Paradise Valley to close 3 schools despite complaints about lack of transparency

Published: Friday, February 9, 2024 - 2:47pm
Updated: Friday, February 9, 2024 - 6:25pm

The Paradise Valley Unified School District is closing three of its schools over a decline in enrollment. Sunset Canyon Elementary, Desert Springs Preparatory and Vista Verde Middle School will close at the end of this school year.

The district announced it was considering closing several schools in December. That was after the superintendent had a committee of stakeholders review enrollment trends.

Based on those findings, the governing board voted to close three schools at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8.

'Closed, secretive process'

Board member Sandra Christensen was the only one to vote against the closures, saying there was a lack of transparency in the process.

“What was the right thing to do?" said Christensen. "To have these committees open to the public or to surprise them right before Christmas with this information and then have people scramble to figure out if they’re going to have a spot for their child in a certain school?” 

Resident Susan Winder echoed that sentiment, criticizing the superintendent for holding closed committee meetings.

"Minutes of each of these meetings were never released to the public," Winder said. "You shouldn’t have used a closed, secretive process that will impact the students and their parents."

However, the district says the minutes were posted to its website.

Christensen has submitted a complaint to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The AG will determine whether any open meeting laws were violated.

District responds

In an email to KJZZ earlier this week, Mat Droge, the district's director of marketing and communications, provided this statement:

“In PVSchools, great care is taken to follow district policy and state statutes. Regarding the Superintendent’s Committee for school closure and boundary review, it’s important to make clear that the Governing Board did not take any action to form or establish a committee for the purpose of reviewing possible school closures or boundary changes. Nor did the Board vote on the committee or control the committee’s makeup, schedule, or purpose.

"The committee served only to provide a recommendation to the superintendent and his Cabinet. Thus giving district leadership the ability to form an official district recommendation, which will be presented to the Governing Board for review and vote on February 8, 2024.

"In response to the allegations of Open Meeting Law violation, first made in December 2023, the district immediately and proactively submitted a request for input from and formal review by the Arizona Attorney General’s office (pursuant to A.R.S. 15-253(b)). PVSchools is waiting for their expedited review.

Throughout the process, as is practice in PVSchools, the district has taken steps to ensure community feedback and participation while following all applicable laws.”

Note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Mat Droge's name.

More stories from KJZZ