Category Archives: News

Education- Where Are We?

Kranitz, Andrea for BlogAndrea Kranitz, Class 27
Owner/Consultant, Integrative Business Solutions, LLC

The Class 27 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community. Scottsdale Leadership is an Arizona Leadership Program.

The members of class XXVII come from across the country and even across the pond!  We have all gone through some kind of educational system, whether public or private, but our experiences vary based upon where and when we were educated.

With each generation there have been changes in curriculum and teaching methods, reflecting our evolving world and the requirements to produce graduates who are prepared to compete successfully in a global economy.

The question is… are we collectively accomplishing that goal?

The answer depends partially upon how you define “we.”  According to Scottsdale Unified School District’s Dr. Andi Fourlis, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning and Dr. Dave McNeil, Executive Director for Elementary Schools and Assessment, Scottsdale schools are doing well.  Comparing SUSD graduation rates, per pupil spending, and student teacher ratios, they are consistently ranking above the state average (detailed information on these rankings).

Despite a reduction in state funding, SUSD continues to provide an excellent education. That said, we are only one of many districts across the state and country. According to Dr. Eric Meyer, AZ State Representative, District 11 and SUSD School Board member, as a nation our teacher salaries are on the high end as compared with other nations, while our Global Math and Science ratings along with high school graduation rates are in the bottom third (detailed information on these rates).

This is not a new trend, but it is a frightening one.  If we want to maintain strong communities, states and a strong nation we must emphasize the importance of education so that our students can compete with those of other nations.

There is a state-led initiative called The Common Core State Standards coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Offices.  These standards define the knowledge and skills students should acquire from their K-12 education so that they can succeed in post-secondary education and future careers.

To date, including Arizona, 45 of 50 states have adopted these standards, but the initiative is only partially funded, so there are challenges to successful implementation.  Although this is a step in the right direction, I believe that we have to do more.

We also heard from a panel of students and educators from the district who emphasized the importance of student/teacher mentorship, engagement, extracurricular activity and parental involvement in maintaining an engaged student body.  The two students who spoke to us were great examples of what is possible-we need to make this more a rule than exception.

There are so many factors that have contributed to the alarming trends in education including but not limited to funding issues, decrease in support of arts education, poverty trends along with an decrease focus on education in the lives of our youth.

SO… what are we missing and how can we reverse the trends in order to graduate top notch students who are equipped to succeed?

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Caps Off to the 2nd Annual Title I Dream Fair!

Mary Ellertson
Scottsdale Unified School District

Dream FairClose to three hundred Scottsdale family members participated in the 2nd Annual Scottsdale Unified School District’s Title I Dream Fair, held in November at Coronado High School.  Developed by Scottsdale Leadership Class 26 in support of SUSD students and families, the Dream Fair’s overwhelming success for two years in a row has earned it a permanent spot on the school calendar, guaranteeing the event to be one that parents, students, and local community members can look forward to each year.

Mary Ellertson, Title I Coordinator for SUSD, played a vital role in making this a sustainable event.  Coining the slogan, “From Cradle to Career,” Ellertson was passionate about spreading the message that it is never too early to prepare for college.

Dream FairThe goal of the Dream Fair was to level the playing field so that all children have the opportunity to be prepared for college or a career.  Many students in local Scottsdale communities will be the first generation to apply to college and need guidance on how this process works.  Title I funds, which are designed to help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged minority students and their peers, combined with the donations of local businesses and community members, will help keep the Dream Fair a SUSD tradition.

This year’s Dream Fair hosted two motivating Keynote Speakers, former NFL player, Dr. Ray Otis Perkins, a strong advocate of education who shared his message “not just to survive but to strive,” and Gary Trujillo, a graduate of Harvard Business School and co-founder of Southwest Harvard Group Venture Capital.

