"Dark Side" Drives Out Superintendent

David Peterson's resignation came as a surprise ... a surprise that he lasted as long as he had under the circumstances.  

For the four years Peterson served as SUSD Superintendent, he endured what seemed to be a constant assault by community bullies - including a couple of school board members.

Almost from the beginning of his four-year tenure as superintendent that officially began in December of 2011, a disgruntled faction was gunning for Peterson, who previously served seven months as interim superintendent after Gary Catalani abruptly resigned after only two years. 

Lately, the professional lifespan of a SUSD superintendent has been relatively short. While the prior two superintendents, Catalini and John Baracy, who served four years, both resigned for "health reasons." However, Peterson gave no explanation for his resignation. But he didn't have to. 

As one source with knowledge of the situation described: "The district's administration has turned into a hostile workplace. David just got tired of the constant attacks." 

The hostility was generated primarily by "Respect Our Scottsdale Students" (ROSS), the organization made up of malcontents and mischief makers who aimed their vitriol at the school district's administrators - particularly Peterson. In the end, Peterson was a victim of the political venom from what one elected official called the "Dark Side." 

Initially, ROSS offered constructive criticism of the Peterson administration. Over time that criticism turned into tantrums. Seldom did the members of ROSS offer solutions to the problems they were so fond of pointing out. Their most recent input devolved into relentless ranting - especially about declining student enrollments. They have blamed Peterson for almost anything and everything for which the organization didn't approve of in the district. No issue has been too small. No grievance too petty. 

Ironically, a recent survey of parents with students enrolled in the district gave SUSD schools an overall 85% approval rating. 

Unfortunately, the vigilantes from ROSS weren't alone in their quest to dump Dr. Peterson. They have been empowered by SUSD Governing Board members Pam Kirby, an alpha dog, and her political handmaiden Barbara Perleberg.    

Kirby and Perleberg often turn school board meetings into little more than bitch sessions. Working in tandem and using some of the same tactics as ROSS, the two women have frequently caused so much havoc that the five-member school board becomes periodically paralyzed. Board President Bonnie Sneed has been forced to play the role of ringmaster of the three-ring circus.   

Many school board watchers say Kirby, who has close ties with Governor Ducey's administration, has a political agenda that doesn't always align with putting SUSD first. Some sources speculate she's a closet supporter of the charter school system and merely trying to cripple Scottsdale public schools. While it's difficult to identify her real motivations and possible political aspirations, it's easy to recognize the role Pam Kirby has played in creating the environment that caused David Peterson to resign.

Dr. Peterson's resignation is effective January 4, 2016. President Sneed says a search to replace Peterson will begin after the holidays - which is sure to stir up more bad blood.

Meanwhile ... the terms of Governing Board members Bonnie Sneed, Barbara Perleberg and George Jackson expire in 2016. They have yet to announce their political intentions.

Whatever they decide, 2016 will be a scrum for SUSD.