Scottsdale Unified School District officials took the advice of angry parents — and got themselves an attorney.
Wednesday marked the first day of Kim Clark’s career as the district’s first in-house attorney. Clark graduated from the University of Arizona in 1992 and is a 1995 Harvard Law School graduate. She comes from the Phoenix office of the law firm Steptoe & Johnson where she practiced labor law.
Clark was hired at the request of parents and governing board members who said the district spent too much money on legal fees last year and not enough money in Scottsdale classrooms.
Parent Terry Benson said the hiring of Clark was a win for Scottsdale students.
“This was big for us,” she said. “The district is telling us they have no money, so all the legal fees come out of the operating budget.”
Board member Christine Schild said the district budgeted $150,000 to bring Clark on board. “That includes salary, start-up costs and her assistant,” Schild said.
Parents said the money is well worth it and is significantly less than the $675,000 in legal expenditures the district incurred last year. About $250,000 of that amount stemmed from an investigation into former Sequoya Elementary School principal Maureen Booth, who was accused of changing test scores to bring in teacher bonuses. Booth settled with the district in January.
Superintendent John Baracy said Clark stood out “head and shoulders” above a very qualified applicant pool. The district expects Clark will be able to provide direction on the more common legal issues the district faces — employee and student discipline, Baracy said.
Clark won’t be consulted on the November bond election to bring a new high school to Scottsdale. Attorney Scott Ruby with Phoenix law firm Gust Rosenfeld has been tapped for that assignment, Schild said.
District officials said they may still need to consult outside legal counsel for more complicated cases requiring other types of expertise.