An activist group that backed board members’ elections, a superintendent’s removal and a state investigation that shook the Scottsdale Unified School District is back.
Citizens for Accountability and Responsibility in Education, a parent and citizen group formed during the district’s scandalous late 1990s, has reinvented itself and will begin monthly meetings.
"Scottsdale has always prided itself on the quality of education, and Scottsdale’s philosophy as a city is that education is a part of the good quality of life here, and that’s something that we need to get refocused on," said Nancy Ann Cantor, a longtime Scottsdale activist and former district parent.
The group’s steering committee — Cantor, activist Frances Young, former governing board member Annie Hickie and citizens Jose and Frances Burruel — decided to re-form and zero in on communication and finances. Parent council members Molly Holzer and Colleen Katz are also involved.
On Thursday they met with district officials, parent council members and district governing board member Joel Feldman to discuss what could be another rocky year at the state Legislature, and had a frank discussion with the district’s superintendent and staff last week.
Cantor said the group will serve as both watchdog, bringing community concerns to the district and demanding answers, and as advocate, helping with lobbying and fund raising for schools.
The group’s two top priorities are increasing classroom dollars and improving interaction with the community.
Other items on their agenda include the school calendar, safety and crisis planning, and fund raising.
Formed in 1997, the group was a vocal supporter of a state attorney general’s investigation that uncovered bidrigging and withholding documents from the public.
The organization backed campaigns for former board members Tom Carey and Barbara Newby, and the ousting of former superintendent Betty Pepper. Founding member David Goldstaub joined the board in 2001 and went on to become president.
"We have been very concerned about the lack of communication between the district and the community," Cantor said.
Feldman said he welcomes the group’s willingness to get involved.
"Let everybody air what their concerns are and see where we all have agreements and where we have differences, and we go accordingly," he said.
Board president Shari Avianantos said the group could be beneficial if more people were involved.
"If they’d have a more wellrounded group of membership, then it would be really, really helpful, I believe," she said.