Scam School

by John Washington on December 12, 2017

If there was a school to teach the art of scamming, it might look at lot like the present-day Scottsdale Unified School District.

Before I delve into the more delicious details… SUSD is a political subdivision of the State of Arizona, and the tenth largest school district in the state. SUSD has massive taxing authority. If you are a property owner within SUSD (the boundaries of which aren’t exactly contiguous with the boundaries of the City of Scottsdale), look at your property tax bill.

SUSD has an elected governing board of five members who are supposed to represent you, the taxpayers and beneficiaries of having educated children grow up to be educated members of the community. You, the taxpayers, just voted to tax yourselves another quarter-BILLION dollars to improve outdated SUSD facilities and make a better educational environment for our community’s kids.

Leading our board is president Barbara Perleberg. Within the experience listed on her bio, Barbara claims to have been,

a compliance officer and corporate secretary for a small investment management firm and mutual fund

The professional recruitment firm, Robert Walters, describes “compliance officer” like this:

The role of a compliance officer, sometimes called a compliance manager, is to make sure that a company is conducting its business in full compliance with all national and international laws and regulations that pertain to its particular industry, as well as professional standards, accepted business practices, and internal standards.

There is both an ethical component and a pragmatic component to compliance – a role that is crucial in helping organizations manage risk, maintain a positive reputation, and avoid lawsuits.

Board vice-president is Pam Kirby, former council member in the Town of Paradise Valley. Presumably, Pam participated in the state-required annual ethics training for that post. In addition, however, Pam lists on her campaign website, experience which includes:

Business Systems Consulting Manager, Arthur Andersen 1985 – 1995

Primary Client List:  Dallas Independent School District

Services: Change Management, Efficiency Studies, Process Improvement, Government Contract Consulting

So the leaders of your SUSD governing board have professional experience directly pertinent to the types of financial irregularities that are currently alleged to have occurred within SUSD. In addition, Pam is an supporter of Arizona governor Doug Ducey and his anti-public education agenda.

I won’t get into the other members of the board for the moment. But the motivations of these two Birdwell Boosters are clearly in question. They can’t claim to not understand what’s been going on.

I will, however, tell you that there have been alarming and documented allegations of nepotism, conflicts of interest, history of financial irregularities, and character issues attributed to Pam Kirby’s recruit, Denise Birdwell, to fill the SUSD superintendent’s position vacated by disgraced former sup, David Peterson.

(Birdwell also drew gushingly enthusiastic support of Doug Ducey sycophant and Scottsdale mayor Jim Lane)

The board has had knowledge of these issues beginning in about June or July of this past summer.

I don’t have time or the energy to list out all these allegations against Birdwell. But having just attended an SUSD board meeting Tuesday night in which Birdwell–and her friends and family with which she has populated SUSD admin–got utterly blasted by SUSD parents, taxpayers, teachers, and students.

You should take a moment to watch the public comment portion of the meeting for yourself. Skip ahead about 25 minutes past the preliminaries to the beginning of public comment, before which Perleberg issued a warning that public speakers may be sued for defamation!

I also want to point out that board prez Perleberg took a quick vote before public comment to table the two minor scams on the consent agenda which I identified to the board by email last night (Monday) as violating open meeting law by not including supporting documentation for the board or the public to review before the vote. They didn’t even have dollar values attached! I doubt they’ll be coming back anytime soon, if ever.

These were pretty small potatoes in light of the more salacious allegations you can hear in public comment. But open meeting law violations are a big deal, and typically do not involve a lot of gray area.

And I believe these two items are representative of dozens more outright scams that have occurred during the last two years under Birdwell and Cronies.

Lastly, I’ll point out that I just noticed there’s an executive session noticed for this coming Thursday night, 14 December 2017. On the agenda:

A. Discussion and consultation for legal advice with the attorney or attorneys for the public body pursuant to A.R.S. §38-431.03(A)(3) concerning 1) Arizona School Procurement Code and state law requirements and District policies and practices in connection with retention of architects and other construction related vendors; 2) cooperative purchasing under the Arizona School Procurement Code and state law;and 3) procedures for release of non-confidential information pertaining to a report being prepared concerning District procurement practices.

B. Discussion or consultation with the attorneys of the Board pursuant to A.R.S. §38-431.03(A)(4) in order to consider its position and instruct its attorneys regarding the public body’s position regarding contracts that are the subject of negotiations, or in contemplated litigation regarding architect professional services and construction.

