The School Board's infatuation with SUSD's new Superintendent becomes more intriguing following each internal incident the five members choose to ignore.
Only six months into her three-year contract with the school district, Denise Birdwell has made a series of well-publicized decisions that have alienated many teachers and some parents - and influential community leaders are wondering when the five-member School Board will stop rubber-stamping her ideas and start speaking up.
Perhaps recent revelations will be the tipping point.
The Arizona Attorney General's Office is considering investigating the district for hiring practices that smack of conflict of interest. Louis Hartwell was hired in October as SUSD's chief systems officer. He's the brother of Birdwell's landlady. Laura Smith, the district's CFO, is the president of a company that is a vendor to SUSD.
For long-time followers of SUSD, it's reminiscent of the good old days when the Attorney General's Office busted a previous School Board for open meeting violations.
Last month Birdwell, with the blessing of the School Board, pitched out the findings of an employee survey because the responses were "abnormal." Then, a week ago in the board's final meeting before summer vacation, members were told last year's property tax rate had been miscalculated, creating an unexpected $3 million deficit in the district's annual budget.
So how does the School Board feel about this and all the other monkey business during the past several months?
The members of the School Board aren't stupid. They've just been brainwashed by Superintendent Birdwell. That's why some people have started calling them "birdbrains." Talk to any of the board members and they're all programmed to say the identical thing, like an automated recording: "Change is hard for some people. And we are doing what's best in the long run for students, teachers and the school district. Just be patient."
That's their story ... and they're sticking to it.
However, things in SUSD stopped being about "change" months ago. Reality has revealed a control freak with a well-documented mean streak. Just ask any of the former SUSD employees who were written off as collateral damage for the sake of "change."
If the School Board had done their homework, they would have realized Birdwell's mode of operation: She hires unqualified relatives and friends of friends to replace competent employees. She burns through chief financial officers in usually less than a year. And she terminates those who have the courage to criticize her. Dr. Birdwell left Gilbert's Higley Unified School District in horrible shape before coming to Scottsdale. The Higley School District suffered the consequences of so-called change and is now struggling to make ends meet and scrambling to restore its reputation.
Will the SUSD Governing Board continue to be gullible and allow history to repeat itself in Scottsdale?
Sadly, the SUSD situation has devolved from educational issues into egotistical issues - which may ultimately be the downfall of the district.