The Battle Lines are Drawn: Scottsdale Legislative Reps and SUSD Superintendent Menzel Trade Blows

Note: this post has been edited to reflect that Tammy Caputi changed her voter registration to Independent in 2018, and that Jason Alexander is a social media advisor for her, not a political advisor.

The fallout from Scottsdale Unified School District’s Superintendent Scott Menzel and his “woke” comments from a 2019 interview have recently stolen a lot of oxygen from an otherwise generally uncontroversial position (you can get up-to-date on our coverage of this topic here). The reverberations have now made their way all across the city’s politicians, and some very strident battle lines have now been drawn both in favor and in opposition of him.

The most recent salvo was an open letter written from the three main members of Scottsdale’s delegation at the state capitol. State Reps Joseph Chaplik, Alexander Kolodin and State Senator John Kavanagh are now calling for his “immediate removal” in what could only be seen as a dramatic escalation.

While Chaplik and Kavanagh have both gained prominence (or notoriety, depending on who you ask) for capitalizing off of red meat socially conservative issues in the past, Kolodin is new to the State House and as such, we get a preview as to how he will govern going forward. That said, since he has been the attorney for a number of controversial people or issues, such as for Kelli Ward and against mask mandates, this should come as no surprise. Meanwhile, Mayor Jim Lane also recently came out as very critical of Superintendent Menzel

That’s not to say that Menzel is out on an island however, not in the least. SUSD Governing Board President Julie Cieniawski came to his defense (perhaps partially since she played a role in his hiring), as has Jason Alexander, the social media advisor to Councilwoman Tammy Caputi. Perhaps most interesting however was Republican Linda Milhaven’s defense of Menzel. Considering her likely run for Mayor against two former Democrats (if Caputi runs), it feels like interesting and potentially detrimental political positioning, but she deserves kudos for apparently not using it as a political prop, as it would be easy for her to pile on with her Republican cohorts.

It seems as though everyone has an opinion, as former Democratic candidates and people from outside of the city switched their social media profile pictures to demonstrate support, and media that has no vested interest in Scottsdale has taken note of the story, none of which is particularly helpful for the students of SUSD.

This entire debacle has turned into a gigantic distraction to the board that has had no share of controversy in the past. While Menzel has earned a closer examination going forward to ensure that he is not pushing ideology in his governance, protracted political battles help no one except those who are waging those battles. It will be in the best interests for nearly all stakeholders to move past it, and in the words of Reagan “trust but verify”.