From the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to local school board positions, several conservatives are currently leading or have already won key races on the education front in the 2022 General Election.
As of press time, Republican candidate for SPI Tom Horne had increased his lead in his challenge of incumbent Kathy Hoffman. Horne previously served as SPI from 2003 to 2011, prior to successfully running for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. If the results hold up, Horne says his focus as SPI will be on improving student performance and eradicating Critical Race Theory-based curriculum from Arizona’s public schools.
In the Peoria Unified School District race, Heather Rooks won a hard-fought and challenging race. Her efforts to expose the Social Emotional Learning-based policies and practices in the district eventually led her to request an injunction against an activist parent. As reported by the Arizona Daily Independent, Rooks, a mother of four school-aged children, obtained the injunction based on threats from Democrat activist, Josh Gray.
Two other conservative candidates, Amy Carney and Carine Werner, secured seats on the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Governing Board. Their victories serve as a powerful repudiation of out-going Governing Board Member Jann-Michael Greenburg. Greenburg was sued by parents who accused him of trying to silence them after they exposed his secret Google Drive dossier on them. As AZ Free Newsreported in April, that dossier included a trove of political opposition research on parents, who opposed the district’s adoption of Social Emotional Learning and Critical Race Theory.
In the race for Flowing Wells School District Governing Board—an area known for being blue—conservative Brianna Hernandez Hamilton is currently holding on to one of two open spots. A mother of three very young children, Hernandez Hamilton ran with the slogan: “Parents + Teachers = Quality Education.”
Kurt Rohrs, a long-time education activist and frequent contributor to AZ Free News, won a spot on the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. Rohrs, like Horne, focused on improving student performance and eliminating the divisive Critical Race Theory from the district’s curriculum. Many see Rohrs’ presence on the board as an opportunity to restore calm to the district which had become the center of controversy thanks to out-going board member Lindsay Love.
In the race for Dysart Unified School District Governing Board, conservative Dawn Densmore was retained by voters. As current president of the board, Densmore successfully led the fight to end the district’s relationship with the Arizona School Board Association (ASBA). Jennifer Drake also won a seat on the board.
Sandra Christensen is set to win a seat on the Paradise Valley Unified School District Governing Board. Libby Settle and Madicyn Reid are in the lead for spots in Fountain Hills. Paul Carver should take a win in Deer Valley. Jackie Ulmer appears to have been successful in Cave Creek as well as Rachel Walden in Mesa and Chad Thompson in Gilbert. In the Higley Unified School District, conservative Anna Van Hoek also won a seat on the board.
In a tweet from earlier this week, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos summed up what many parents have been feeling over the past few years – left out. In response to the National Education Association’s claim that teachers “know better than anyone” what students need in the classroom, DeVos responded, “You misspelled parents.”
Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) now posts the names of individuals online who submitted records requests, and redacts staff members’ names in response to requests. SUSD will anonymize its employees’ words and actions, but it will ensure that the public is aware of who is looking into the district and how.
SUSD board candidate Amy Carney accused SUSD of intimidating individuals seeking information from the district.
“They don’t want parents or community members asking questions and they will now out you if you do,” wrote Carney.
Beginning July 1, SUSD began publishing a list of record requests including the name of the requester, the request, and the status of the request’s fulfillment. AZ Free News obtained emails associated with this update, as well as SUSD’s separate decision to redact staff names.
One parent emailed SUSD to request that it comply fully with an open records request by not redacting staff names. SUSD general counsel Lori Bird responded that they wouldn’t. She explained that the district decided to redact all staff names due to media attention.
“The District has a strong interest in maintaining a safe and secure environment for its employees including, to the extent possible, not creating situations where staff members are harassed and threatened either through social, digital or print media,” wrote Bird. “In the last few months specific staff have experienced unfounded accusations of child sexual abuse and ‘grooming’ and have been threatened and harassed utilizing their work contact information and also on social media platforms. Concerns regarding the safety of employees are taken seriously by the District.” (emphasis added)
AZ Free News has been one of the outlets to report frequently on SUSD and the controversial fruits of its records requests. Most recently last month, SUSD unintentionally provided a parent with blank patient intake forms for a Phoenix hormone and gender transition facility. The records request concerned a high school librarian and Gender & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) Club.
