Guest Commentary

Letter: You can trust Scottsdale Unified with your override vote

Posted 11/2/22

We are public members of the Scottsdale Unified School District Bond and Override Oversight Committee. We have served on the Bond Oversight Committee for six years along with seven other voters in …

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Guest Commentary

Letter: You can trust Scottsdale Unified with your override vote

Posted

We are public members of the Scottsdale Unified School District Bond and Override Oversight Committee. We have served on the Bond Oversight Committee for six years along with seven other voters in our district.

Our Committee’s purpose is to assure that the district reports accurately and fully all of the uses of special funds, which voters entrusted to SUSD for the purpose of constructing buildings and other capital expenditures. The Committee monitors how the district invests and spends bond funds and capital override funds. We ensure that district leaders handle residents’ funds in the manner that they were intended when the bonds and overrides were approved.

Each of us has served on this Committee since it was formed in 2017. We are now in the process of recruiting and mentoring new members to the Committee so we can insure that the lessons learned over the last six years do not need to be relearned after we transition out. It is important to know that SUSD’s leaders support the plan to maintain a strong oversight team at all times.

Whether we are actively engaged in issuing and spending new bonds or not, the safeguards provided by the BOC should never be dismantled.

In the early days as members of the SUSD Bond and Override Oversight Committee we experienced disappointment, poor leadership, and inept practices by those who were then in control of the administration. We felt the administrators weren’t listening to our input and we pushed back on them for not hearing and respecting our points of view.

During the public uprising against former Superintendent Birdwell and her chief financial officer, some dubious facts and questions were raised in the press and followed up by the attorney general. In 2018 the district chose new leaders. They began the turn around to build trust with the SUSD public. Interim Superintendent John Kriekard, and interim CFO Jeff Gadd were appointed to help stabilize SUSD and to rebuild public trust and faith in SUSD leadership.

After being appointed in 2020, new Superintendent Scott Menzel later promoted interim CFO Shannon Crosier to the permanent role of chief financial officer. Menzel also empowered our outstanding Director of Facilities, Dennis Roehler.

Our Board, Dr. Menzel and our Committee have always encouraged Crosier and Roehler to continue the efforts to build trust into the process of contracting and spending of bond funds and capital override funds. Due to Shannon and her staff, and Dennis and his staff, the Scottsdale Unified School District’s Bond Oversight Committee has seen a complete and positive turn around in how the monies voted by the public were being handled.

We are proud to tell residents that over the past 2.5 years the public members of the BOC have experienced the following very positive things:

• Positive administrative and board leadership that has helped complete several excellent rebuild projects — including preserving the Hohokam architectural legacy and finding ways to fund the rebuild of Navajo Elementary after fire all but destroyed the entire campus;

• Initiation of open-books policies and creation of a new website that is frequently and honestly updated with cost estimates and actual reports of cost/expenditures for work, materials, and contractors paid with override or bond funds;

• Initiation of school rebuild and vision teams made up of parents, and residents who are listened to and respected;

• Honest use of taxpayers’ funds;

• Innovative ideas for use of land are now being openly discussed SUSD;

• The district has begun marketing the accomplishments of students, teachers and staffs at our schools. Residents now know SUSD is getting results with the dollars provide through their votes for school bonds and overrides;

• The district even went the extra mile to bring outside auditors in to review projects post-completion;

• Enough savings have been identified to allow SUSD to complete the most recently finished campuses for less cost per square foot than the 2017 Hopi Elementary project (which was SUSD’s first project — and which was built long before massive inflation costs set in).

Thanks to SUSD’s leadership, we now build classroom-friendly, student-focused, high-security campuses that are both aesthetically pleasing and in tune with our city’s environment, while also being among the lowest cost projects in the county.

The message is simple: SUSD voters can safely “trust SUSD because we verify.” Not just at the Bond Oversight Committee level, but at every other level and every other phase of every project.

As Committee members, we truly believe that no other district in this state comes close to matching the checks, balances, transparency, and integrity of the SUSD capital expenditure process.

Please trust SUSD once again. We ask you to vote “yes” to continue SUSD’s additional funding assistance for capital expenditures over the next seven years.

Before we end this column, we want to send special thanks to Nancy Cantor, who has served with us on the BOC since its formation. Cantor has always been a powerful and unwavering voice for SUSD and especially for south Scottsdale, which is where her heart remains.

Nancy wrote about the override early in this campaign. She sets the standard for community support while also setting the standard for demanding answers and never faltering until she gets them. It will take a small crowd of people to replace her on the BOC when she finally steps down.

Whether she has shared our thoughts and beliefs with us or has argued vociferously that we were wrong, Nancy has always shared a deep commitment to do what is best for the entire community. Thank you, Nancy, for setting that standard for all of us to follow.

Editor’s Note: The SUSD Bond and Override Oversight Committee is made up of 13 people. The Committee is provided information on school construction, classroom improvements and other major projects funded by voter-approved Bond and Override initiatives. The Independent welcomes all points of view. Email your opinions, pro or con, to AzOpinions@iniusa.org.