The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board kicked off the New Year by electing Patty Beckman president.
New Board Member Jann-Michael Greenburg said that “with the last election, the district is looking for new leadership to move in a new direction (and) put the past behind us.”
The board’s unanimous vote Jan. 10 came on a nomination by Allyson Beckham, who was voted vice president.
The move was somewhat unorthodox as boards typically select members with prior experience because they are more familiar with the panel’s processes.
Beckman acknowledged the unique situation, saying she was prepared to vie for vice president.
“I do feel that our community is looking to this current board for some positive change going forward and I also believe this community is fairly optimistic about the future of Scottsdale Unified School District,” Beckman said.
Beckman’s lack of board experience did not concern other members.
“I know that this recommendation may seem unusual as Patty is a new board member, but I believe Patty is qualified for the position,” Beckham said.
She said Beckman was well suited to handle the duties of president, which include administrative tasks and working with the superintendent, because of her experience as a business owner and manager.
“Her organizational skills, public speaking ability and your enthusiasm and commitment to SUSD and the board more than qualify you for this position,” Beckham said.
Beckham initially turned down an opportunity to become the board’s president after member Sandy Kravetz nominated her.
Respect Our Scottsdale Students, a group of parents and community members that has called for more transparency by the district and has often been at odds with the board in recent years, called it a “classy” move by Beckham in a post on its official Facebook page.
The group had previously advocated for Beckman.
The new board held its first regular meeting on Jan. 15 and interim Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard used the occasion to deliver a state of the district address in which he noted progress since he stepped into his role last year.
Kriekard took the reins at the district on May 14, 2018 as the district contended with lack of public trust and lawsuits stemming from procurement violations that occurred under the administration of former Superintendent Denise Birdwell.
In the months since, Kriekard said, the district has made progress in several areas, including hiring new professionals to key leadership positions and providing salary raises to teachers and staff.
He also said the district has completed a demographic study and reviews of the district’s procurement processes, human resources department and transportation inventory review.
The superintendent also focused on SUSD’s ongoing efforts both district-wide and at the individual school level, including a slew of programs aimed at fostering and building student achievement.
He also emphasized the district’s continued dedication to student emotional and social health.
Kriekard said he instructed the district office “to focus on support of the schools… because the teaching and learning that occurs in schools is the only thing that we are about. What’s our business? We educate.”
While Kriekard’s address focused on the future of the district, current events have reminded the community of its past controversies.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Frank W. Moskowitz issued a ruling Jan. 14 granting a request by the defense to remand all 11 felony charges against former district CFO Laura Smith back to the grand jury.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office will have to seek indictments to continue the case accusing Smith of violating the state’s conflict of interest laws and approving purchase orders to Professional Group Public Consulting, Inc., or PGPC Inc., a company she had financial ties to.
Smith had previously served as director at PGPC and her sister, Caroline Brackley, is still a partner with the company.
Moskowitz found that prosecutors had failed to provide evidence to the panel that could have exonerated Smith of some charges and that the state also presented false or misleading evidence.
Specifically, the judge cited the state’s failure to provide the jury with Smith’s employment application to the district, which cited Brackley as a reference and disclosed her current employer as The Professional Group Public Consulting Inc.
The judge’s order also states that Smith filed a disclosure of outside employment with the district that stated she would have continued employment with PGPC outside of SUSD hours.