It has been a tumultuous past month or so for Scottsdale Unified School District superintendent Scott Menzel. After Fox News uncovered a 2019 interview where Menzel seems to support ideas that many would consider “woke”, he has been the target of Republican legislators and a cause de celebre for local Democrats (you can get up to speed on the entire saga here).
However, it feels as though we are getting some degree of resolution in this saga, and Menzel is able to breathe easier knowing that his job is not in peril. According to the Arizona Republic, “scores” of supporters showed up at a recent SUSD meeting to demonstrate their support for the embattled superintendent.
As our regular readers know, this was after a trio of Republican legislators who represent Scottsdale came out against Menzel’s prior comments and called for his resignation. None of this is particularly surprising, as Menzel’s comments stepped right into the social morass of identity politics, perhaps one of the hottest of hotbed subjects in today’s political climates.
By most unbiased perspectives however, Menzel stepped into the role of Scottsdale Unified superintendent in a very difficult time, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and led the district through the tough time with rational and reasonable strength. While extremists looking for attention attempted to hijack board meetings, he justified his hire with a strong focus on the material matters of education and away from political traps.
If the district had found itself in significant financial trouble (aside from that which every district went through before the state legislature lifted the spending cap), perhaps he wouldn’t have found so much grace. Or perhaps, even if his performance was questionable, the nativism inherent in politics today might have necessitated a defense. After all, charges of “woke-ism” will almost always draw battle lines with attackers on one side and defenders on the other. It is simply the nature of our algorithm-fueled conversation these days.
However, one added dynamic in this particular case is the makeup of the SUSD governing board. Even with two new conservative members, it was clear that they were not in a position to make a real move towards a new superintendent. And just like that, not only is a somewhat left-leaning superintendent preserved in his role, but we now see that the SUSD governing board remains similarly somewhat left-leaning for the time being.