Scottsdale school board president Sandra Zapien-Ferrero has come full circle. After falling head-first into an emerging district bidrigging and Open Meetings Law scandal when first elected to the board in 1997, the veteran school board member will end her second term leading her second search for a new superintendent.
With the resignation of Superintendent Barbara Erwin, effective June 30, Zapien-Ferrero, 49, plans to search for a candidate with "strong public relations skills."
Erwin’s job, she said, is completed: The Scottsdale Unified School District has established a better system of checks and balances to prevent future violations, including establishing an office of internal auditor, and has created a distance for the next superintendent from past upheaval.
"I’d like to make sure there is a lot of community input, employee input, to help us develop a profile for who we want for our superintendent," Zapien-Ferrero said.
She will ask the board to hire a local firm to search nationwide, but agrees with other board members that a local candidate experienced in Arizona law would be welcome.
Her priorities for this year include establishing foreign language courses in elementary schools to enable the district to produce more bilingual students.
"Scottsdale is truly a diverse city, and I will do my best to help all students achieve success in the education system," she said.
Board member Christine Schild applauded Zapien-Ferrero’s plan to improve communication among board members, adding that she looked forward to a promise of more interaction among members on important decisions.
Zapien-Ferrero, whose husband, Paul Ferrero, is a Phoenix police sergeant on an antigang task force, moved to Scottsdale two decades ago. She is the human resource director for the 8,773-student Isaac Elementary School District in central-west Phoenix, where she also has been a teacher 18 years, and alternative school principal.
Zapien-Ferrero said she first ran for the school board to address a growing concern that schools did not receive equal treatment based on their socioeconomics.
But, she said, when former Superintendent Linda Powell that same year uncovered bid-rigging and purchasing violations by the building manager, she stayed to help stabilize the district.
She voted against a buyout of Powell’s contract in 1997 that placed assistant superintendent Betty Pepper in line to become superintendent in 1998. After Pepper brought back building management employees Powell had fired, who were at the heart of the bidrigging allegations, Zapien-Ferrero led the vote to buy out Pepper’s contract.
In 2000, Zapien-Ferrero was board president, and led the search for the superintendent that resulted in the vote to hire Erwin.