Scottsdale Unified School District Is Failing Most Graduating Students

Scottsdale Unified School District Is Failing Most Graduating Students

By Mike Bengert |

In a recent opinion piece, Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Superintendent Scott Menzel highlights what he considers a long list of accomplishments. According to Superintendent Menzel, the “2023-2024 school year has been marked by significant progress and achievements as we continue to implement initiatives aligned with our Strategic Plan to improve academic achievement and outcomes and prepare students for real-world opportunities in an ever-evolving landscape.”

Let’s delve into the statistics.

Nearly 1,800 seniors graduated from SUSD on May 23rd. During the May 14th Governing Board meeting, 11 seniors were recognized for their academic excellence. In his column, Dr. Menzel highlighted that 51 graduates had received math and science diplomas. While these acknowledged students have rightfully earned praise for their hard work and accomplishments, including receiving various scholarships, what about the remaining 1,800 graduates? How have they fared after receiving a purportedly “world-class, future-focused” education from SUSD?

According to the Arizona Department of Education’s comprehensive school report card system, the overall performance isn’t encouraging. In 2023, when these graduating seniors were juniors, their proficiency levels were assessed, yielding the following results:

  • Only 63% demonstrated proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA), leaving 37% (or 666) lacking proficiency.
  • Math proficiency was even lower at 55%, indicating that 45% (or 810) were not proficient.
  • Science proficiency was the lowest, with a mere 25% demonstrating proficiency, leaving 75% (or 1,350) lacking in this area.

On average, only 48% (or 858 students) of the 1,800 graduates were proficient across all three academic subjects.

Given these outcomes, it seems apt to reconsider the SUSD slogan “Because kids,” as it appears the district may not adequately prioritize the needs of all students. Perhaps it should be restated as “Because some kids.” A school district’s quality should be judged by how well it supports its lowest-performing students.

Yet, despite this concerning academic record, three outgoing members of the current governing board decided, without public input or feedback from district stakeholders, to extend Superintendent Menzel’s contract by two years and grant him a 4% raise.

Dr. Menzel’s emphasis on using class time for destructive “Social Emotional Learning,” “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion,” and gender identity at the expense of teaching academics appears to be falling short for SUSD students, parents, and taxpayers. It’s perhaps unsurprising that parents are increasingly withdrawing their children from SUSD, and staff turnover, including principals, is at an all-time high.

If you share my frustration with the Governing Board’s apparent rubber-stamping of Dr. Menzel’s failing agenda and believe our children deserve better, I urge you to vote for change this November. Let’s elect Jeanne Beasley, Drew Hassler, and Gretchen Jacobs to the SUSD school board. These candidates are committed to academic excellence, fiscal responsibility, and school safety.

Mike Bengert is a husband, father, grandfather, and Scottsdale resident advocating for quality education in SUSD for over 30 years.

Scottsdale School District Fails To Approve Single-Stall Bathrooms

Scottsdale School District Fails To Approve Single-Stall Bathrooms

By Corinne Murdock |

Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) failed to pass a gender-neutral bathroom policy during its special meeting on Tuesday night.

The board tied 2-2 in their vote on the policy, which would have established single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms or provided designated employee restrooms for students unwilling or unable to use a multi-occupancy restroom. The bathroom policy came about after allegations that some SUSD schools were allowing restroom access based on gender identity and not biological gender.

Board member Amy Carney and Vice President Carine Werner voted for the policy, while board members Libby Hart-Wells and Zach Lindsay voted against it. Board President Julie Cieniawski wasn’t present at the meeting, so she didn’t vote.

Hart-Wells said that the “how” and “why” of the policy were problematic: the cost and the implementation. Hart-Wells said that available district data proved that site administrators were already handling the .001 percent of student requests for bathroom accommodations. 

In closing, Hart-Wells indicated that some parents were the greater danger to children, but didn’t expand further.

“The proposal puts forth a bastardization of parent’s rights at the very expense of the very students’ rights that this proposal purports to support. The operational reality of this proposal can — whether intended or not — put some children in harm’s way. And yes, tragically, that harm can come from the home,” said Hart-Wells. “This proposal, in my view, does not represent healthy governance.”

Werner responded that supportive parents have indicated to her that it was about the children, not about the adults. 

Werner requested the new policy. The proposed financial impact would’ve been about $70,000 total: five restrooms per school, with each restroom estimated to cost $500 each. 

