The first declared candidate for this year’s Kyrene School District Governing Board elections has an ongoing Twitter fight with a neighboring district board member and was ejected from a Kyrene board meeting last fall after calling members “cowards.”
But Ahwatukee resident and CPA Scott Weinberg last week showed no sign of moderating his public persona after he came close to being ejected again from a Kyrene meeting after tangling with board member Margaret Pratt.
Weinberg’s dustup occurred on Jan. 14 – the day after he filed a statement of interest in running for the Kyrene board with the Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools – as he questioned district spending for equity training sessions for district staff.
Weinberg became a regular speaker at Kyrene meetings about two years ago, seeking school resource officers for the district’s three middle schools in Ahwatukee – positions that neither Phoenix nor Kyrene say they can afford.
He has since become a vocal member of Purple for Parents, a conservative organization of parents that sprung up in reaction to the Red for Ed teachers’ movement in May 2018.
Purple for Parents have been strident opponents of the equity programs in both Kyrene and Chandler Unified school districts. Though the two programs are somewhat different, their purpose is to address dramatic gaps in achievement and discipline involving white students and students of color.
The Purple for Parents’ demands that both districts abolish the programs have intensified since Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson last November labeled the program in both districts “naked political propaganda” that encourages racism against whites.
Last Tuesday, Weinberg complained to the board about a four-day professional development training program for four Kyrene staffers that cost $40,000.
Shortly after he began addressing the equity program again, he announced:
“I’m also running for school board. I’m not doing it because I have any kind of political aspirations. I’m doing it because I’m a parent and cause there’s a lot that this board has done that I disagree.”
The statement of interest he filed with the county is required before candidates can get signatures on nominating petitions. Petitions must be filed between June 6 and July 6.
During his appearance before the board last week, Weinberg criticized the $40,000 training program and $8,000 paid to two staffers “to come in and talk to our children and indoctrinate them with social justice nonsense.”
Superintendent Jan Vesely said after the meeting Weinberg's statement was incorrect.
"The invoice of $40,000 provided four Corwin trainers over the course of eight full days who trained all 25 schools in Kyrene," she said.
Weinberg stands by his version of the bills.
During the meeting, Pratt asked board President Michael Myrick for a point of order because Weinberg kept turning to address the audience.
“Now you stop interrupting, Margaret,” Weinberg told Pratt, raising his voice when he mentioned her name.
“Why do I always get interrupted when I come up here and I talk?” he added.
When Myrick told him to “address the board, Mr Weinberg, not the audience.” Weinburg raised voice and said,
“How about the board stops these people from talking about Purple for Parents as a hate group. Why don’t you do a point of order for that, Margaret?”
He then left the podium.
During their campaign against the Red for Ed teachers who sought higher pay, Purple Parents in 2018 won an open endorsement on Facebook from Patriot Movement AZ, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
Weinberg was not involved in that Facebook post or the Purple for Parents demonstration that had prompted it.
Photos on the post showed members of both groups socializing and the movement posted a statement saying “Patriot Movement AZ stood with Purple For Parents this morning.”
Purple for Parents member Kristen Esposito posted, “Thank you for standing up for us parents.”
Both the Patriot Movement AZ and a smaller affiliated group called Arizona Patriots had harassed churches helping Mexican immigrants dropped off by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
They agreed to stop after they were sued in federal court last year.
Meanwhile, Weinberg later last week posted on Facebook that he had a run-in with Vesely in the district office lobby and with board member John King in the parking lot.
He said Vesely told him he violated state law by announcing his candidacy at the board meeting and that “then she kicked us out of the building.”
County Superintendent’s office spokesman Shane Wikfors told AFN in an email: “There is no statute prohibiting a candidate from announcing their candidacy during the call to the public. Calls to the public are meant for any members of the public to make any comments related/unrelated to the school board agenda items.”
Weinberg’s Facebook post went on to say that when he got out into the parking lot, King told him “in a very pompous tone” to propose solutions rather than criticize.
“I told him he would be hearing about our solution very soon but that didn’t change the fact that he allowed this evil equity program in our schools,” Weinberg wrote.
Weinberg’s ejection from an Oct. 29 Kyrene board meeting followed his efforts to persuade the board to hold off adopting a clarification in the district’s policy that forbids teachers from espousing “sectarian religious views or personal agenda.”
Weinberg told board Vice President Kevin Walsh and King, “It’s my impression that this board is not aware of what these terms really mean.”
When board members said there was no reason to delay a vote, Weinberg said, “All of you are absolute cowards. It’s just a disgrace.”
Myrick told him to leave the room.
Besides their regular attendance at Kyrene meetings, Weinberg and other Purple for Parents also have been regulars at Chandler Unified board sessions as well.
There, they have been equally vocal in their criticism of that district’s equity program as well as its sex education program.
Weinberg also has engaged in a weeks-long war of words on Twitter with Chandler board member Lindsay Love.
Weinburg, whose children attend Kyrene schools, on Dec. 12 asked Love on Twitter to provide examples of school policies that specifically target African-American students.
“If you spent less time harassing politicians, parents, teachers and children online and more time doing your own research, you won’t need to ask me,” Love told Weinberg after a back-and-forth exchange.
The feud continued with Love calling Weinberg a troll and he accusing Love of libel.
“Not used to not having the power to stalk and harass women Scott? It must be hard,” Love wrote in a tweet.
Love went on to describe Weinberg as a misogynist who believes women “should be in the kitchen instead of active community leaders.”
Weinberg fired back, writing in a Dec. 22 tweet: “Make me a sammich. And while you’re at it, make yourself a salad.”
In an interview, Weinberg admitted he poked fun at Love in his tweets. But he said he is “shocked” by how his online feud with Love escalated and finds the board member’s behavior “unethical.”
“As an elected official, I think that’s part of the job – you open yourself to some criticism,” Weinberg said. “She has a real hard time handling that.”
Weinberg added that Love blocked his profile on Twitter, preventing him from seeing her tweets.
An elected official’s right to block critics on social media has come under legal scrutiny in recent years. The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that President Trump violated the First Amendment rights of individuals he blocked on Twitter.
In a Dec. 6 tweet, Love explained her reasoning for blocking certain people.
“Black women face terrible harassment in online spaces,” she wrote. “So yes, I blocked the people responsible for stalking and harassing myself and my family.”
Purple for Parents members initially demanded that Love abstain from future decisions involving sex education because of her sister’s association with Planned Parenthood, which offers sex-ed programs.
But at a Chandler board meeting earlier this month, the Purple Parent members demanded she resign – which Love refused to do.
During a school board meeting last month, Love has said she won’t be recusing herself from any sex-ed decisions because Planned Parenthood has not had any business with CUSD.
Meanwhile, Kyrene School District spokeswoman Erin Helm issued a statement Sunday, noting “recent discourse in and around school board meetings, not only in Kyrene but other districts as well.”
“Kyrene School District welcomes public comment during these meetings and will continue to do so. However, speakers are expected to be aware of and adhere to proper procedures during the public comment portion of the meeting. In the past year, behavior witnessed in the Kyrene board room includes name calling, offensive language and speakers addressing the audience rather than the board. This behavior is disruptive to the meeting and may impede the board’s ability to conduct business.
“Kyrene is grateful that the majority of speakers are exceedingly respectful and professional and equally grateful to have such an engaged community supporting the district’s work.”
Staff writer Kevin Reagan contributed.