One-Eyed Jackass

by John Washington on September 21, 2018

This crazy ‘public art’ installation was recently… ahem, erected, at Indian School Road and Marshall Way.

“In the end, they [the artist and the public art division of Scottsdale Arts] went directly to the city council, which has the power to overrule the [city] design board. In February, all but one city council member voted to approve the design…”

Lynn Trimble, Phoenix New Times

Herein lies the problem.

If you know anything about me, you know that I like art but I don’t like political entrepreneurs. So, I’m REALLY not a fan of “Scottsdale Arts,” formerly known as the “Scottsdale Cultural Council.”

Scottsdale Arts is a private business with a 20-year, no-bid city contract. It enjoys free rent in taxpayer-owned and taxpayer-maintained facilities. It shares none of its revenue back to the taxpayers. And it gets a $4+ million annual, taxpayer-funded subsidy, for which it’s contract contains ZERO objective performance metrics.

I previously assumed that the cost of this ‘art’ came out of Scottsdale Arts’ regular budget. But then I saw an email from Dan Semenchuk that indicated it came out of bed-tax money.

I think the bed tax has turned into it’s own little scam and slush fund (with hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to the mayor’s campaign PR hack–Jason Rose–alone), but it’s ridiculous that it’s now been used to further subsidize the con artists that run Scottsdale Arts… including Diana Smith, the wife of city councilman (and former city treasurer) David Smith.

I hope you’ll remember that Smith is campaigning to keep his seat, and a big part of his platform is asking you to further tax yourself (via Ballot Question 1) to repair our crumbling streets, bridges, and other infrastructure. My question is, why are we paying money for 3rd-grade cardboard cut-out ‘art’ instead of spending it on infrastructure?

Furthermore, as the Phoenix New Times’ Lynn Trimble pointed out, only one council member voted against this project: Kathy Littlefield. That means that mayor Jim Lane voted for it, along with the aforementioned incumbent council member, David Smith (are you surprised?), Suzanne Klapp, Virginia Korte, incumbent candidate Linda Milhaven (who is a Wells Fargo vice-president, and former board chair for Scottsdale Arts…surprise again), and our biggest recent disappointment, Guy Phillips.

Let me reiterate: These folks voted to spend millions of dollars of YOUR tax money EVERY YEAR on this kind of pure crap, while simultaneously neglecting a billion dollars in debt (Scottsdale has the highest per-capita debt of any metro-area city) and well over a billion dollars’ worth of deferred infrastructure maintenance.

And Jim Lane’s new bro-mance with Bill Crawford show’s Crawford would be more of the same… IF he can finally get elected.

So, bottom line: Don’t vote for Bill Crawford, David Smith, or Linda Milhaven.

Source: Phoenix New Times, Giant Rabbit Sculpture Hops Into Old Town Scottsdale


Coronado High School: Defining “Success”

by John Washington on August 8, 2018

Former Scottsdale Unified School District superintendent Denise Birdwell, who recently departed under a cloud of controversy and criminal activity, instituted the “Coronado Success Initiative” last year with much fanfare. School district governing board members Kim Hartmann, Pam Kirby, board president Barbara Perleberg, and others brayed about the good things to come.

Meanwhile, Birdwell undertook a not-so-quiet terror campaign to run off experienced administrators and teachers at Coronado (approximately 60%!), so that she could eliminate dissension in the ranks, and so that she could refill those positions with friends and allies, including (now ex-) principal Amy Fuller. As many as 19 of the the experienced teachers were replaced by interns and student teachers!

As recently as a couple of months ago, Hartmann and Birdwell cartel members Chris Schild, Nancy Cantor, Ed Richard, Jose Velarde, and Stuart Rhoden were bragging about achievements at Coronado, and using completely made-up metrics, like the numbers of seniors who filled out college applications.

To document some of those bragging points, I’ve reproduced below an article from the Scottsdale Independent.

I actually copied the article from the Scottsdale Charro’s website…they are/were one of the sponsors of CSI, apparently recruited into the situation via the “Business United for Scottsdale Schools” scam put together by the campaign finance law-violating Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.

Kim Hartmann apparently also serves on the Charro Foundation board, the philanthropic arm of the Scottsdale Charros [who restrict their actual membership to only men, and who derive most of their funding from no-bid city contracts]. So, it’s a nice little closed loop. But I digress…

Over the course of the past few days, I have been involved in a rather public discussion with Stuart Rhoden. That chat escalated to an implied threat which I documented in my article yesterday. But based on a tidbit I learned this morning, one of Stuart’s tangential comments jumped back out at me.

