Potential school closures. Declining enrollment. Tight finances.
The Scottsdale Unified School District has big issues on its plate as it also grapples with Superintendent John Baracy's impending retirement in October.
And the approach the district takes to these problems will not only depend on who Baracy's successor is, but also whether the district governing board's makeup changes after November's election.
With three of the governing board's five seats up for grabs Nov. 7, the board could end up with a new majority directing the district's business.
"That could have an impact on what directions we have ongoing in the future," said Michael Helminski, principal at Scottsdale's Kiva Elementary School and president of Scottsdale Affiliated Administrators, the district's administrator union. "A change in superintendency sometimes brings changes in philosophy, but we already have so much established in our district that I can't imagine a shift in our philosophical stance."
The three board members whose terms expire this year still have to decide whether they're running. Eric Meyer and Jennifer Petersen both said they're undecided; Molly Holzer couldn't be reached for comment.
Still, Meyer said Baracy's retirement does make him more inclined to stay.
"The dilemma is, it's going to be a tough couple of years. Dr. Baracy is going to be gone, we're looking at closing schools, we're going to face a budget shortfall," he said. "The important thing for the district is to have stability. If the board were to stay stable, it would help administration to stay, too, because you don't know how this is going to play out."
New faces bring new ideas to the district, Petersen said, but keeping the current board intact would keep some stability with the district's top administrator leaving.
And if the board appoints an interim superintendent - and leaves the task of hiring a permanent replacement until after the new board takes office in January - it could mean an even bigger change.
"Realistically, the election could impact who the new superintendent is," Petersen said. "Just because (Baracy) leaves Oct. 3 it doesn't mean we have a new superintendent Oct. 4."
Former board member Christine Schild said she's worried about the instability a situation like that could cause.
Schild had been on the board for two years when Baracy took over for former Superintendent Barbara Erwin in July 2004. Voters ousted three board members that November, which is when Meyer, Holzer and Petersen took seats - the board members whose terms are up this year.
Schild said it took her about six months to learn things like the ins and outs of school finance and, once Baracy came, a lot of things remained in a holding pattern for about six months while he acclimated to Scottsdale, she said.
"The issues that will be faced by the board, if there was a new board in January, require a lot more getting your arms around than what I had to deal with coming in," Schild said. "I'm concerned that it's going to stall things again."
Baracy said he felt his learning curve was fairly short and that he benefitted from listening to the community early on.
And this year's election has the same potential for turnover, and thus changes in the direction from new leadership, that every district faces, he said.
"There can be these dramatic changes every two years," he said. "We've been fortunate in Scottsdale. We've had board members who are really child-centered in Scottsdale."
Current board president Karen Beckvar is also hopeful. She said Baracy did a great job acclimating because he was an experienced superintendent and she couldn't picture hiring an inexperienced superintendent this time around.
Also, Beckvar hopes to make a lot of progress on issues already on the table, especially facility questions, before Baracy leaves.
"I think Dr. Baracy and the current board have set a good course," Beckvar said. "And I think those will stay with whatever leadership we have."
Petersen, Holzer and Meyer have all picked up candidate packets from the Maricopa County Superintendent's office. So has Schild, although she said she doesn't think she'll run.
Three other community members have picked up candidate packets: Bonnie Sneed, co-president of Scottsdale's Arts in Education Council who has had two children graduate from the district; and Scottsdale residents Jack Taylor and Daniel Trotta.
Candidates can't officially file paperwork to run for governing board spots until July 7.