Another Top Administrator Out At Scottsdale Unified School District

By Mariana Dale
Published: Tuesday, May 29, 2018 - 12:55pm

A fourth top-level administrator will not return to the Scottsdale Unified School District next year.

Assistant Superintendent Pam Sitton will retire July 31, according to a separation agreement reached with the district. Until then she will remain on paid administrative leave or use vacation time.

The district paid former Superintendent Denise Birdwell and Chief Operations Officer Louis Hartwell to leave their contracts early following months of investigation into malfeasance. Chief Financial Officer Laura Smith resigned in January. She now faces charges of breaking Arizona's conflict of interest law.

Sitton oversaw the district's personnel department. This school year three district administrators received unjustified stipends.

Sitton signed off a $7,000 stipend for middle school principal Christopher Thuman.

Former Superintendent Denise Birdwell promised the principal money beyond what most principals make after he agreed to leave his job as executive director of community education and online instruction, which paid a base salary of $100,189, to lead Ingleside Middle School starting in April 2016.

“Dr. Thuman also told us that his main concern about the proposed transfer was the reduction in salary,” according to an outside attorney’s investigation. “He said he expressed that concern to Dr. Birdwell. In response, he said, she had made it clear that his salary would remain intact for at least two years.”

There’s no specific policy addressing this kind of agreement, but personnel actions normally require approval from the governing board at a public meeting.

Sitton authorized a $7,239, bringing Thuman’s pay as a principal to $105,302. The next highest middle school principal’s salary was $96,766 in the 2016-2017 school year.

The district ended stipend payments on April 19, 2018. Thuman had been paid $5,289.98 this school year. 

Another attorney’s investigation found two other school principals received stipends for doctorate degrees they didn’t have because of a “error by human resources personnel.”

Principles Alexis Cruz-Freeman and Michael Roberts were paid $3,000 doctoral stipends. Transcripts show both are working on degrees, but neither had completed their program when the stipends were paid.

Those stipends ended in April and are being repaid to the district.

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