“I’m certain that kids’ academic achievement is affected when they feel like they can’t use the restroom,” said Werner. 

Some parent and community activists expressed grievance over the rejection of the policy. 

Over the summer, Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed legislation similar to SUSD’s failed policy. The bill, SB1040, would have required students to have the option to access a single-occupancy or employee restroom or changing facility.

Hobbs declared that such accommodations were discrimination against LGBTQ+-identifying minors.

“SB 1040 is yet another discriminatory act against LGBTQ+ youth passed by the majority at the state legislature. [I] will veto every bill that aims to attack and harm children,” said Hobbs.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Community Speaks Out Against ‘Deep State’ Agenda At Maricopa Supervisors Meeting

Community Speaks Out Against ‘Deep State’ Agenda At Maricopa Supervisors Meeting

By Corinne Murdock |

Community activists attended the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting on Wednesday in droves to oppose a “deep state”-filled agenda.

The activists voiced their opposition in public comment against agenda items with alleged “deep state” ties: the newest Planning and Zoning Commission appointee, expanded Travel Reduction Program Services, the new precinct committeemen appointment policy, the Carefree emergency operations policy, additional funding for Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s office, Scottsdale’s ownership of housing as an investment opportunity and the purchase of more houses, Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Superintendent Scott Menzel becoming the SUSD representative, continuation of a homeless treatment COVID-19 policy, and CDC funding for overdoses. 

The BOS approved all of the opposed items. The audience was generally rowdy throughout consideration of the contested agenda items, especially concerning the proposed precinct committeemen policy. 

Much of the coordinated opposition effort was arranged by EZAZ, a project to boost citizen engagement in local government by the nonprofit Strong Communities Action. The project was created by former Phoenix Republican mayoral candidate Merissa Hamilton and two of her campaign workers, Lisa Blankenship and Carisa Feierabend.

EZAZ issued a lengthy explainer of their opposition to Wednesday’s agenda items.

The item that received the most vocal opposition concerned changes to the BOS oversight of precinct committeemen. The BOS directed Maricopa County Elections to establish formal processes for precinct committeemen vacancies and appointments. Legislative district leaders argued during public comment that the vacancy and appointment processes ought to be left up to the parties.

Hamilton said that the policy should’ve been developed through a stakeholder meeting with the political parties, not internally by the board’s staff. She claimed that the BOS has taken an interest in greater oversight of a process that parties have opposed bureaucratic “meddling” in, but that it has no problem “rubber stamping” other policies where the community has asked for more scrutiny. 

“The parties should have given you what the processes should be, not the other way around,” said Hamilton. “It’s concerning that you’ve taken this approach because as I have audited your official ballot precinct reports, they have not been completed, so I would prefer that you would spend the time in this department working on getting those forms completed so that we can have our proper chain of custody rather than trying to change or influence a process that really you don’t have business participating in except to be a rubber stamp.”

BOS Chairman Clint Hickman countered that the intent of the policy wasn’t to create a “logjam” ahead of the 2024 election cycle. Hickman encouraged the activists to petition their legislators for changes to the law, which grants the BOS ministerial oversight of precinct committeemen appointments. 

“This, again, could’ve been something that the BOS could do ministerially, because we just want to make sure that the names that come to this board to be appointed go through a procedure that matches up to both state law and your individual clubs’ bylaws,” said Hickman. “We’re not doing anything counter to bylaws or statute.” 

Opponents of the policy also took issue with Maricopa County Elections neglecting to publicize the new form. The BOS repeatedly assured the public that the proposed policy was designed to create more transparency.

BOS Vice Chairman Jack Sellers said that they had received complaints that precinct committeemen vacancies weren’t properly created, hence the need for this policy update. 

Concerning the newest Planning and Zoning Commission appointee, Lily Landholt, EZAZ expressed disapproval over her being a lawyer with a multinational law firm supportive of progressive transportation sustainability efforts, Squire Patton Boggs.

Supervisor Bill Gates, who moved for approval of Landholt’s appointment, said that the county should be thanking Landholt for serving on the commission. He also stated that Landholt wasn’t behind her firm’s policy stances, and that she was just one lawyer in a giant firm. Gates also said that Landholt’s role would be advisory only in policymaking, and assured the public that the BOS would have the final say. 

