Cantor: Spending time in Scottsdale classrooms can be eye-opening for all parents

Posted 11/24/21

Sometimes it is extremely difficult to remain silent regarding current events. What is taking place with the SUSD Governing Board, currently, is a serious anomaly, and a misguided one at …

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Cantor: Spending time in Scottsdale classrooms can be eye-opening for all parents


Sometimes it is extremely difficult to remain silent regarding current events. What is taking place with the SUSD Governing Board, currently, is a serious anomaly, and a misguided one at that.

There was an episode of Star Trek, many years ago, about a planet populated by kids. Their nemesis? Grown ups who screwed up the planet. They were called “Gr-Ups.” I think it is fitting. Gr-Ups to the right and Gr-Ups to the left.

And the kids are stuck in the middle.

Having been a volunteer in my kids schools, and my grandkids schools and great grandkids schools, I am stumped with current shouts that parents have a right to have a voice in their children’s education.

No. You have a responsibility to have a voice and to be involved in you childrens’ education.

All parents are important players on their child’s/children’s education team from Pre-K through grade 12.

If you haven’t been involved, that is a shame, for you and your child, but don’t stand outside and throw stones at who are involved.

Not just parent-teacher conferences. Try helping out in kindergarten or even middle school and high school. You would be amazed at what positive things go into a school day. Your experience does not have to be confrontational and/or destructive.

Scottsdale Unified School District was/is (over the 37 years that I have volunteered) one of the first school districts that lobbied the Maricopa County Superintendent, Sandra Dowling, and the Arizona Department of Education to require Site Based Shared Decision Making teams at all district schools.

That dedication has not changed.

The policies were researched under former Superintendent Dr. Duane Sheldon and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Glen Turner, working with teachers and the Scottsdale Parent Council and the parent groups from each of the district schools. A model was formed, presented to the members of the Legislature along with those of other public school districts, and subsequently our state Legislature mandated the creation of Site Councils.

One of the interesting things that evolved was the requirement that a notebook with the minutes from the Site Council meetings be kept in the school office, at the front desk. It is frequently reviewed by the Site Council so it is up to date. Parents can call ahead and arrange time to look at it, but it cannot leave the building.

Along with the minutes in the notebook, school newsletters carry Site Council reports when posted. Site Councils are not the same as PTA and/or PTO or Scottsdale Parent Council. All three are equally important. The following excerpts from state documents regarding Site Councils provides insight.

Arizona site councils guidelines in brief:

SBM mandated, recommended, or voluntary: Mandated Statewide or pilot: Statewide

Responsibilities/level of authority: Not specified in statute. A local board, however, may give a school council “responsibility to develop a curriculum and may delegate any additional powers that are reasonably necessary to accomplish decentralization.”

Composition of council, if mandated: Initial number of members to be determined by local board, after which time the school council must determine the number, though numbers of teachers and parents should be same, and these two together must comprise a majority of the council’s members.

Unless another member is elected chairperson by a majority of school council members, the school principal is to serve in this office. The council must reflect the local community’s ethnic makeup, and must include parents of pupils in the school (who are not district employees); “teachers; noncertified employees; community members; pupils, if the school is a high school”; and the school principal. § 15-352 adds that a local board may allow an alternative school to create a school council with members other than those specified above, as long as teachers and parents of school attendees are represented. It also states that boards of districts with only one school or with a student population of under 600 students may vote not to have a school council.

Training/technical support addressed in legislation: No

Notes: § 15-102 aims “to promote the involvement of parents and guardians of children enrolled in the schools within the school district....” Local boards are to adopt a parental-involvement policy addressing a number of areas. Such policy may include, “Efforts to, with appropriate training, support parents as shared decisionmakers and to encourage membership on school councils.”

Legal citations: ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 15-102, 15-351, § 15-352

As a past president of the Coronado Association of Parents, Staff and Students, now designated a PTO, and the Hohokam PTA, I learned a lot.

Working on “Green Eggs and Ham” with Mrs. Wolf and Mrs. Reed and their kindergarten classes taught all of us moms and dads who volunteered a lot about the goals and purposes of kindergarten. That includes helping wee ones learn how to learn.

We learned right along with the kids. Just because we are grownups, with jobs and titles, doesn’t mean we have the abilities to determine everything pertaining to our kids and their education, or a whole lot of other stuff.

SUSD has made it way too easy to get involved by volunteering. Yes, there is district Parent Council. That is a good way to get to know people and share information and concerns. And to learn as a parent.

It isn’t always perfect. And many times parents aren’t on the same track that they think their school is. All the more reason to get involved.

Yes, the pandemic has made it harder to do these things and that makes it more important to take every opportunity to be involved.

And of course we are all afraid because we have never been through a pandemic, let alone one being so debilitating, even lethal. It is hard to see our kids threatened, from their daily routine to their very lives.

And of course we don’t want them to know that we are afraid and that makes it all the harder.

There have also been claims that curriculum and textbook selection is done in secret and behind closed doors. Not so.

There are committees that do both and parents are included on those committees. SUSD has two very capable assistant superintendents. Dr. Milissa Sackos for middle and high school and Dr. Ibi Haghighat, for elementary. They are both more than approachable and welcome parent interest.

There is no job on the local public school campus that is not important. When one of the custodians was out sick at Hohokam Elementary School I volunteered to help clean-up the cafeteria and get it ready for the next day.

The lead custodian, Karen Porsche, taught me to properly mop the floor so that I didn’t hurt my back. I learned to collapse, move and stack the tables in the lunch room without damaging them or me.

Scottsdale parents have always been enthusiastic about learning, for their kids and with their kids.

Whoever decided that the doors needed to be beaten down and battle declared really knows next to nothing about SUSD.

Editor’s Note: Nancy Cantor is a longtime Scottsdale resident and community advocate.


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