Health Occupation Students of AmericanStudent performances in music and dance, booths with information about careers and strong study habits, food, and discussions about how dreams can come true were a few of the many exciting offerings of the Dream Fair.  As stated by one attending parent, “We really did not know what to expect when coming but this was an amazing event!  Both of my children learned so much… we hope you continue the Dream Fair!”

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Your Time To Act—Participate in the Scottsdale Visioning Town Hall

City of Scottsdale

Kit Weiss
Neighborhood Services Manager, City of Scottsdale

You have an opportunity to shape the future of your community by participating in the Scottsdale Visioning Town Hall. Participants will craft a draft vision statement for Scottsdale’s General Plan 2014 process. It’s a key first step in the community’s efforts to guide how the city matures over the next 20 years.

The Town Hall will take place over three half-day sessions on Feb 6, 7 and 11, at the Monterra special events center at WestWorld. The application is available online through Jan. 11, at www.ScottsdaleGP.com.  The Arizona Town Hall organization is overseeing the Visioning Town Hall, including selecting the participants and facilitating the discussion. The nonprofit organization will pick about 100 participants who represent a broad, cross-section of the community.

The community visioning effort also will include a Future Leaders Town Hall from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan 24, at the SkySong Innovation Center, 1475 N. Scottsdale Road. It’s open to the first 100 registrants, ages 16-22. Scottsdale’s young community members will share their hopes for the future of Scottsdale during this special event. Registration for this event is open through Jan. 18, at www.scottsdaleGP.com.

For additional information contact (480) 312-3111 or email generalplan@scottsdaleaz.gov

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Should the State Support the Arts?

SRP Arizona LeadershipJason Gunawardena, Class 27
Sr. Electrical Engineer, Salt River Project

Art day has to have been the most memorable day so far in the Scottsdale Leadership Program. We learned about programs at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, saw many of Scottsdale’s Public Art pieces and toured an Artist School. This is an exploration of a segment of our Arts Day where representatives from the Arizona Commission of the Arts and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts were appealing for further state support for the arts.

The arts enlarge, elevate, and harmonize the soul of Scottsdale.  It may be asked what would become of arts in Scottsdale without her Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.  It might even be asked whether, without centralization and consequently the support of fine arts, that exquisite taste would be developed which is the fruit of the city’s labor, and which introduces its productions to the world.

Does the right of the Arizona legislator extend to cutting the wages of the people, to supply the profits of the artist?  It was said, “Without public funding, the arts will not survive.”  It might be answered, if you desire to support everything which is good and useful, where will you stop?  Will you not be led to form a civil list for agriculture, industry, commerce, benevolence, education?  Then does government aid favor the progress of art?

Galleries that prosper are those that depend on their own resources.  We observe that wants and desires arise, and are born and refined in proportion as the public wealth allows these to be fulfilled.  Government should not take part in the arts, because it could not by taxation stimulate the arts of necessity, while restricting those of luxury, thus creating a natural disruption.

Choosing and spending should come from the people and not from government and the opposite will lead to the destruction of liberty and human dignity.  But why is it that when we disapprove of government support, we are philistines and are supposed to disapprove of the thing whose support is discussed only because we desire to see those activities seek reward in themselves.  Can the state exist to protect the free development of all these kinds of activities without pillaging from others?  The development is natural under the influence of liberty instead of being shaped by the powers that legislature dictates.    When asked “what is art?” and one of my classmates said “humanity.”  If art is humanity then this is not art.

The constitutionality of the establishment came into question.   The response received was the pursuit of happiness is in the constitution and art provides happiness.  Then give freedom to pursue happiness without government providing it for us as the founders designed it.

They stated that in regards to financing, that at the end of the day the federal government is a leader to its constituents and even if it gives a rounding error of 200 million it is conveying the message that art is a central part of our lives.  So the government should be dictating to its people what should be the central part of our lives similar to North Korean society?  It is clear that the taxpayer, will no longer have this “rounding error” at his own disposal and that the workman who would have received it from him, will be deprived of a benefit to that amount.  The vote of the 200 million will not add anything to the well being of the country, and to the national labor.

