Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Placed On Leave

By Mariana Dale
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 9:52pm
Updated: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 10:30pm
(Photo by Mariana Dale - KJZZ)
Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Denise Birdwell.

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board placed the district’s top administrator on paid leave Wednesday night following months of controversy about school building projects and conflict of interest. 

The governing board agenda alluded to the district’s biggest conflicts over the last several months. That includes hiring an architectural firm whose president had a felony conviction and working with a consulting group partly owned by the district’s chief financial officer.

Both had previous ties to Superintendent Denise Birdwell.

The board conferred with legal consult for five hours in executive session. When they returned to the public meeting room around 8 p.m., Birdwell was not with them.

“I at this time will make a motion that, in consideration of the best interest of the district, Dr. Birdwell be placed on temporary paid administrative leave,” President Barbara Perleberg said.

When asked how long the leave would last, Perleberg said she "cannot speak to that.”

Perleberg declined to comment further saying “[t]here will more information available, absolutely in the future.”

A Scottsdale Unified School District spokeswoman issued a statement less than an hour after the meeting was adjourned with no additional information.

The board also approved the resignation of Chief Operating Officer Louis Hartwell.

Community members raised concerns about Birdwell’s leadership and a $229 million district renovation project starting last summer.

In recent weeks, concern has spread to Scottdale parents, students, teachers and community members. Hundreds rallied outside the governing board meeting at Coronado High School last week. They made demands for greater transparency, respect for teachers and for new leadership.

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