“The fact that a lawyer in this firm — literally, one of the finest firms in the world — would want to serve on our PNZ, we should be thanking her, and that’s what I am doing,” said Gates. 

The Travel Reduction Program agenda item reflected a $346,000 agreement between the Regional Public Transportation Authority and Maricopa County through the Air Quality Department to implement an employer urban travel reduction. EZAZ urged the county to use its lobbyist to get rid of the state law making the Travel Reduction Program possible; they also called for the abolition of the Maricopa Association of Governments.

EZAZ took issue with the proposed emergency operations plan for the town of Carefree because it wasn’t publicized. One public commenter cited the bureaucratic hurdles that delayed emergency response to the recent Maui wildfire. 

Similarly, the activists took issue with the approval of $1.37 million to the recorder’s office without offering specifics as to what the funding would cover. 

The activists also opposed the city of Scottsdale’s continued practice of owning and purchasing housing for rehabilitation and rentals. They claimed that government ownership of housing was a strain on the state’s housing supply, as well as a big risk for the city due to home prices and contract rates mirroring the 1970 and 2008 housing crises. 

Also concerning housing support services, the public requested that the BOS ensure that the proposed intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Department of Economic Security wouldn’t allow for the housing of illegal aliens or Title 42 recipients. 

EZAZ opposed the appointment of SUSD Superintendent Menzel as a district representative for the Maricopa County Head Start Program meal service delivery program, citing his past remarks promoting equity and disparaging the white race. 

The activists further opposed the operation of temporary emergency shelter services to mitigate COVID-19 exposure among the homeless, noting that both domestic and foreign government agencies have declared the pandemic to be over. 

Also related to public health, the activists opposed the acceptance of $2.9 million in CDC grant funds for drug overdoses because of the requirement that the county abide by “health equity” practices, meaning disparate treatment based on “social determinants of health” and “health disparities” such as race, gender, sexuality, gender identity, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Watch the full meeting here:

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Scottsdale Mom Sued For Exposing Board President’s Dossier Wins Anti-SLAPP Ruling

Scottsdale Mom Sued For Exposing Board President’s Dossier Wins Anti-SLAPP Ruling

By Corinne Murdock |

A Scottsdale mother was victorious in a lawsuit filed against her by the father of the former Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Governing Board president. 

Judge Joan Sinclair issued an anti-SLAPP ruling — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation — in the case Greenburg v. Wray earlier this week. 

The plaintiff, Mark Greenburg, and his son, SUSD’s former and ousted board president, Jann-Michael Greenburg, were involved in a secret dossier on perceived political opponents consisting of parents and community members, including Wray.

“[T]his lawsuit was substantially motivated by a desire to deter, retaliate against or prevent [Wray’s] lawful exercise of her constitutional rights,” stated Sinclair. 

Greenburg alleged that Wray committed defamation, false light, intrusion upon seclusion, and public disclosure of private facts. 

Greenburg alleged that Wray’s claims that he “intimidated,” “challenged,” and “harassed” her were defamatory, as well as claims including how a source told Wray that Greenburg threatened another individual with a weapon, stalked her, created the dossier to harass and intimidate her, and cyber stalked her. Sinclair determined that none of Wray’s speech qualified as defamatory. Sinclair also noted that accepting any of Greenburg’s defamation claims would chill free speech.

“All of these comments are opinion or hyperbole made in the context of a heated political debate,” said Sinclair. “A reasonable listener would interpret the aforementioned comments to be [Wray’s] perception that she is a victim of political attack, not that she is actually stating that [Greenburg] committed criminal offenses.”

Sinclair also ruled against Greenburg’s claim of false light, invasion of privacy, and intrusion upon seclusion, writing that Greenburg qualified as a limited public figure by participating in a public and “heated” political environment on the reopening of public schools. 

Finally, as to Greenburg’s claim of the public disclosure of private facts, Sinclair observed that Greenburg’s dossier only contained information about Wray and his other political adversaries and not himself. Sinclair also noted that it was Greenburg’s son, Jann-Michael, that inadvertently disclosed the Google Drive link to Wray and others. Accordingly, Sinclair ruled that Greenburg’s claim wasn’t viable. 

At the opening of her ruling, Sinclair quoted from evidence detailing Greenburg’s advice to his son about running for the Maricopa County Community College District Board. Greenburg said that they needed to launch a litigious campaign against Wray to stop her.