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The Power of Seven

Sandy Adler, Class 26
Realtor, Arizona Best Real Estate

The Class 26 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community.

What an exciting and proud day it was for Class XXVI as we presented our five projects to a panel of judges and visitors at Scottsdale Public Library. As I reflect on the day, I realize that the creation, execution and presentation of the projects embody all that Scottsdale Leadership strives to be. The projects are designed to be sustainable, long and evolving non-profit programs to strengthen our community.

The projects all started with this question: Where is there a need in our community that is not being addressed adequately? The teams researched the benefits of their projects to confirm that a need was really there and then divided responsibilities to complete their projects based on talents, experience and sharing. Team management was part of the learning experience for the participants. Working on the team created stronger bonds between team members and we got to know each other better and appreciate each other as individuals more.

The projects showed us that we could start with an idea and make something happen, even in a short span of time, that makes a difference in the lives of people.

They showed the community stakeholders a valuable side of Scottsdale Leadership. Scottsdale Leadership and its mission were at the forefront of the projects. The mission is to inform, inspire, and empower leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community. The projects were an opportunity for the class members to put into practice some of the things we were learning from our inspirational classes and speakers each week. They were a natural segue from listening to doing.

The presentations forced us to evaluate what we had done and make it understandable to others. I think we also all enjoyed seeing what each team had done. There was a feeling of pride in all of our accomplishments .

What do you think was a positive impact of your involvement in Project Pay It Forward?

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Play it Forward project wins the prize!

By CHRIS IRISH
Scottsdale Leadership Executive Director

Class 26’s Project Pay It Forward Day presentations were inspiring. Five teams made huge impacts by developing projects that addressed needs in our community. Held at the Civic Center Library and sponsored by the Scottsdale Charros, a panel of judges selected Play it Forward as the winning project.

Play it Forward is a new program developed to benefit Ear Candy Charity. Team members are Jeff Miller, Linda Walton, Tyler Butler, Jerry Scheirer, Terri Blau, Joe Holmes, and Todd Miller; Team advisor Denise Pruitt.

“Two things really stood out about this project”, said Vice-Mayor Linda Milhaven and member of the judging panel. “The fact that they engaged teenagers to help younger children and the thoroughness of the how-to-manual they wrote.”

The goal of the project is to get instruments out of people’s closets and into the hands of aspiring young musicians.  The project consisted of two components, a pilot musical instrument drive and developing a manual, ‘You Can’t Mess This Up’ Guide to Musical Instrument Drives, that provides marketing materials, guidelines and the support needed for any group to run a successful drive.

The pilot drive was held in conjunction with Arcadia High School’s Contemporary Music and Sound program (CMAS). With the project team’s assistance, CMAS students collected 34 instruments and raised $1000 to fund instrument clean-up and repairs prior to placing them in schools.

The manual provides any group, corporations, civic groups, high schools, etc., with the tools to run their own successful musical instrument drives, to benefit their local elementary and middle schools.

The team collaborated with Ear Candy to enhance their online donation system, to give future groups the ability to create and host their own Play it Forward page through the Ear Candy website.  This enables any group to direct potential donors to their specific drive and track their results in real time.  Teachers can request specific instruments so they are placed in classrooms where they are needed most.  Each instrument placed in a school provides immediate access for low-income children, impacting up to 10 children per year.  Instruments remain in the classroom, benefiting the following year’s students as well, compounding the impact.

Ear Candy is a local organization and intends to use Play it Forward to expand their reach and benefit music students across the country.  In honor of the project win, Ear Candy receives a $2000 donation from Scottsdale Leadership.

For more information on Ear Candy Charity and Play it Forward: www.EarCandyCharity.org

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The Scottsdale story

Braden Love
Director IT Business Consulting, Scottsdale Insurance Company

The Class 26 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community.

