Scottsdale Unified Superintendent Scott Menzel has had a relatively turbulent time leading the helm at SUSD. District meetings have had disruptions regarding COVID-related mitigation and content, and he has been the target of activists (you can read more about it all here). When you have plenty of enemies, it’s always good to have friends that have your back, and a recent award demonstrates that he does indeed have that.
The only issue? It’s from a left-leaning organization, Save Our Schools, one that played a leading role in the Red for Ed. Moreover, its team consists of a significant number of former Dem staffers and volunteers, donors, and other activists that are well known across local Democratic circles.
In all fairness, it’s not entirely surprising. The Republican Party in Arizona did underserve public education for too long, with low salaries for teachers and at one time boasting the lowest spending per pupil in the country. It was that dereliction that prompted the massive Red for Ed rallies in 2018 in the first place and helped vaunt Kathy Hoffman, a then 31 year old political neophyte, to the role of Superintendent of Public Instruction that year.
That said, 2018 was a long time ago when it comes to politics and policy, then-Governor Ducey partially got out in front of the school funding crisis and directed significant funding for public schools. But similarly-strident pushes for more vouchers have allowed groups like Save Our Schools to remain somewhat relevant.
While certainly not the most bombastic organization when it comes to policy recommendations, it does potentially toss some fuel onto the fire of criticism. Plenty of right-leaning activists and a few lawmakers have come after Menzel under the guise that he is too liberal for Scottsdale, and previous statements that he made a few years back that would certainly be considered “woke” definitely didn’t help. Being named the superintendent of the year from an organization like SOS only furthers that perception.
We’ve been relatively supportive of Menzel and think that he has done an admirable and generally positive job. But anything remotely related to politics is bound to be scrutinized in our current hyper-polarized world, and a superintendent position certainly fits the bill. Some awards might not be worth the hassle that they create, and this could certainly be one.