The public outcry has died down, a former superintendent is working in another state, a principal resigned — and the Scottsdale Unified School District is stuck with a $225,000 legal bill.
After months of bickering over whether to audit or arbitrate the bill from law firm Lewis and Roca, the district’s governing board put an end to the flap Thursday by accepting the bill and voting not to seek arbitration.
"There is no grounds to arbitrate the bill based on the knowledge the superintendent had throughout the case," said board member Christine Schild.
Lewis and Roca spent four months last fall investigating former Sequoya Elementary School principal Maureen Booth for allegedly changing Stanford 9 test scores so teachers could get bonuses. Booth resigned in January, and the accusations were dropped.
Board members were stunned by a $225,000 bill in January and the public outcry prompted many debates on whether to audit the bill. Two other law firms also were hired to oversee the Booth hearing and represent the board, bringing the total fees for the Booth case to $246,000.
The board voted against an audit of the bill in July. Board members Joel Feldman and Sandra Zapien-Ferrero were appointed to a subcommittee and charged with asking the firm to reconsider its bill. The firm stood by its bill and, in an effort to help the district achieve "closure," offered to donate $10,000 to the Scottsdale Arts in Education Council.
The district’s new inhouse attorney, Kim Clark, reviewed the files and bills and reported to the board.
Since former Superintendent Barbara Erwin was told in writing by Lewis and Roca that the fees to investigate Booth could reach $250,000, the board decided not to pursue the issue further.
"The board gave her that discretion. We gave her the authority," Schild said.
The board adopted new legal services guidelines in June. The superintendent can only authorize up to $25,000 in legal fees per case.
Lewis and Roca no longer represents the district, as the board voted to remove the firm from the list of approved vendors in July.