School board elections in East Valley and Scottsdale 2022: Candidates share ideas on K-12 key issues

Maricopa County has 58 public school districts. This year, 180 people have filed signatures to run for school board positions across Maricopa County.

The Arizona Republic sent a survey to all candidates who filed to run in 2022. We committed to publish their answers, to help voters in every school district make an informed choice.

What does a school board do?

A school board is responsible for setting the mission and policies of a district and makes some of the biggest decisions about how and what children learn.

Board members are responsible for allocating publcic resources, hiring and evaluating the superintendent, setting salaries for employees, approving curriculum materials and adopting the school calendar.

Where can I find information about candidates in my district?

You can find out your school district by signing in to your voter information at

Click on your school district to reach the information most quickly.

Because of the volume of answers, The Republic divided candidates' answers by region: Phoenix, East Valley and West Valley.

School board elections: West Valley | Phoenix | What school boards do

This article includes all responses received and will be updated as more candidates submit their answers. Send answers to reporter Renata Cló at The deadline is Oct. 12, the day early voting starts. 

Cave Creek Unified School District

Four people are running for two four-year seats on the Cave Creek Unified School District governing board.

Candidates are Brian Bunkers, Cindy Cummens, Jackie Ulmer and incumbent Scott Brown.

Bunkers and Ulmer did not respond to The Republic's attempts to reach them. Brown and Cummens did not submit answers by the time of publishing.

Chandler Unified School District

Five people are running for two four-year seats on the Chandler Unified School District governing board.

Candidates are Charlotte Golla, Kurt Rohrs, Marilou Estes, Patti Serrano and incumbent Lara Bruner.

Golla did not respond to The Republic's attempts to reach her.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you. 

Kurt Rohrs: "Kurt Rohrs has been a Chandler resident since 1995. He is a dedicated parent to his three children who have all been educated in the Chandler School District.

"Kurt has a passion for quality education and is a regular speaker at Chandler Unified School District Board meetings. He has worked with the District on their Citizen’s Budget Committee for fifteen years serving as Chairperson on two occasions. He also has worked extensively with kids as a coach for Soccer, Football, Basketball, Baseball, and Golf as he raised his own children. Kurt also volunteers with ICAN to help kids with their homework after school and is a certified Substitute Teacher working regularly in CUSD schools.

"Kurt is also active on the Public Policy Committee of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce and interacts regularly with civic leaders in the City of Chandler, Maricopa County, and throughout the state of Arizona. He is also a member of the Sun Lakes Rotary Club and helps with the Club's effort to help distribute dictionaries to every third-grader in the District.

"Kurt attained a graduate degree in Chemistry and an MBA in Finance. He spent eighteen years as a Corporate Executive in the High Tech industry and travelled extensively around the world working closely with people of many cultures. He currently runs his own small business in Chandler as a Financial Advisor."

Lara Bruner: "I am a parent and national award-winning educator who has dedicated my life to serving students. While earning my degree at Rutgers University, I volunteered at a school for children with autism and at an evening school teaching English, then substitute taught in the local schools. After graduating with honors, I worked with students who faced intellectual and learning challenges for 13 years, and since 2005 I have been teaching psychology to high school students. I have served on numerous local and state-wide education committees, developed and sponsored mental health clubs for students, presented at national education conferences, developed retention programs for teachers, and, of course, currently serve as a member of the CUSD Governing Board."

Marilou Estes: "My name is Marilou Estes. My family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1962 and I am a product of the Scottsdale public school system. I have lived in Chandler for 40 years, working in the corporate world for Motorola for part of that time. At 36 years old I decided to go back to school to get my degree in education from Arizona State University. I taught for 21 years in the Chandler Unified School District and during my tenure with CUSD, I completed my master’s degree. I have since retired but continued to substitute for the district."

Patti Serrano: "Hi, my name is Patti Serrano and I am running for our Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) Governing Board. I am an Arizona native, public school proud CUSD Mom, CUSD Alum (graduated from Hamilton HS) and come from a family rooted and invested in our district.

'I am Chandler Unified; I have distinct ties to our District. Ties that continually remind me of how much I love our District, choose it every day and want to always do better by our schools. Working in academic research at one of our public state universities, I have the experience to bring a data-oriented, grant seeking perspective to our Board, while listening and learning from our students first in order to help them reach their full academic potential and seek excellence for all of our students. As a Mom, I 'get it' and am ready to bring representation to CUSD that prioritizes the best Whole Child education we can offer at our schools; for our children, our educators (like my sister), our staff and community at large. I am happy to be your School Board candidate from our district for our district!

"I was born of immigrant parents with a strong community upbringing. Throughout school, I was continually inspired by passionate Teachers, particularly one who exemplified a life of community building. My educators did their best to meet their students where they were, acknowledging one cannot learn to the best of their ability if their basic needs are not met. I have adopted this approach in my leadership and professional career roles today.

"After graduating from Hamilton High School and Arizona State University with a Bachelor's of Science in Microbiology, I built a career in academic research. I have over two decades of experience working at ASU in research and education advancing children’s health. This largely involves helping develop and oversee the evaluation of child and family interventions. Beyond assisting in the development and proof of evidence-based child and family intervention programs, my work proudly consists of assisting expert Scientists in translating evidence-based interventions into community practice. This work often involves policy makers and community stakeholders locally and across service sectors, including schools, community mental health agencies, hospitals and courts.

"Serving our School Boards is very much a job in management and community representation. I come with clear project management and community advocacy receipts. I directly know what it takes to coordinate and bring stakeholders together to accomplish goals and outcomes in the best interest of a community.