“Amanda Wray is just fixated on you and if you think for one minute that when you run for MCCC that she is going to leave you alone, I think you are wrong,” said Greenburg. “It is a mistake not to surgically punish her with litigation.”


Sinclair awarded attorney’s fees to Wray. 

Wray filed the anti-SLAPP motion last April after Greenburg sued her for publicizing his dossier to social media and various media outlets. Scottsdale Police dropped their investigation in December after determining it fell outside their jurisdiction since the dossier consisted of open source and public documents; they referred the case to former Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, and the FBI. No updates have been issued on the case from the agencies since then. 

Wray’s lawyer and top GOP official, Harmeet Dhillon, noted that this ruling was the first in Arizona law after an evidentiary hearing.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Scottsdale School District Rolls Out Controversial RFID Trackers In Student Badges

Scottsdale School District Rolls Out Controversial RFID Trackers In Student Badges

By Corinne Murdock |  

This school year, Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) incorporated controversial RFID chip trackers in student and faculty ID badges.  

The district approved the chips in a close 3-2 vote in late June. Board members Libby Hart-Wells, Zach Lindsay, and Julie Cieniawski approved the chips; Amy Carney and Carine Werner opposed them. The estimated cost of the chips totaled $125,000. 

The chip went through a trial run at Coronado High School before being implemented districtwide. The district reportedly upgraded their ID software to enable the chip system over the last two years.   

During the June meeting, the SUSD governing board counsel explained that the chips enable the district to track students when they get on and off the buses. 

Carney asked why the chips were put in all student IDs, and not just bus riders. The SUSD Safety & Security team, which will oversee the program, explained that buses aren’t limited to designated bus riders: any students may board the buses if they’re attending the Boys & Girls Club, field trips, or extracurricular or athletic events.  

The safety team reported that the IDs can’t be used to track daily attendance because they’re only linked to the district’s transportation software. However, the team didn’t guarantee that the chip technology wouldn’t be expanded to other uses such as attendance in the future. The RFID chips within staff badges have an extra feature: they enable access to school buildings. 

SUSD reported that the RFID chip doesn’t store any personally identifiable information, and that no RFID readers were installed inside the school for the purpose of tracking a student’s location.  

Director Joshua Friedman said that the RFID chip translates as a coded number within a closed system, and therefore doesn’t qualify as a digital ID. Friedman also noted that the RFID chip doesn’t work as an active GPS tracker, but a passive one: the chips only record a time and location when a student boards or disembarks from a school bus.

Board President Julie Cieniawski remarked in closing that she and the majority of SUSD leaders weren’t interested in “conspiracy theories” of using RFID technology for ulterior motives.   

Some SUSD parents have expressed concern with the tracking capabilities of the RFID chips, namely the inability to opt-out from the technology and potential suspensions for tampering with the IDs by attempting to remove the chip.

Former state lawmaker and SUSD teacher Michelle Ugenti-Rita wrote on Facebook that the RFID chips were an invasion of privacy.  

“Have they never heard of ‘Find my iPhone?’ This is a complete invasion of privacy. Parents were never notified, or given the option to opt-in to the school district’s new government surveillance program,” said Ugenti-Rita. “What didn’t they learn from masking up our children during COVID? This is something our superintendent, Tom Horne, should investigate and the Legislature should ban when they convene next year.”

No opt-out exists for families who desire to forgo use of the chips. RFID, short for radio-frequency identification, is a technology that allows scanners to engage in automatic identification and data capture (AIDC). AIDC allows for computers to obtain data immediately without human involvement; other types of AIDC include QR codes and voice recognition technology.   

During last week’s meeting, Superintendent Scott Menzel said that the chip readers enable the district to locate students using school transportation. Menzel reported that on the first day of school, three children didn’t arrive at their proper location. The superintendent reported that the ID system enabled them to locate them within five minutes, as opposed to 30 minutes or more. 

In response to community pushback against the chips, SUSD issued a press release on Monday to further explain the RFID software.   

“RFID is not a global positioning system (GPS) and has no tracking capability on its own. Like the RFID in your credit card and debit card, it only works when tapped. The district piloted this program last year and the Governing Board approved it,” stated SUSD. “The RFID in student ID cards is ONLY scanned so that the district’s Transportation department is able to account for those students who board and exit a bus.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to