Dr. Menzel calls for understanding, care for all at Scottsdale schools
By Linda Milhaven | Point of View
Scott Menzel is exactly the kind of man we need as the superintendent of Scottsdale Unified School District. His 2019 interview has spurred controversy but I read it differently. His message is a call for understanding and caring.
In his interview, he shares his goal to “ensure that all our children have the opportunity to achieve their full potential”. He talks about girls, poor kids, developmentally delayed kids as well as racially and ethnically diverse kids.
He challenges us to be uncomfortable, not perpetually, but to lean into the natural discomfort many of us feel when we encounter people who are unfamiliar, or have a different world view, so that we can better understand and meet their unique needs.
He challenges us to lean into the discomfort of change and “not just accept things on face value.” He describes the process of change as “dismantle, disrupt and then create something that’s socially just and more equitable.”
He cautions that “If you dismantle the whole thing you don’t want unintended consequences that harm children in the process. So, (we need to be) thoughtful and clear about what the path is.” These are the words of a thoughtful and purposeful leader.
Continuous improvement has been a mantra in business for many years and it seems he is challenging us to look for continuous improvement in our schools.
Change can be hard. There were challenges to change when girls were admitted to public high schools, when we integrated our schools and when we included special needs children into our public schools but I hope, in hindsight, that we all agree we are better for these changes.
What more can we do to help all of our children succeed?
To affect change, people of influence need to be advocates and allies. Dr. Menzel calls out white people because they — we — are people of influence who can support or impede change and must be engaged in the dialogue. Dr. Menzel acknowledges the role of the community in defining the values that help to shape change. In short, communities decide the kind of schools they want.
One of my favorite quotes is “when we know better we do better.” If we heed Dr. Menzel’s advice, lean into our discomfort to learn, understand and create meaningful change, we will do better. That is my hope and I stand with Dr. Menzel.
Editor’s note: Ms. Milhaven recently ended 12 consecutive years on the Scottsdale City Council.