Earlier last month, SUSD made headlines again for the content of its social justice programming, “Unitown.” Parents and community members were divided on the curriculum, part of which included a sexual orientation exercise that challenged minors on their heterosexuality and asked about their sexual behaviors, such as whether it was possible they’d consider a homosexual lifestyle if they experienced “a good gay/lesbian lover.”
In May, SUSD came under fire again after its superintendent, Scott Menzel, defended a staff member for discussing gender ideology with kindergarten and elementary students. Menzel accused parents of Civil Rights violations.
Menzel previously defended staff members who encouraged childhood exploration of gender and sexual identity through GSA clubs.
In April, SUSD’s social justice professionals promoted drag queen storytime.
Last December, AZ Free News reported on SUSD allowing students to replace their legal birth names with preferred names to align with their desired gender identity.
Last March, an SUSD middle school principal required teachers to attend a training supporting and affirming LGBTQ+ ideologies in children.
SUSD is currently facing a lawsuit from Attorney General Mark Brnovich over its retention of Jann-Michael Greenburg as a governing board member. Brnovich contended that Greenburg shouldn’t remain on the board due to his alleged circumvention of Arizona’s Open Meeting Law.
A separate controversy involving Greenburg accrued international headlines, after a dossier on SUSD parents and community members compiled by his father, Mark Greenburg, was discovered. The elder Greenburg sued one mother, Amanda Wray, for publicizing the dossier, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Last month, a district court judge denied Wray’s anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss.
More questions of Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board President Jann-Michael Greenburg’s involvement in a secret dossier of parents and other political opposition created by his father, Mark Greenburg, have arisen due to a documented history of him sharing a computer with his family members. Jann-Michael has denied any knowledge of or connection with the dossier. However, there are two instances in the past where his shared computer activity became evident.
In an August school board meeting, Jann-Michael admitted that his brother, also named Mark, was the one who set up his Microsoft Word account. He didn’t explain further why his brother’s profile and name continued to be on his computer.
“[M]y brother originally set up my Microsoft Word – my brother’s name is Mark Greenburg that is why it says Mark Greenburg as opposed to my name Jann-Michael Greenburg,” stated Jann-Michael.
Nearly 50 parents and political opponents were targeted in the dossier, which reads like opposition research (“oppo research” for short) – a practice of gathering intelligence on political opponents. Folders were either given the names of their subjects, themes of where they fell in his mind (such as “crazy” or “faith-based”), or musings of what kinds of action the creator could take with their contents: for example, “false and defamatory” follows after the names of some parents.
This wouldn’t be Mark’s first foray into conducting oppo research and attacks against Jann-Michael’s political enemies. According to AZ Central, Mark created a parody website and Twitter account in 2018 for previous SUSD Governing Board President Barbara Perleberg. At the time, Jann-Michael was running to join the board; Perleberg wasn’t a candidate. Jann-Michael defended the website, and criticized Perleberg for initially pursuing a defamation lawsuit against his father.
That would count as the second instance of shared computer activity. According to a court subpoena, Mark’s computer was also used to purchase the website for Jann-Michael’s campaign. Yet, Mark denied both purchasing the website for and being involved in his son’s campaign.
That parody website is still active, though the Twitter account was deleted. In fact, it appears that Mark (or another individual granted access to the site) continued to post on the blog after Jann-Michael’s election; the latest post was published August 2020.
YIKES: Here's the father of Scottsdale Unified school board president Jann-Michael Greenburg, secretly taking bodycam footage of parents on school property and saying he hired a "private investigator who is writing down all their [license] plates." pic.twitter.com/CXt5dJDtKg
Mark’s latest creation, the dossier, went into great detail. Beyond collections of political Facebook posts, Mark collected records of nursing licenses, divorces, mortgages, family trees, bankruptcies, civil and criminal charges, and a slew of other personal information. It appears that Mark went so far as to file a complaint against one nurse for opposing masks, according to a screenshot. He also included pictures and videos of the children of his perceived political opposition. Mark made sure to note in one file name that the wife of one of his political opponents had an elementary school student. The associated picture was from a social media post highlighting the child’s disability.