C. Discussion and consideration of the Superintendent’s evaluation pursuant to Governing Board Policy CBI–Evaluation of Superintendent, and A.R.S.§38-431.03(A)(1). (The employee has been notified in writing in accordance with the statutory provision).

D. Discussion or consultation for legal advice regarding Item III. C., above with the attorney or attorneys of the public body, pursuant to A.R.S. §38-431.03(A)(3).

Item C tells me that the board has the opportunity to double-down and reaffirm Birdwell, or they’ll protect their collective posteriors and send her packing. But if the latter, the board will undoubtedly do that with a substantial parting gift in exchange for her not ratting them out.


A Simple Yet Powerful Question for SUSD

by John Washington on November 6, 2017

What is the board doing to reduce teacher/pupil ratio?

This question was posed by Barbara Veltri in a recent letter-to-the-editor of the Scottsdale Independent. She was responding to a dissembling opinion piece by current Scottsdale Unified School District governing board president, Barbara Perleberg.

This one simple question gets to the heart of the problem in SUSD, by pointing the finger at one of the most important factors in quality education. The rest of Veltri’s letter is reproduced below, along with a few other very good questions that the SUSD board–OUR elected “representatives” within the District–have been ignoring.

Veltri: Perleberg commentary diminishes previous Scottsdale Schools achievements
By Barbara Veltri Nov 5th, 2017 Comments: 1
Editor’s note: this letter is written in response to the opinion piece by Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board President Barbara Perleberg that appeared on Page 26 of the November 2017 Scottsdale Independent newspaper and that was originally published Oct. 20 at

As a Scottsdale citizen, taxpayer, and registered voter for 17 years, I am offended that an elected office-holder would reduce the efforts of Scottsdale’s students, teachers, coaches, staff, administrators, partners, parents, volunteers, and especially, SUSD alumnae with dismissive statements that undermine incredible achievements:

“For the past decade our district struggled with a lack of strong academic leadership, focus, and accountability. Of course great things were happening in SUSD. But we were not as strong as we should have been and we were not healthy. Our teachers and principals knew it. Our Parents and stakeholders knew it. All cared deeply and were working incredibly hard, but we knew we were on the wrong path.”

I cannot sit idly by and not respond. I have called Scottsdale home for nearly two decades.

I attended graduation events for my neighbor’s children, successful in their careers now. With this statement you diminish their efforts, achievements, and financial incentives to give back to the teaches and schools who ushered them through their formative years.

I understand that incoming school boards often replace previous leadership, but for a sitting school board president to state that “our district struggled, we were not healthy and on the wrong path,” alerts homeowners, businesses and Realtors.

You insult the community as well as the dedicated and hard-working teachers, coaches, volunteers, parents and amazing student athletes, who, persevered with academic, mental and physical toughness. I am amazed when I drive down Hayden Road to see consecutive state championship banners.
How did you contribute to Saguaro High School’s Championships: 2006- Football), Desert Mountain and Chaparral (Girls’ Volleyball and Boy’s and Girl’s Swimming awards, professional baseball players recruited from our community schools, and performing artists?

For years when I walked in my Scottsdale Ranch neighborhood, multiple A+ Awards peered at me from the concrete outer wall of Laguna Elementary. And, Scottsdale’s Tavan Elementary, whose only Latina principal has served a diverse student body for more than a decade, earned their second consecutive A+ award in 2017.

These are not handed out like Halloween candy. Both schools’ initial recognitions predate the current “reshaping model” noted in the board presidents’ opinion piece.

Scottsdale’s public schools offer families and employers in the community peace of mind, knowing that infant/toddler/preschool care is available on-site by certified early childhood educators. These community-based programs were initiated by previous district leadership who had vision and sought the input of the community stakeholders.

And, if you ask the neighbors, continuity in school-site leadership, matters.

SUSD offers programs for preschool children with special needs at several campuses, service learning teammates of high school students who visit elementary buddies, AP classes, a plethora of school-as-community events where teachers are on-site several evenings per month, father/daughter dances, literacy nights, and outreach to Scottsdale Charros and other local benefactors whose history with leadership means so much.
The Scottsdale Center for the Arts features incredible visual art, design and creative works by your own students, whose teachers encourage creativity, model approaches to design, and offer international opportunities. I was so taken by the artwork of a recent graduate of Coronado High School, who shared her international exchange experiences with the Sister School Project at Coronado, that I contacted the artist and complimented her work.

