ST. DAVID — A group of St. David Unified School District parents are unhappy with Superintendent Arleen Kennedy, and are in the process of filing grievances against her.
On Jan. 21, more than 60 people attended a special board meeting where about 10 spoke up during the call to the public. While Kennedy was accused of bullying, targeting kids and creating a hostile work environment, some also spoke in support of her. Kennedy said these accusations came as a surprise to her, as she always has an open door policy and invites anyone with concerns or issues to drop in and talk to her.
“Staff and parents can stop by my office and discuss their grievances with me, but this has not been happening,” said Kennedy. “I question why people who are having problems with what I’m doing are not stopping in my office so we can work on resolving these issues.”
The Jan. 21 special board meeting was organized in response to a regularly scheduled board meeting on Jan. 14 where school staff and the community submitted about a dozen letters expressing concerns they were having with Kennedy, mostly regarding her interactions with students and staff, said Jay Davis, St. David School Board President.
“We’re in the process of investigating the complaints now,” he added. “My interactions with Dr. Kennedy have always been very positive, and I have eight kids that attend school in our district.”
Davis said he had started hearing about potential concerns about Kennedy back in December, so was aware that some people had issues with her.
“But I was surprised by the level of response we had at that Jan. 14 meeting,” he said.
While Davis, Kennedy and governing board members want to get the issues resolved, Davis said it’s important that people follow the proper grievance process, which did not happen in this situation.
“Walking into a school board meeting with a packet of letters with complaints is not how grievances are filed, and this is per board policy,” he said. “So, making the public aware of the proper steps for filing grievances was the purpose of the special meeting on Jan. 21.”
Per board policy, those grievances must first attempt to resolve the matter with one or more informal conferences, Davis said.
“These are school board policies that follow ASBA (Arizona School Boards Association) guidelines that the St. David School board has adopted, and we want the community and staff to follow those guidelines,” said Davis, who added that the community had submitted about a dozen letters expressing concerns about Kennedy at that first meeting.
Kennedy says she enjoys her administrative position in St. David where she has been serving as superintendent for 18 months.
“I love the students, I have a great staff and school board and St. David is a wonderful community,” said Kennedy, who was hired as superintendent in July 2018, replacing the district’s former superintendent Mark Goodman.
She holds a Doctorate of Education from Morgan State University out of Maryland, and says she is proud of the high school’s “A” rating, as well as the Elementary and Middle Schools’ high “B” ratings.
“The people filing the grievances against me, completely omitted that first step by skipping over the informal conference,” she said. “Proper procedures were not followed for filing a grievance at the Jan. 14 meeting, but as a token of good faith on behalf of the governing board and myself, we agreed to hold the special meeting on Jan. 21 to go over the grievance process.”
Kennedy said she has asked her secretary to reach out to those who are expressing concerns about her, as she wants to hold conferences in order to get the issues resolved.
“I welcome the opportunity to talk to the people who are having issues with me. I believe the governing board wants this matter to be resolved with positive outcomes for everyone. It’s not just about me, but it’s about the parents, staff and students. I work with a wonderful school board and feel they want to get these issues behind us as badly as I do.”