Hundreds rally for leadership change at Scottsdale district over - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Hundreds rally for leadership change at Scottsdale district over corruption allegations

Protesters want change at Scottsdale Unified School District. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Protesters want change at Scottsdale Unified School District. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
About 200 people showed up. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) About 200 people showed up. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
SUSD COO Louis Hartwell will step down June 30. (Source: SUSD) SUSD COO Louis Hartwell will step down June 30. (Source: SUSD)
Some SUSD families have put out teal ribbons, showing they want a change in leadership. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Some SUSD families have put out teal ribbons, showing they want a change in leadership. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Parents and families took to the streets in Scottsdale, Tuesday. They're demanding a change in leadership at Scottsdale Unified School District amid allegations of conflict of interest and corruption.

Nearly 200 protesters held up signs and shouted chants outside of Coronado High School, as the SUSD governing board held an afternoon meeting.

[RAW VIDEO: Rally for change for SUSD]

There are allegations that the Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell sought favors from an unlicensed architect who was awarded millions of dollars in school projects.

"We need immediately a new superintendent. That's probably the most salient need right now. Our public funds have not been protected, and our teachers are not happy and that is a very bad combo," said Dana Fuller, who organized the rally. 

[READ MORE: Emails suggest SUSD superintendent sought favors from unlicensed architect]

Birdwell has denied the allegations, calling them "fake news." The Arizona Attorney General's Office is investigating SUSD's procurement process.

"I care because it's taxpayer dollars. Nobody wants to spend money foolishly," said Dan Drake, who attended the rally.

[RELATED: Scottsdale superintendent decries 'fake news' amid AG spending investigation]

As the rally grew louder, SUSD School Board president Barbara Perleberg acknowledged their concerns, saying, "Our job is to take all of these voices and weigh them together as we try to make the best, most informed decisions we can for our students."

The board-scheduled board meeting went on as planned with Birdwell in attendance. 

At that meeting, Birdwell announced SUSD's chief operations officer Louis Hartwell will step down when his contract ends on June 30. The controversial construction at the heart of today's protest is under Hartwell's direction. 

The district gave no reason why he is resigning. But we have learned he is the brother of superintendent Birdwell's friend and roommate. 

Birdwell hired him into the role of COO. 

This comes after the district's former chief financial officer Laura Smith resigned late last month. Smith is also the president of a consulting group called The Professional Group Public Consulting, Inc, or PGPC, which benefited from tens of thousands of dollars' worth of potential deals with the district.

[READ MORE: Scottsdale district's CFO resigns amid conflict of interest allegations]

Smith denied the conflict of interest allegations, saying she suspended her activity in PGPC when she became the CFO for the district. She said she signed a couple of orders by mistake and they weren't "sinister nor dishonest."

Some SUSD families are starting to put teal ribbons out on their front lawns to show people they want to see the Birdwell step down. 

Families say they plan to keep these ribbons up until they get their school leadership "back on the right track."

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