SUSD May Never Be The Same

Denise Birdwell is leaving people with a terrible taste - particularly those who are now being forced to eat crow.

With each revelation and news report, it is becoming increasingly impossible for long-time Birdwell backers to continue denying her role in a scheme of deception and backchannel dealings. It's difficult to say exactly what took them so long to come around ... or what the tipping points have been for each of those steadfast supporters of the superintendent.

But better late than never.

There are those who want to treat the past year as an aberration - so they would just as soon move on and not dwell on the destruction created by the Birdwell administration. Unfortunately, it's impossible to ignore the collateral damage.

Under just about any other circumstances, school district decision makers would be advocating placing a budget override on the November election ballot. Thanks to all the shenanigans during 2017, that possibility is now remote. It would be a fool's errand. After all, who still trusts the SUSD School Board with taxpayer dollars?

Even if the School Board decides to go for broke and stage an override election, there's no one left to run the campaign. The "Yes To Children" organization, the grassroots group responsible for victories on behalf of SUSD at the polls the last two elections, has disbanded. Understandably, volunteers felt betrayed by how Birdwell and the School Board were mishandling the $228 million in bond funds voters approved in 2016.

There is, by the way, serious skepticism about how the bond funds are currently being appropriated by the new acting superintendent and the new acting chief operating officer - because both, who were hired by Birdwell, are thought to have questionable qualifications for executing the bond program.

The full extent of the damage probably won't be known for months. That's when the district will be able to accurately measure student enrollment totals for the new school year. The same holds true for the district's workforce, including teachers, who have just filed a notice of claim against SUSD alleging breach of contract.  

There's no debating that the school district's brand is suffering and a rebranding campaign is required. But that can't happen until all members of the School Board are replaced. Barring resignations and incumbents choosing not to run for re-election, it could take two election cycles for the current board to be swapped out with people who haven't been politically corrupted.

Notwithstanding the electability of current School Board candidates Patty Beckman, Mike Peabody and Jann-Michael Greenburg, SUSD will likely struggle to regain its statewide status any time soon. For instance ... even if two of the challengers replace Pam Kirby and Kim Hartmann this November, three board members (Barbara Perleberg, Sandy Kravetz and Allyson Beckham) will still remain and can rule the roost until 2020.

Then there's the matter of hiring a permanent superintendent to replace acting Superintendent Amy Fuller -- not to mention replacing some of the shady characters Denise Birdwell found to fill SUSD positions to perpetuate her policies and prolong her inevitable demise.

It will take years to repair the damage and restore trust in SUSD.