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?

by John Washington on 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 from elected office.

The Scottsdale Independent published an article on Friday that recapped the timeline of recent SUSD corruption. Stuart posted a comment on the article, in which he said,

“And the real question is where do we go from here? Another year and more infighting, or do we really respect Scottsdale students?

“We are all aware of the indiscretions of the previous administration, but how to move forward, onward and upward.”

Stuart wasn’t riding the pine during the efforts of concerned parents and taxpayers to root out the corruption and abuse. Worse than doing nothing, he was actively opposing reform efforts, and abusing those folks with false accusations of racism. Now he’s saying that opposing the corruption is the problem? The taxpayers are the problem?

These hypocritical, self-serving comments were pretty aggravating to me and to many others. So, I replied:

“‘Infighting’ must be a synonym for ‘reform obstructionism,’ as practiced by Birdwell and Birdwell’s carnies, including Rhoden, Chris Schild, Nancy Cantor, Ed Richard, and Jose Velarde.”

And that’s when the fight started [Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy].

I’ll skip a lot of the muddle in the middle (including Stuart’s class-baiting), and get right to the end. Stuart sent me a Facebook private message today in which he said,

“When you’re ready to have an adult conversation without snark and attacks, let’s sit down. Until then, keep my name out your mouth, blog, and post. These personal attacks of yours serve no one.”

I have to give him some credit. “Keep my name out your mouth,” is a new one on me. I’ll file that for future reference. It’s not quite the erudite banter I’d expect from a PhD Arizona State University faculty member and Scottsdale Human Relations Commission appointee. But it’s worth remembering.

Now I’ve been threatened before (as documented elsewhere on these pages), and by much scarier guys than Stuart. So, I’m not really worried about him.

In fact, I got a chuckle out of it, because it reminded me of one of my favorite movies.

Vinny: J.T., I believe you and Lisa played a game of pool for two hundred dollars, which she won; I’m here to collect.

J.T.: How ’bout if I just kick your ass?

Vinny: Oh, a counteroffer. That’s what we lawyers–I’m a lawyer–we call that a counteroffer. Let me see, this is a tough decision you’re givin’ me here. Get my ass kicked or collect two hundred dollars? Hmm, let me think. I could use a good ass kickin’, I’ll be very honest with you. Nah, I think I’ll just go with the two hundred.[laughter].

J.T.: Over my dead body.

Vinny: You like to renegotiate as you go along, huh? Okay then, here’s my counteroffer: do I have to kill you? What if I was just to kick the ever-lovin’ s[tuff] outta ya?

J.T.: In your dreams.

Vinny: Oh, no, no, no, in reality. If I was to kick the s[tuff] outta ya, do I get the money?

J.T.: (contemplates this) If you kick the s[tuff] outta me…

Vinny: Yeah.

J.T.: …then you get the money.[weak laughter].

Vinny: Oh. Okay, let’s see if we agree on the terms. The choice now is: I get my ass kicked, or, option B: I kick your ass, and collect the 200.

I’m goin’ with option B (takes his coat off): Kickin’ your ass and collectin’ two-hundred dollars.

J.T.: Are we gon’ fight now?

Vinny: Yeah. First let me see the money.

J.T.: I have the money.

Vinny: All right, show it to me.

J.T.: I can get it.

Vinny: You can get it? All right, get it. Then we’ll fight.

Here’s a link to the bar fight scene from the movie:

Meanwhile, let me see the money, Stuart.


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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What the public isn’t told about high-performing charter schools in Arizona – The Washington Post

April 2, 2018

“In 2015-16, only 1.23 percent of the students at BASIS charter schools had a learning disability, as compared to 11.3 percent of students in the state. BASIS schools had no English Language Learners. And in a state in which over 47 percent of all students received free or reduced- priced lunch, BASIS had none. Although […]

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