Nearly 300 Afghan refugees are being relocated to a former hotel in Scottsdale after being housed at various military installations, resulting in the mobilization of a Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) team “to plan for providing educational services and support” to any school-aged refugees, according to Superintendent Scott Menzel.
SUSD “has an obligation to provide educational services to homeless students who reside within the district,” Menzel noted in a district newsletter. That obligation is based on compliance with the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
“While we did not anticipate this influx of new students, we are committed to marshalling the resources and supports necessary to ensure that these children are welcomed into our schools as they transition to their news lives in this country,” he wrote.
The newsletter comments also referenced questions raised by some in the community about whether the district should be serving the refuge children. Instead of addressing public health, staffing, and security concerns, Menzel simply cited federal law as leaving the district no option.
Although Menzel’s comments were included in the recent newsletter, there has been nothing posted to SUSD’s Facebook page. In addition, district officials have not disclosed what conversations they have had with state and federal officials about compensation for the sudden influx of non-English speaking students.
More information is expected to be made public on Jan. 25 when the SUSD governing board meets.
Last August, Gov. Doug Ducey stated that Afghan refugees will be welcomed in Arizona. He noted that the Arizona Department of Economic Security, through its Arizona Office of Refugee Resettlement, would help secure housing, employment, and education for the refugees.
The refugees are being housed at the former Homewood Suites on North Scottsdale Road. The property is currently in bankruptcy but was approved by federal officials in early 2021 as a contracted temporary migrant transition facility.
There was no advance notice to Scottsdale city officials about the migrant arrangement last year. That contract expired at the year of 2021, but now the non-profit International Rescue Committee (IRC) is utilizing the massive hotel property for the next few months as temporary housing while efforts are undertaken to place each refuge or refugee family unit in homes with sponsors in the greater Phoenix area.
Some refugees began arriving at the Homewood Suites before Jan. 14. According to Scottsdale Police Chief Jeff Walther, “next to no one was aware” that the property was being repurposed.
Walther issued an advisory to Mayor David Ortega and council members before Menzel’s comments, noting there was no heads up to local authorities about the IRC’s plans to house unsupervised Afghan refugees within the city.
The IRC has now told city officials that the site is expected to use only through April. As far as security, IRC plans to hire security guards but made it clear that the refugees are free to come and go as they wish.
Security was not in place prior to the arrival of the first group of refugees, Walther noted. The refugees are expected to be gone from the hotel property by April, according to Walther.
“This is a federal government activity over which the city of Scottsdale has no oversight,” a city spokesperson recently told AZ Free News.
While Menzel was reticent about the situation, one of his school principal’s issued a detailed email to Cherokee Elementary staff. He reported that more than 80 school-aged refugees are expected to be enrolled across three, possibly four, SUSD schools.
Those students, according to Principal Walter Chantler, could speak one of four languages. And many of the youth, particularly the girls, have never been in school.
On Thursday, Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Menzel issued a statement calling criticism of a club that encourages child sexualization under the guise of offering support — Gender & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) clubs — as “targeted attacks,” and suggested that those concerned were bullies to the students involved in the club.
“Recently, there have been targeted attacks on student-created school clubs related to gender and sexual identity, sometimes called GSA clubs. The students who choose to participate in them have a legal right not to be bullied, intimidated, or otherwise targeted by adult members of our community, as well as by any of their peers,” wrote Menzel.
Menzel also asserted that SUSD doesn’t regulate the viewpoints of student-initiated clubs. The superintendent said even GSA viewpoints are protected, comparing it to clubs focused on athletics, politics, and faith. As AZ Free Newsreported, the GSA at Cocopah Middle School was initiated by English teacher Laylee Langner.
“Students’ rights to have differences of opinions, beliefs and interests are protected in the U.S. Constitution and in Arizona statute. Consistent with those rights, SUSD does not regulate the viewpoints of student-initiated clubs. We have athletic clubs, political clubs, and faith-based clubs in our schools, in addition to academic and philanthropic clubs. These clubs welcome anyone; participation in any club is voluntary.
Menzel has a doctorate and masters in philosophy. According to his LinkedIn, he received his bachelor’s degree in religion.
SUSD parent Jill Dunicandenounced Menzel’s response. Dunican told AZ Free News that it demonstrated that the superintendent lacked character and was effectively gaslighting the SUSD community on the severity of GSA’s presence and impact.
“Dr. Menzel’s attempt to frame parents as bullies for speaking out about the hateful curriculum that he has allowed into Scottsdale schools is despicable. Menzel’s use of vulnerable children as a shield to distract from his support for the CRT-aligned GLSEN program that encourages race-baiting, cop-hating, and the sexualization of children is beyond the pale,” stated Dunican. “It’s disappointing that Dr. Menzel has decided to gaslight the community on this issue. It only speaks to his lack of character and further demonstrates he is not a good fit for our community.”
Earlier this week,AZ Free News reported on claims by GSA of the Year winners at Cocopah Middle School that they’d successfully strong-armed SUSD into changing ID policy: instead of bearing their legal names on their IDs, which the budding LGBTQ activists referred to as their “deadnames,” students were permitted to display their chosen name on their IDs. Neither SUSD spokespersons or any of the board members responded to multiple inquiries about the “deadname” policy.