Parents and children weren’t the only targets: acclaimed black conservative radio host James T. Harris appeared in the dossier. Harris’s picture with children outside a school board meeting was included, as well as a video he’d posted. Harris addressed his inclusion in a video on Wednesday, likening the dossier to another incident recently uncovered in Chandler where Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) board members coordinated with police to address parents against masks.
“Today on my radio show I found out how deep this thing goes,” said Harris. “Why do these school board members feel the necessity to get information on tax-paying citizens. All we want to do is make sure that our kids are being taught, […] that our kids aren’t being indoctrinated.”
One of the mothers targeted, Amy Carney, called for Jann-Michael’s resignation. A mother of six, Carney is also running for a seat on SUSD’s governing board in 2022.
“I am calling for the immediate resignation of our board president Jann-Michael Greenburg,” asserted Carney. “We cannot allow anyone in a leadership position to secretly compile personal documents and information on moms and dads who have dared speak out publicly or on social media about their grievances with the district.”
Another mother, Heather Rooks, was in complete shock upon discovering the dossier.
“Calls into question: who the real domestic terrorists are here?” said Rooks. “I didn’t know anything about this until late last night. Me and my husband looked it over. It was pretty shocking to see that much information on a file about multiple parents… I wouldn’t even know where to begin because I’m still processing it. I get it, with people who are running for school boards now, but this is completely different. This is parents and their kids, background information, very personal stuff that is all shared on the file. What was he planning on doing with it? What purpose does this serve, to go after parents who are concerned for their kids?”
After the Greenburgs were confronted about the dossier, reports show that someone changed accessibility from public to private. SUSD confirmed in an email to parents on Wednesday that Mark was behind the dossier. They also assured parents that their privacy would be protected.
The dossier does have one other direct tie to Jann-Michael: a PDF download of an email sent to Jann-Michael’s SUSD email account through Outlook, a web app often used by professionals and organizations for email and file storage. The PDF download identified Jann-Michael as the original source – all of the emails and links are clickable, which occurs when an email is downloaded as a PDF from Outlook. The bottom of the PDF also shows the source as this link, https://mail.susd.org/owa/#path=/mail/inbox, which is an SUSD professional email account.
Legal experts say that the dossier may be a violation of Arizona’s Parents Bill of Rights. In a statement, lawyer Alexander Kolodin explained that even Jann-Michael’s tacit consent of certain personal items in the dossier such as those obtained through Mark’s bodycam video would pose a violation.
“These allegations are deeply troubling, especially as concerns the photography of a minor child without parental consent and the taking down of license plate numbers of parents who Mr. Greenberg supposedly perceived as political opponents. Mr. Greenberg is an elected member of the school board. If such a photograph was taken with his express or tacit consent, he would potentially be liable for violations of Arizona’s Parents’ Bill of Rights, which recognizes a parent’s “fundamental” right to consent before the government makes a video or voice recording of the minor child. In addition, it has been reported that Mr. Greenberg’s father undertook these acts while he kept his face hidden under a helmet and was wearing motorcycle gear. Both Arizona and the federal government have laws prohibiting both intimidation generally and voter intimidation in particular such as ARS Titles 13 and 16, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. If these allegations are true, Mr. Greenberg and his father might be liable for violating one or more of these laws – though it is difficult to say from the limited facts that have been reported and they must, of course, be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.“
The dossier also included multiple uncategorized bodycam videos recorded by Mark doing various things: eating in a cafe, riding his motorcycle, and even waiting outside a school board meeting. In one video, Mark adjusted his motorcycle gear with his helmet on.
The incognito Mark then walks into a kitchen, where Jann-Michael is seen eating at a table; he looks up at Mark and says “Hi, Dad.” The conversation that follows sounded like Mark and Jann-Michael were talking about legal strategy about a parent.