Rhoden said,

“The CSI isn’t a one-off where you can simply assert they won the chip in a year. If it is to mean anything, it has to be longitudinal and sustainable.

“In other words the jury is still out. I don’t expect you to understand the challenges because yours and others have never had to worry about theirs being a “first gen,” or coming up with the enrichment and preparation it takes to go to college.”

Momentarily disregarding Rhoden’s class-baiting and sweeping generalization, this is a significant step back from the earlier, highly-premature, and (in my opinion) fraudulent proclamation of success of the CSI issued by Rhoden and Friends.

Rhoden’s change in tone about success struck me as off-key when I first read it. But I allowed myself to actually take the bait, and thereafter I focused more on Rhoden’s tactics and his self-serving political ambitions.

However, this morning, the Arizona Republic (heaven help them, they actually do still put out some news) published an article on AZ Merit test scores. Those scores are used to assess student performance relative to their peers, and to compare performance of schools relative to other schools in the state.

Coronado results? A big flat tire. With no spare in the trunk. And, I’m guessing, some of the Board members (Perleberg) have been feeding this information to Stuart, et. al, in advance of the public release, so they can diffuse criticism of their earlier bragging.

18% of students passed the math portion, up one point from last year. But only 15% passed reading, down one point from last year.

And this is in spite of district administration efforts last year to push out English language learner (ELL) students; efforts which I will be documenting in an future ScottsdaleCitizen article.

So, I wonder how many of the 100% of Coronado seniors who filled out a college application fall into the 85% of students who can’t pass the reading portion of the AZMerit test. It makes me sick that the administration–instead of TEACHING the kids–bullied them into wasting their time filling out applications, and wasted the students’ time in class…not to mention wasting OUR money.

Stuart Rhoden is all butt-hurt and wants everyone to think he got gang-jumped by a bunch of middle-class, silver spoon-sucking soccer dads. No Stuart, the reason you got called out is because you are a liar, and your efforts to undermine reform have fundamentally hurt a lot of kids who can’t ask for a do-over. Why would we even want you in the conversation, let alone representing Scottsdale taxpayers and families on the district’s governing board?

Ditto Kim Hartmann.

The deadline for filing to run for board re-election is today. Pam Ducey-Kirby already issued a mamby-pamby (you see what I did there?) statement whining about why she’s going to “hand off the [presumably pink, sparkly] baton” and not run for re-election.

Thankfully, Stuart did something smart last week and bowed out with his own, equally-sad and meaningless soliloquy. He wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in Scottsdale of winning because he’s an over-educated moron, but he would have been damned annoying in the campaigning.

Maybe Kim will do the right thing for once, as well.

Coronado Success Initiative begins to bear fruit at Scottsdale Schools

The school year is nearing its halfway point and Coronado High School’s students and faculty members appear to be adjusting to the number of changes that have come with the Coronado Success Initiative.

During a Tuesday, Dec. 12 [2017] Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board meeting district officials presented an update on the school-wide initiative that overhauled the campus at 7501 E. Virginia Ave.

Last spring information presented by district leadership and Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell pointed to an under-performing school with few college-or career-ready students.

Principal Christopher Gilmore says his students aren’t just meeting their new expectations, but exceeding them.

“You raise the bar for the students, or you put that challenge in front of students, and they’re going to take it,” Mr. Gilmore said in a Dec. 13 phone interview. “You give them that opportunity, that time, that mentorship and that guidance.”

The school has two-thirds new staff — about 40 of 60 people — including a new principal at the helm.

Mr. Gilmore hit the ground running at Coronado, beginning work months before the school year began. The hard work is paying off, school officials content.

Just weeks before winter break begins, all 228 seniors have filled out at least one college application, Dr. Amy Fuller told the Governing Board on Dec. 12. More Coronado seniors are applying to the three big in-state universities this year, also, Mr. Gilmore pointed out.

Numbers provided by the principal show that 93 students have applied to ASU, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona as of Dec. 1, compared to 57 at the same time last year.

Additionally, the school has set a new district record notching the most graduates, 91, from Arizona State University’s American Dream Academy. The academy is a parent-centered, eight-week program offered through ASU at various schools throughout the Valley.

Overall, the focus at Coronado is personal and academic growth for its students, Dr. Fuller noted.

When the CSI [Coronado Success Initiative] started last spring, community partnerships between SUSD and the Scottsdale Charros, Scottsdale Community College, ASU and others, were the bedrock of the overhaul. The program now has 17 partners, Dr. Fuller said.

The partnerships with different entities around town have allowed the school to bring in speakers, professional development experts, community engagement and kick-off a mentor program.

