Tag Archives: The Arizona We Want

Are the right standards in place in our school system?

RodneyHeadShotBy Rodney Smith, Class 28
First Financial Equity Corporation
Helping Hands for Freedom, Co-founder

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.   The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

It was a teacher in 7th grade that saw something inside this skinny, white haired kid from Thornton, Colorado that “changed my stars”.  He believed in me. He connected with me. He inspired me.

On Friday, October 25, 2013, I was able to share with my amazing classmates in the Scottsdale Leadership program a spectacular day with some of the most passionate, talented, and committed people in our education system. It became very apparent to me as the day unfolded that many of the standards we use to measure the success of our education system fall into the categories of: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Test scores as a measurement of success, access to money, or a means of job security need to jump in a canoe and float down the river. At the end of the day, if a child feels “connected” the odds increase significantly as to that child finding passion and direction to live a fulfilling life. That is the measurement that needs to be defined and held accountable.


Kim Dodd, Mary Masters and Kim Hanna (Class 27 graduates of the Scottsdale Leadership Program) provided the structure and direction of Education Day.  Mary emphasized, “A primary goal of the day was to inform the class all that “education” encompasses such as each child’s own level of readiness, constraints and obstacles the teachers face, evolving curriculum, and political differences when it comes to expenditures.”  One of our true leaders when it comes to Arizona education, Dr. Lattie F. Coor from the Center for the Future of Arizona, spoke to the group and simplified it best, “Understand the issues, and do something about it.” The current standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach.

Dr. John Balles, Clinical Services Coordinator for the Scottsdale Unified School District, started the day defining the challenges facing our children. Of course, bullying, drugs & alcohol, home environment, and social environments 

remain obstacles that our children have to overcome, but technology and all the different types of communication available in cyber-space are also a major factor whether or not our kids feel accepted and connected. Can you imagine if we had to worry about how many “LIKES” we have on Facebook to feel good about ourselves? PARENTS BEWARE!


It was John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Arizona Department of Education that really opened my eyes regarding our school systems limited view of how we hold the system accountable. Mr. Huppenthal feels a holistic approach to education needs to be at the forefront and I agree. As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. A complete, well-rounded view of education as a whole should be where we develop, evaluate and measure. Caring and supportive teachers create a classroom environment which encourages students to behave in responsible ways and emphasizes learning over performing.


The theme of “connectedness” was even more apparent during a panel discussion featuring  the “Best of the Best” representatives speaking from a multitude of education sectors including charter schools, early childhood education, parent representative, business representative, public schools, higher education, and home school. Moderator Kim Hanna of Camping For Foodies, led a very intellectual dialog on regardless of where you send your child to school, it takes involvement from the community at-large to make it work, perhaps “Parent Development” being the most important factor. The quality and quantity of education received by our young people have a positive direct correlation with community stewardship, job creation, global marketplace competitiveness, career opportunity and civic engagement while minimizing the negative impacts on social services, substance abuse and suicides. As Kim Hanna points out, “Education is the foundation of our entire society—that’s why we should all be passionate about it.”

Politically speaking I struggle with the idea that one person can make a difference anymore, but I do know personally that each of us can make a difference in the life of a child. I challenge you to share at least one positive step to engage students, families and the community in ensuring the education of our children?

To my seventh grade teacher, Mr. Usechek… THANK YOU for believing in me and connecting with me. I love my life because of you!


Filed under Class, Community, Leadership

Make Your Voice Heard

Scottsdale Leadership Executive Director

In the recently published report, The Arizona We Want, only 10% of those surveyed believed that elected official represented their interests.  While this low number alarms me, I can’t help but think that each of us hold some responsibility for this.  When was the last time you spoke to your elected state officials?

In Arizona, political decisions are often based on input from a small percentage of people.  On Scottsdale Leadership’s State Government Day, we heard legislators say that they often receive less than 30 emails about a particular issue.

Start NOW… Senate Bill 1070, described by some as the toughest illegal-immigration legislation in the country, is now on Governor Brewer’s desk.  The Governor has three days to sign it, veto it or do nothing and it automatically becomes law.  Speak up. What do you want for Arizona?

If our governor and legislators heard from thousands of citizens instead of thirty, perhaps they would vote differently.

It only takes a few minutes to send an email to Governor Brewerhttp://www.azgovernor.gov.  Keep it short and sweet.  Give her the opportunity to consider your viewpoint as she decides how to proceed.   Then, save this link in your favorites.  If we want our elected officials to represent our interests, we have to take responsibility for communicating with them.  If we do it in a concise, respectful manner, I’m optimistic they will listen.

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