“We can file a verified complaint,” said Mark. “In other words, like it would start out with her allegation about Frank Graham saying, ‘Of course this isn’t true.’ She messaged Frank Graham.”
“Why not just go solely on the complaint that she filed?” asked Jann-Michael.
“That’s in her letter,” said Mark. “Way before that are her statements about how she’s, like, doing anything she can do to, like, ruin you.”
Jann-Michael received a law degree from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He passed the New York Bar upon returning to the U.S., and assumed a position as Director of Legal Services at an international music licensing firm based in Arizona: Tresona, the company his father chairs.
In one screen recording of a parent advocacy Facebook group, Mark and Jann-Michael were recorded discussing what Mark was doing. Mark explained that he was recording Facebook parent commentary on Jann-Michael’s critics and political opponents.
“I’m making a movie, a screen movie for you,” explained Mark.
Jann-Michael doesn’t question why. That’s consistent with his other responses to Mark’s actions against political opponents. Jann-Michael hasn’t questioned why his father would create the dossier. He’s only categorically denied his involvement.
The Scottsdale Unified School District’s administration is scrambling to do damage control after a group of mothers discovered Governing Board President Jann-Michael Greenburg had access to a Google Drive full of personal information, documents, and photos of about 47 people, including children.
An email sent out Wednesday evening by the SUSD’s Communications Office sought to assure families that their personal and educational data is safe. However, the district also solely blamed the discovered digital dossier* site on Mark Greenburg, the father of Jann-Michael Greenburg.
The damage control appears to be too little too late for many parents in the Scottsdale Unified School District, including Amy Carney, a mother of six, who is among those calling for Greenburg to step down.
“I am calling for the immediate resignation of our board president Jann-Michael Greenburg. We cannot allow anyone in a leadership position to secretly compile personal documents and information on moms and dads who have dared speak out publicly or on social media about their grievances with the district,’ said Carney, who is running for a seat on the Scottsdale Governing Board in November 2022.
Even though Mark Greenburg is listed as the Google Drive owner, records from an Aug. 17 special SUSD board meeting show Jann-Michael admitted sharing a computer with Mark. With Mark and Jann-Michael sharing a computer and a home, there is no way to know which of them has been uploading files (now known as the “G Files”) to the drive, according to concerned parents.
In addition, some parents say that despite Jann-Michael’s denial of involvement with the dossier, they believe there appears to be evidence that Jann-Michael has complete knowledge of the Google Drive files and had shared some of its contents in an effort to intimidate SUSD parents. Parents are calling that an “unacceptable abuse of power.”
The Google Drive files also included information on parents from neighboring school districts, as well as popular conservative radio show host, James T. Harris.
“We request President Greenburg’s resignation from the Governing Board effective immediately for this and other recent embarrassments to our district,” Carney said.
Attorney Alexander Kolodin of the Davillier Law Group expressed his concerns about the situation with the Scottsdale Unified School District.
“These allegations are deeply troubling, especially as concerns the photography of a minor child without parental consent and the taking down of license plate numbers of parents who Mr. Greenberg supposedly perceived as political opponents,” Kolodin said. “Mr. Greenberg is an elected member of the school board. If such a photograph was taken with his express or tacit consent, he would potentially be liable for violations of Arizona’s Parents’ Bill of Rights, which recognizes a parent’s ‘fundamental’ right to consent before the government makes a video or voice recording of the minor child.”
But Kolodin says there are more concerns beyond the mere existence of the Google Drive file, including reports that Jann-Michael Greenberg’s father engaged in some acts while keeping his face hidden under a helmet and while wearing motorcycle gear.
“Both Arizona and the federal government have laws prohibiting both intimidation generally and voter intimidation in particular such as ARS Titles 13 and 16, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Kolodin said. “If these allegations are true, Mr. Greenberg and his father might be liable for violating one or more of these laws – though it is difficult to say from the limited facts that have been reported and they must, of course, be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
*Because of the personal and sensitive information it contains, AZ Free News is not posting the dossier at this time.