Sometimes, it’s not just what the media says. It’s what they don’t say.
Last week, the Arizona Auditor General concluded its financial investigation into Higley Unified School District (HUSD). And the findings of the report are mind blowing.
The Auditor General found that HUSD’s former superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell, may have conspired with employees of Education Facilities Development Services (EFDS), along with Hunt & Caraway’s former president, to circumvent school district procurement rules to improperly award Higley’s $2,557,125 Project development services contract to EFDS.
But if you thought that was bad, there’s more. The report also alleges that Dr. Birdwell misused public monies when she authorized or caused the unlawful use of $6 million in restricted public funds toward construction of two new schools. And to top it all off, Dr. Birdwell, along with Gary Aller and Steven Nielsen from EFDS, appear to have concealed their wrongdoing by certifying false information on Higley records.
A State Grand Jury indicted Dr. Birdwell on 18 felony counts. In addition, Gary Aller, Steven Nielsen, and Kay Hartwell Hunnicutt (who shared a home and checking account with Dr. Birdwell) were indicted on three felony counts each…
The public’s business should be open to the public. And under Rhode Island law, it is. Yet when mom Nicole Solas sought to attend the meeting of a publicly funded committee that meets weekly to discuss and make recommendations on policies that apply across her daughter’s school district, she was told that the meeting was closed and parents were not welcome.
Now, the Goldwater Institute is pushing back: We’ve joined with the Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights in Rhode Island to represent Nicole in a complaint before the state attorney general asserting that the school district has violated Rhode Island’s Open Meetings Act (OMA) by closing these meetings to the public.
Rhode Island’s OMA was enacted to ensure that “public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.” The presumption under that law is always in favor of public access.
Yet in March 2021, the South Kingstown School Committee signed an agreement with the South Kingstown BIPOC Advisory Board to hold weekly meetings where district policies ranging from student discipline to coaching to hiring would be discussed and where recommendations would be made on those issues by the Board to the School Committee. In other words, the Board was charged with advisory power by the School Committee over matters of significant public interest—the education of South Kingstown’s youth. The Board is also publicly funded with taxpayer dollars by the School Committee, and two members of the School Committee’s subcommittee on policy sit on the Board.
By Christina Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute |
Representing the owners of more than 50 properties, the Goldwater Institute has filed over $23 million in claims against the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, over an ordinance that went into effect in March that deprives residents of their property rights. That could be just the tip of the iceberg, as thousands more may have claims under state law.
In March, Flagstaff adopted a High Occupancy Housing Plan supposedly designed to address an increase in student housing. In actuality, the plan imposes sweeping regulations that deprive a wide variety of property owners, including families and small businesses, of their right to decide what to do with their land.
“We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”
Those were the words of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki last week, and they should send chills up and down your spine. It’s bad enough that we already have Big Tech playing speech police on a daily basis. Now, the federal government is flagging “problematic posts” FOR Facebook?!?
This is outrageous, and it’s incredibly dangerous.
The federal government is supposed to uphold the U.S. Constitution, not actively aid social media companies in censoring Americans.
But it appears this is only the beginning of their plan…
After vigilant parents sounded the alarm about a consent form they were asked to sign electronically that would have asked their children highly personal questions, Scottsdale Unified School District leadership apologized.
The District’s leadership advised parents that they would not be asked to authorize the District to “complete an emotional health and wellness screening of my child and to collect personal information, medical history or medical information, mental health history or mental health information, and quality of home and interpersonal relationships, student biometric information, or illegal, antisocial or self-incriminating behavior critical appraisal of individuals within a close relationship and gun/ammunition ownership.
The District claims those issues were mentioned inadvertently in a portion of students’ annual verification packet:
On May 4, 2021, Scottsdale Unified School District’s (SUSD) administration recommended that the Governing Board approve the FastBridge program as a social emotional learning screener for students in Kindergarten through 12th grades. It was already being used as an academic screener for grades K through 3.
This social emotional screening program, which the Board voted to adopt, is used to evaluate students overall general behavior including but not limited to, social, academic and emotional behavior. Screening is typically completed within three minutes, with results available immediately to parents and staff. These findings enable our teachers, social worker and guidance counselor professionals to help identify students who may be in need of additional support and intervention programs and to make that support available as early as possible.
The screening tool is optional and one that parents have a choice to authorize for use with their children each school year.
Notwithstanding this, SUSD’s initial parent acknowledgment form incorrectly stated that the FastBridge screener might ask for personal information about income family matters, medical or family medical history, mental health history and other categories of private information.
To be clear, the FastBridge screener does not and has never sought this information. The waiver form that initially appeared in ParentVUE as part of the parents’ annual acknowledgment was a standard waiver form that had not yet been properly tailored to SUSD’s use. The form has since been amended to reflect the information that is actually collected. We apologize for this oversight and offer our services that SUSD does not support, endorse or collect any family personal information through FastBridge.
Leadership goes on to claim that Scottsdale parents “have stressed to us how important it is for schools to support their students social emotional learning.”
“Our sole goal in acquiring FastBridge,” wrote leadership, “is to be able to support the whole child and offer help to students sooner when we see that academic and behavioral issues in the classroom are limiting their opportunities to learn and grow.”
This “apology” raises too many questions and red flags. From the implication that a child’s social emotional well-being can be assessed in three minutes, to the claim that leadership is responding to parents’ pleas that the schools support their students’ social emotional learning, the missive misses the mark for any discerning reader.
Any educator who believes that they can assess a child in any meaningful way in three minutes is misguided at best and likely committing educational malpractice at worst.
The fact that our schools continue to cater to the fear-mongering teachers’ unions, thus strongly encouraging masks and vaccines for students K-8, clearly shows that they have put the students’ social and emotional well-being far down their list of priorities.
While the apology is appreciated by many parents, I fear that it will prompt them to drop their guard and not look carefully at the other consent forms they are asked to sign. There is also the danger that parents might assume that their children are not turning over this information in their classrooms at all when nothing could be further from the truth.
Parents need to be on guard at all times, and at all times they must assume that their children are products – the data they produce, the insights they give, the very supplies they prefer to bring to school are all of value to those who benefit – in one way or another – from the education industrial complex.
Some ideas need to be put to sleep. Maybe someone should tell that to the Arizona Corporation Commission.
About a year ago, the commission quietly released its plan to impose California-style energy mandates in our state. While following in California’s footsteps for just about anything seems like a bad idea, that certainly rings true when it comes to energy.
After all, last August, not too long after the Arizona Corporation Commission released its plan, California instituted its first intentional rolling blackouts since 2001. And the state’s residents were also asked to conserve electricity during a significant heatwave last summer.
But this year, it may be even worse. While electricity prices explode across California, more blackouts are almost guaranteed to happen again this summer. And Arizona could very well be affected…