even the county.

Q. What are their demands, and how has SUSD responded over the past two years of whack-a-mole?

1. Children should not be required to masks at school. This was the starting gun. SUSD followed state health recommendations regarding masks during the pandemic. Also, they closed schools during the state shutdown but quickly pivoted to online platforms to keep students learning. Instead of praise for their efforts, SUSD was blasted.

2. Do not expose our students to CRT (critical race theory). SUSD does not now, or has ever had, CRT in its curriculum in any of their schools.

3. Do not expose students to transgender people, same-sex parenting, or other non-traditional family units. Students in LBGTQ clubs have their parent’s support, and the clubs are operated outside of academic time. Many, many of our students have same-sex parents, or single parents, or are being raised by grandparents, siblings or guardians. By denying the inclusion of other types of family units, aren’t they “canceling” the child?

4. Eliminate digital supplemental materials with links to political ideologies. When identified, SUSD has removed these links. Done.

5. Do not allow books, such as Ghost Boys, that might present a point of view from the perspective of someone who isn’t white. SUSD invites parents to apply for committee work to review books and supplemental materials.

6. Allow parents free access to their student’s campus at any time. Seriously, how is this not a safety concern? SUSD requires its staff and volunteers to be fingerprinted before allowing access to students. This demand is not in the interest of student safety, which is always the primary concern.

7. Recall Dr. Menzel. This is the latest beat of the disruption drum, attempting to pressure Dr. Menzel to resign. This tactic was also employed by a former board member who mentored the newly seated members to remove a former superintendent. An interview Dr. Menzel gave four years ago, with the full support and direction of this former school board in the more progressive area of Ann Arbor, was dredged up to label him as biased against white citizens. As a community member on his hiring committee, we researched his prior records and documents and were fully aware and supportive, as was the school board at that time, who approved him on a 5-0 vote. In fact, the disrupters openly discussed the “newly discovered interview” as evidenced by social media posts in June 2021.

None of these parent concerns has anything to do with student performance. What does affect student performance is the constant banging of the drum of discord and the disruption caused by a revolving door of staff and leadership. Aside from academic success, SUSD strives to teach kindness, compassion and critical thinking- all important skills to future success.

Q. What have these disrupters accomplished?

A negative image of our education system, causing new families to look elsewhere to locate their families.

Falsely naming teachers as groomers and pedophiles causing certified teachers to leave the profession or look elsewhere for employment.

Targeting businesses of public-school supporters has negatively impacted their livelihood and trickled down to the local economy. These practices could give pause to those considering whether they really want to do business here.

Attacks on SUSD support services. The trained professionals in SUSD deal with issues that stress children, from divorces to bullying to learning challenges to gender identity and more. Their goal is to help students navigate through the hurdles to find personal and academic confidence and success.

Q. Why is SUSD being targeted?

Scottsdale is a nationally recognized “brand” and identifies by just one word: Scottsdale. We are a premier tourist destination, host major sporting events, are among the most “livable” cities to relocate families and business headquarters. We are also in a state that allows charter and private schools to siphon government funds from public schools to line the pockets of profiteers.

Let’s face it — Scottsdale has an affluent population and some of the finest real estate holdings in the state. Why wouldn’t someone want to add Scottsdale to their portfolio of holdings?

In summary — the profiteers have been playing the long game. By using affluent suburban adults as their mouthpieces banging the drum of under-performance and unethical practices, they are attempting to drive enrollment out of public district schools and into charters and privates, all with a big helping hand by our state legislators and at the expense of Scottsdale families and children.