On Nov. 1, the school hosted a college and career day where each grade level participated in their own activity. East Valley Institute of Technology, SCC and ASU representatives were all on campus that day, Dr. Fuller noted.

On Sept. 26 and Nov. 7, the school hosted FAFSA nights where 25-30 families filled out the financial aid paperwork. Another FAFSA night will be held at Coronado on Jan. 25.
Biology students hosted a genetic disease science fair on Dec. 14 at Coronado High School.

The school has also set a goal to lower the ratio of students per teacher. They are attempting to achieve this by utilizing ASU’s iTeach program with student teachers.

“The goal for CSI on ASU iTeach was to lower the ratio of students per teacher,” Dr. Fuller explained. “We have 19 interns or student teachers. On some days of the week our ratio goes down to 13 students per one teacher.”

Speakers that have been booked at the school include Scottsdale Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Jim Ford, Andre Watkins, research supervisor with Mayo Clinic, and the Women’s Leadership Speakers Panel.

Mr. Gilmore says the biggest challenge is having such a majority of new staff.

“I guess the challenge is we have a new staff. We are getting to know each other and we’re getting to know the students — that’s the most important thing,” he explained. “Everyone is kind of learning together. No one is afraid to not ask a question because everyone is new pretty much, but those that are here have really been helpful.”

After returning from winter break in January, the students and faculty will continue to focus on their English, math and science departments, Mr. Gilmore says.

“We’re working with our English, math and science departments right now to do more strategic interventions after school,” he said. “Our goal is to target the student’s weakness strategically, that’s why we call it strategic intervention, and get the students back up on par so they can be on grade level by doing that after-school tutoring.”

Mr. Gilmore says a Tonalea [former elementary school] Night, an AP [Advanced Placement] Night, a CTE [Career and Technical Education?] Night and the ACT [college placement] test are all on the docket for next spring. The school is looking at a adding a number of career and technical education programs in the future, he explained.

“That’s coming out of the gates in January and February [2018] for us right now,” Mr. Gilmore said.

“We also have in February, all of the students at Coronado are going to be taking the ACT test. That’s really exciting for us.”


Get my ass kicked or collect two hundred dollars?

August 6, 2018

I’ve had a back-and-forth comment war with Stuart Rhoden for a couple of days. You may recall that Stuart is the guy who was running for Scottsdale Unified School District governing board before he wasn’t. I think he figured out that being a card-carrying member of the Denise Birdwell pom squad pretty much disqualified him […]

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The Great Spring Training Hoax

July 27, 2018

Neil deMause ( comments this morning: A study by Arizona State University found that spring-training baseball was worth $373 million to the Arizona economy in 2018. I can’t find the actual report itself, but it looks like they came up with this number by interviewing a sample of out-of-town visitors at spring training games about […]

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The Value of Education

July 25, 2018

It’s bizarre to me that we in the US and especially in AZ are so twisted up in knots over adequately funding our public schools and adequately paying our educators and school employees. Do the citizens and voters really not recognize the value of public education? Sure, who cares if the other kid doesn’t have […]

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June 26, 2018

It’s more of the tired old sentiment that those in power can do whatever they want, and we mere peasants can only object via “civil dialog.” Plus, “gadfly” is easier to spell than “concerned citizen and taxpayer.”   Why does the Scottsdale Independent constantly refer to those opposed to the Desert Edge [formerly known as […]

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Public Education: Don’t forget the taxpayers

May 16, 2018

The scandal-plagued Scottsdale Unified School District just hired an interim superintendent, Dr. John Kriekard. Dr. Kriekard was a longtime educator, principal, and assistant superintendent within our district, and served as superintendent of the Paradise Valley Unified School District. Kriekard sent out an encouraging communication today: May 16, 2018 Good Afternoon, SUSD Family, Today marks my […]

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Accounting is Complicated, Accountability is Not

May 15, 2018

Former SUSD CFO Laura Smith The latest shoe to drop in the ongoing Scottsdale Unified School District fraud carnival is the criminal indictment of former CFO Laura Smith. As the person most directly responsible for the financial health of the 23,000-student district and its $170+ million budget, Smith was simultaneously on the payroll of a […]

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Developer Dishonesty? Say it isn’t so!

May 14, 2018

Vicki Falen and her husband Dana live in the Montana Ranch community south of Shea Boulevard at roughly 117th Street. Late last year an adjoining parcel which was similarly-designated as rural residential, was rezoned via “major general plan amendment,” by mayor Jim Lane and the Scottsdale city council to commercial use, for a developer who […]

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Quote of the Day: Confident Ignorance

April 16, 2018

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. Charles Darwin (1809–1882), English naturalist who authored the unifying theory of the life sciences.

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