Tonalea Neighbors Get What They Asked For.

Well, that didn't take long ... only halfway through the first month of the new year and we already have our first "conspiracy" of 2015. 
Who would have thought? It's a conspiracy theory that clouds the future of a closed school:  The original Tonalea Elementary School at 68th and Oak Streets.
A couple of weeks ago, residents of the South Scottsdale Tonalea neighborhood learned the Scottsdale Unified School District had arranged for Denny Brown, who recently retired from the SUSD Governing Board, to turn part of the shuttered school into a Resource Center.  The 56-year-old elementary school was closed last year because it was structurally unsafe and had a shrinking enrollment.  So students and teachers were moved down the street across from Coronado High School at Oak and Miller.
The agreement between the School District and Brown was for the facility to be used "temporarily" by some social service agencies until the District figured out what to do with the school.  According to Brown, a South Scottsdale resident, several of the organizations that expressed interest in using Tonalea were First Teeth First, Scottsdale Prevention Institute, Women, Infant and Children (WIC) and Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services (STARS). The City of Scottsdale also considered using the school as a satellite location to help deliver services to where and to whom they were needed most.
What initially sounded like a perfect way to repurpose an abandoned school building, at least in the short-term, quickly became a neighborhood melodrama.  The political theater is being fueled by confusing stories and contentious scenarios cooked up by some of our community's usual suspects.  
People of all ages jammed into the District's Education Center auditorium last week.  It felt like traveling in steerage-class on a cut-rate cruise line. Those, and there weren't many, who didn't know any better would have come away thinking that Brown was the biggest scoundrel who ever worked for SUSD or set foot in South Scottsdale.
"Ugly" was one of many four-letter words that described their diatribe.
Those who spoke the loudest and longest identified themselves as living in the Tonalea neighborhood that surrounds the shut down school.  Each one of them proudly paraded in front of the five-member Governing Board, proclaiming how long they had lived in the neighborhood before proceeding to dump on Brown.  They were 20, 30 even 40-year residents of the neighborhood.  And almost everyone of them said they opposed "Denny Brown's food bank."
Food bank?
Yes, in December Brown was guilty of arranging to use Tonalea as a distribution center to make sure down-and-out families got food to get them through the holidays.  And he also used the school as a staging area for needy children to receive Christmas presents.  But that was it.  Brown says he never intended to convert Tonalea into a food bank ... sperm bank or any other kind of bank.
Tonalea residents are holding out hope that students and teachers will return to the school sometime soon.  But they shouldn't hold their collective breath - because the District estimates it will take $13 million to totally restore the school.  Neighbors are also ignoring that Tonalea was one of three elementary schools in South Scottsdale that was operating at less than 55% capacity before it was closed.
Unfortunately, chronic critics like Edmond Richard cling to the assumption that Tonalea will rise from the ashes.  In fact he recently wrote: "During the closure of that location (Tonalea), there was an implied promise to reopen and rebuild the school for the community and children."
An "implied promise," really?  Obviously Mr. Richard isn't a product of the Scottsdale education system.
After all the heat from the neighborhood and other conspiracists, the School District and Brown backed away from turning Tonalea into a Resource Center.  The two parties tore up their contract that leased a portion of Tonalea to Brown for $1.00.  (That's not a typo.)  Brown wasn't being paid one red cent. And this entire affair wasn't a conspiracy between SUSD and Brown to run a scam on a South Scottsdale neighborhood as some paranoid people insinuated.
If SUSD and Denny Brown had the opportunity to do it over again, they would probably do it differently.  But they're not going to get that chance. 
The Tonalea neighbors got what they wanted.  They still have an empty school that looks like a docked aircraft carrier sitting in the middle of their neighborhood.  For now, they believe it's their spoils of war.  Let's see what they say next year and the year after that when they watch the buildings slowly but surely deteriorate and become a poor reflection on their neighborhood ... not to mention their property values.
This hasn't been a conspiracy ... nor a scandal or a scam.
It has been a classic case of "be careful what you wish for."
To Be Continued