SUSD’s latest controversy comes in the midst of continued national exposure over the connection of their former governing board president, Jann-Michael Greenburg, to a secret dossier on parents and political enemies. Greenburg’s father created the Google Drive dossier, and Greenburg himself had editing access to it.
At the beginning of this month, Scottsdale Police Department (SPD) determined that the case fell outside their jurisdiction because the dossier consisted of open source and/or public documents. SPD passed their investigative materials on to the FBI, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office for further review.
Another school district scandal went viral last week. This time, it was in Scottsdale. But there’s a good chance that you didn’t hear about it from Arizona’s establishment media. Because once again, they were late to the party.
In case you missed it, last week, a group of mothers discovered Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board President Jann-Michael Greenburg had access to a secret dossier of parents and other political opposition. But this wasn’t just a collection of social media posts.
The dossier included records of nursing licenses, divorces, mortgages, family trees, bankruptcies, civil and criminal charges, and a slew of other personal information. Allegedly compiled by Jann-Michael’s father, Mark, it also included pictures and videos of the children of his perceived political opposition. And a file on acclaimed radio host James T. Harris also appeared in the dossier.
Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) hasn’t denounced the dossier targeting parents and political enemies that leads back to one of his donors: Scottsdale Unified School District’s (SUSD) now-former governing board president, Jann-Michael Greenburg. Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show Greenburg donated $1,000 to Kelly’s campaign last year.
AZ Free News reached out to Kelly for a comment on the dossier and Greenburg’s donation; his campaign was silent, offering no repudiation.
Not all have opted for silence or inaction in the face of the Greenburg dossier, which rose to national prominence within days of initial reports on its existence. On Monday night, the SUSD Governing Board convened in a special meeting to determine Greenburg’s fate as president and a member of the board. They voted to demote him from his presidency. However, Greenburg refused to resign. He stated repeatedly that the board members lacked “all the facts” and urged them not to demote him, pleas made to an unyielding group.
Prior to the meeting, questions arose as to whether Kelly would denounce Greenburg as other Arizona politicians had. He hasn’t, but his awareness of current events in education has been fine otherwise.
Though Kelly has been silent on the dossier threatening the parents and community members of a public schooling system in his state, he took the time to issue a celebratory announcement about public schools hours prior to SUSD’s meeting.
“It’s #AmericanEducationWeek! Public schools are the foundation of our education system thanks to the teachers who dedicate their lives to making sure the next generation is set up for success. It’s our job to support them and make sure they have the resources they need.”
Kelly’s silence on the matter prompted remarks from opponents. GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jim Lamon characterized Greenburg’s connection to the dossier as typical behavior for a Kelly supporter. Lamon issued a statement that Greenburg had been “stalking, harassing, intimidating, and doxxing” parents through the dossier, and called for his immediate resignation.
“Storing parents’ personal information and photos of their children, recording parents with a body camera, taking down license plate numbers, and creating a dossier against parents is outrageous and unethical. It’s no wonder he’s given money to Mark Kelly!” wrote Lamon. “Parents are NOT the enemy!”
The Greenburg dossier served as a reminder of another ongoing controversy: the apparent collusion between the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the Biden Administration. Days after the White House received a letter from the NSBA requesting an investigation into parents and community members for domestic terrorism, among other things, Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo effectively directing the FBI to heed the NSBA’s call.
Since the memo’s publication, it’s come to light in email records and other paper trails that the White House collaborated with the NSBA on the submission of their letter.
The Scottsdale Unified Governing Board canceled its meeting on Tuesday, May 18th, 2021, according to Board President, Jann-Michael Greenburg, because of “a belligerent mob.” Greenburg was referring to the parents who had come to the meeting hoping to be heard on the subjects of masks, and Critical Race Theory-based curriculum.
Even though the Board was, admittedly, well aware and prepared for the number of parents that came to attend the meeting, they still chose to recess the meeting after three minutes. The Board then opened the meeting again just long enough to scold parents before gaveling it to an end.
In an interview on the James T. Harris show on KFYI News Talk 550 AM, one attendee, Amy Carney, stated that while she had never attended a school board meeting before, the pandemic opened up many parents’ eyes to what is happening in schools and what is not happening in schools.
Carney said questions about the Scottsdale district due to the fact that private schools and religious schools were able to open classrooms while Scottsdale schools were shuttered. She noted that the private schools have not seen any more cases of COVID than her kids’ schools, leaving her and other parents to wonder why.
Carney explained that more and more parents began asking the same questions and before anyone knew it, parents are “now awake.” That “wokeness” is fueling the increase parent participation on the school board level.
Carney was shocked by the Board’s decision to shut the meeting down as the parents were neither belligerent nor out-of-line. According to Carney, the parents went from determined to defeated after the Board exerted their power. They may have felt defeated, but it was only momentary. Carney vowed future engagement as have parents across the state once they experience the heavy hand of bureaucrats.
That parental population is growing. The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board isn’t the first board that has decided not to hold a meeting because they disagreed with the parents that showed up. Just recently the Vail school board shut down a meeting rather than allow parents to speak.
Across the state, groups of parents are organizing to take back the education of their children, ensuring that the Scottsdale Board was not the first to face a “mob,” of mid-mannered parents, nor will it be the last.