This is the toughest blog assignment I’ve had for Class 26.  The sheer volume of content we were exposed to during the day alone makes for a tough summarization job.  But it was more than going to a bunch of cool places and meeting interesting people, there was a thread of the Scottsdale story throughout the day.  I’ll see if I can do it justice and try to tell that story.

The much hyped Buss Tour Day lived up to its billing.  Hats off to David Valencia and Kelly Tope for putting together an action packed day that told a great story of the history of Scottsdale and who we are now.

Starting the day on top of the Waterfront Tower we listened to Joan Fudula, Scottsdale historian, telling us the early history of Scottsdale while we drank in a sweeping view bathed in the early day sun.  While we were a little bit windblown and chilled – it was a perfect way to frame the day.  Seeing the vision of modern Scottsdale while hearing about the vision of our early Scottsdalians wrote the first and last chapters of the day’s story.  The rest of the story was written as we toured Old Town, the Talking Stick Resort, Liberty Wildlife, West World, DC Ranch, Los Cedros, Taliesin West, and Yelp.  (Yes, we did this all in one day and on schedule – are you impressed with Kelly and David now?)

As we walked around Old Town and to the Little Red School House the roots of our city emerged literally below our feet.  Agriculture was the foundation of Scottsdale starting with the Hohokam inhabitance of the valley and later Winfield Scott establishing an agricultural community.  When visiting the Talking Stick resort I was struck at the juxtaposition of a gorgeous resort overlooking the desert and farm fields where a lone tractor working the field left a trail of dust lingering in the air.  It perfectly symbolized how Native Americans once pushed inside arbitrary boundaries and hired as hands are now thriving by driving the tourism economy and sustaining the area’s appetite for luxury.

We saw modern Scottsdale foreshadowed in the stories about those who first created the city.  Winfield Scott not only worked a ranch and recruited people to come live in Scottsdale; he also started a tradition of tourism by hosting people on his property so they could rejuvenate.  Fast forward to today and you see that tradition sustained from early guest ranches, through mid century hotels such as the Hotel Valley Ho and Safari, then on to the resorts we all enjoy so much today. During the mid century Scottsdale’s personality of arts and fashion emerges.  We saw pictures of a mid century fashion show put on in the dusty streets and heard about the early craft studio that is now surrounded by the Arts District.

Our visit to Taliesin West provided another reminder of how ingrained the arts are in our city’s personality.  It was a privilege to learn from Arnold Roy, a man who may well have literally walked in the shoes of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Scottsdale’s identity is formed by just being “out West” and among the Sonoran desert.  We saw how that thread of being the west’s most western town continues to drive our economy and form our personality at West World and Los Cedros.  Of course our signature horse show is nothing short of the romantic and exclusive Arabian horse.  And Los Cedros houses those horses alongside an accurate reproduction of a Moroccan throne room with imported tapestries, rugs, furnishings and architectural features fit for a king. How Scottsdale.

Today we value our Sonoran desert and nurture that resource.  Liberty Wildlife exemplifies that passion.  It provides an outlet for people to care for injured wildlife and helps out our feathered neighbors in this great place.   I imagine there are a lot of Scottsdalians in the volunteer pool there.  We heard too how DC Ranch supports the McDowell Sonoran Preserve knowing that it provides their version of beachfront property and that DC residents value their unique geography.

Somewhere in this whirlwind several people from the class shared their personal histories and ties to Scottsdale.  What a nice treat to learn more about your friends while learning about the area.

Finally our last stop – the Yelp office. You could feel the energy in the office.  The office was all about sales and the Yelp IPO was earlier that day. I was trying to figure out how that fits into our story.  Then as we were sitting listening to the old-timer director of the office who has five years in with the company, which is almost as long as the company has been around, I got it.  This is Scottsdale in the new economy.  Scottsdale is supporting a thriving business with an entrepreneurial spirit, independence and rapid growth I’m sure Winfield Scott would have recognized.

There was so much more to this story and the bus tour day.  But I hope you can see what we did.  We saw a vibrant, modern city that is still in touch with its roots.

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