She is now enrolled at ASU in a teacher education program. That signals to me that SUSD, Coronado and the feeder elementary and middle schools, already embedded “a truly student-focused culture.”
You write, “So what does all this mean to the community we serve and that supports us?”

This is a two-pronged question. I realize that you and the other board members are serving the community — you are not compensated for your time intensive, “volunteer” job. Your hours are long and extend beyond scheduled meeting preparation and planning time. And, the race for an elected position to the Scottsdale School Board requires serious financial support and even longer hours campaigning.

The second part of this question assumes that Scottsdale residents, families, neighbors, volunteers, teachers, SUSD alums, and partners align with your policies. I for one request that you do not use the word “healthy” in any of your future statements. It is unbecoming for a school board president to consider that our children or our schools would be considered the opposite — ill or sick.

While you articulate several key policies that I was unaware of, there are other components that might interest readers of the community and the Scottsdale Independent. Class size research is one. The issue that concerns many parents, teachers and administrators is class size.
What is the board doing to reduce teacher/pupil ratio?

How many school psychologists, nurses are on site at each school to serve populations of 800 elementary students? Have you retained these professionals or contracted with a service to provide per diem support services?

How are you addressing the changing demographics in school populations in Scottsdale?
How is the Board directing the current school leadership to recruit and retain teachers and administrators of color?

How do you and the board define, “informed empowerment?”

Whose “education model” are you moving toward?

While you focus on the physical — major construction projects — your words signal to citizens, volunteers and others who provide time and tax deferred donations to our schools, that your messaging and leadership needs a public relations review.

The term “We Educate” is redundant. Set Scottsdale apart from every other school system that expects educators, to educate. Tell us how students will achieve, be accepted, and allowed to innovate with teachers/coaches/and administrators who have for the “past decade” utilized best practices.

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Scottsdale Journalism, Jumbo Shrimp

October 26, 2017

“Scottsdale Journalism?” Is that even still a thing? I’m reminded of the George Carlin shtick about “jumbo shrimp,” “military intelligence,” and “business ethics.” More on that last phrase momentarily. Did you know that Carlin was a US Air Force veteran? He was also court-martialed three times. The USAF apparently doesn’t have a sense of humor. […]

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Barf District Bullets

October 23, 2017

As in, literally, “bullets”… Only Fox 10 appears to be reporting Saturday night’s shooting at Maya Day and Nightclub in Scottsdale’s downtown Barf District. So much for the “hyper-local journalism” claimed by the Scottsdale Incompetent, or the “community engagement” and “quality journalism” boasting of Mi-Ai Parrish when she took control of the Arizona Republic a […]

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Scottsdale Darts

October 18, 2017

The latest edition of the “Voice of Scottsdale” (aka, “voice of Virginia Korte”) threw a dart at Scottsdale Arts (formerly known as the Scottsdale Cultural Council) this morning. I’ve reprinted the column below, but I’ll give you a little background first: Scottsdale Arts is a private business that contracts with the city, ostensibly to manage […]

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The crisis of the nonprofit business model – Phoenix Business Journal

October 9, 2017

Wow, does this ever apply to Scottsdale Arts!

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Behavioral economics and “mental accounting”

October 9, 2017

Richard Thaler, Nobel winner from Chicago, fought to get heretical economic theories published – Chicago Tribune This is a story from 2012 describing  work which just this week led to a Nobel Prize in Economics for Mr Thaler.,amp.html

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“Too Jewish”

October 9, 2017

There isn’t much I disdain as much as racism. One of those things is false claims of racism. Another is sanitizing the record in order to hide either of those. “Respect Our Scottsdale Students” (aka “ROSS”) is a Facebook group which describes its mission thusly: “Regaining the trust of the Voter and the Legislator requires […]

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Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!

October 4, 2017

It’s always interesting when historically opposing forces–or, in this case, public figures that represent those forces–suddenly come into alignment, for no obvious reason. In this case, Scottsdale mayor Jim “Shady” Lane published a letter in the Scottsdale Incompetent, in which he praised new Scottsdale Unified School District superintendent, Denise Birdwell. Lane is probably the most […]

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“Gastropub” by any other name is… a bar

October 4, 2017

With this headline, “Bitters cocktail bar and restaurant to open at SkySong in Scottsdale,” we see what I believe is the bar district’s camel nose under the tent at the taxpayer-subsidized SkySong office park gulag. And if bar district princess (and city councilwoman) Suzanne Klapp is tweeting about it, you can be sure that Klapp […]

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