"As a project director and coordinator in academic research and education advancing children’s health, my professional skills and current experience directly translate to this job.

"Above all, I see this role as one of community commitment and listening. My strong ties to stakeholders and leaders will be of great benefit to serving our School Board:

  • "Rooted family in CUSD Community.

  • "Bilingual, 1st Generation, daughter of immigrants who will provide direct and
    comfortable access to the Board from our Spanish speaking community members.

  • "Listening & sounding board — I have a track record of going to different parts of our community in order to listen and learn about different needs and experiences.

  • "Use of all resources against defunding of and attacks on our public schools as an elected official.

  • "Personal ties to pro-education advocacy groups."

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Kurt Rohrs: "I believe the 2020 Chandler School Board Election was fair."

Lara Bruner: "Yes."

Marilou Estes: "Yes, the election of 2020 was free and fair."

Patti Serrano: "Yes, I believe valid elections took place in 2020 and recognize our election process is a secure one that is meant to promote free and fair elections as part of our democracy."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Kurt Rohrs: "1) Catch up on learning loss from recent school closures. Some information indicates that our students are up to two years behind on their academic achievement. Many are falling further behind, and CUSD must take this seriously.

"2) Ensure that Reading and Math proficiency is greater than 50% at every school. CUSD should direct intensive resources to any school that falls far below this standard.

"3) Increase student retention. The district must compete effectively to increase their headcount by better satisfying the demands of parents who will ultimately make the decisions on which schools their children attend.

"4) Increase staff retention. It is critical to reduce the turnover rate for Certified (Teaching) Staff and Classified (non-Teaching) Staff. But CUSD must realize that issues with staffing aren’t always about money. Staff working conditions should be carefully considered as well. The District should work to determine the primary reasons that staff leave their positions and take appropriate corrective actions.

"5) Improve career and technical education. CUSD should refocus attention back to developing practical knowledge instead of social conditioning. The primary mission should be to develop functional adults capable of supporting themselves and contributing economically to the community."

Lara Bruner: "All children deserve excellent teachers who support strong academic, artistic, physical, and social growth for college, career, and life. To this end, every dollar must be maximized, with a focus on staff and resources that support the child. To accomplish this we must ensure a safe environment, reliable, up-to-date technology, and family and community communication to help every child grow to their full potential. The future-ready student must develop not only an understanding of the 'basics', but also critical thinking, resiliency, creativity, a strong work ethic, and a passion for life-long learning."

Marilou Estes: "I believe all children have the right to a quality public education.

"I believe all parents have the right to be a participant in the design of a quality public education.

"I believe partisanship to be a polarizing element in the design of a quality public education."

Patti Serrano: "1. Listening: This campaign isn't about Patti's experience in CUSD alone, it's about all of US. Listening is the base of our campaign. That's why you will continually find us out in our community listening, learning and becoming as informed as we can on what our CUSD residents and key stakeholders have to share. As we learn more, our service and representation will be better informed. This starts with those directly impacted by School Board decisions: our students!

"2. Whole Child Approach: I am committed to helping CUSD achieve and build on its current goals for the better, while holding ourselves accountable to the best school services we can offer. This means investing in the Whole Child and other evidence based approaches in order to help our students achieve full academic potential and produce positive outcomes in our schools, prepare tomorrow’s workforce, attract economic investment, and foster innovation. A Whole Child approach entails recognizing that one cannot learn to the best of their ability if their basic needs are not met. Just as we prioritize academic needs and goals, we must create the same space for our Student’s social, emotional and mental health needs.

"3. Data Driving: There exists meaningful information and lessons behind numbers to help the District improve. Coming from a background in academic research, I intend to request and review reports beyond budgets and collaborate with other Board Members, Administration, Educators and more to prioritize working towards better together utilizing information we likely already have. Examples include looking at and actively responding to:

  • "CUSD sub-groups across employment.

  • "Disciplinary action events across school sites.

  • "Demographics and academic achievement across school sites.

  • "Teacher and student retention rates.

  • "(Missing) Feedback loops on any parent, educator and staff surveys.

  • "Grant opportunities that fit our various needs."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Kurt Rohrs: "Learning Loss from School Shutdowns causing students to fall even further behind in their academic proficiency."

Lara Bruner: "The core of what we do in education is prepare students for the future. By the time students graduate, they need to be able to understand and analyze what they read, develop solutions to mathematical, scientific, and social problems, communicate in writing and face-to-face, build character traits, develop financial literacy, use technology efficiently, and understand their rights and responsibilities as a citizen. We ask a lot from our schools; can we honestly say we give them the resources to do all of this effectively? Are we willing to contribute what it takes to meet and exceed these expectations for our children? I hope Arizona’s answer will soon become a resounding 'yes.'"

Marilou Estes: "Funding. Even though the Governor and Legislature approved more than half a billion dollars for Arizona K-12 schools, the increased funding for the 2022-2023 school year could possibly bring Arizona schools from last-funded to 45th or 46th in the nation. The secondary result due to the state’s inadequate funding, is the current teacher shortage throughout the state."

Patti Serrano: "I believe the biggest issue impacting our schools and students statewide is a lack of investment. There has been a historical, continual lack of investment in our schools which translates to our education outcomes and economic outcomes (the students of today are the workforce and drivers of our economy tomorrow). Properly investing in our schools would mean better education outcomes, a stronger workforce, economy and attraction of companies and innovation. Proper investment would also mean a better capacity to support addressing current gaps that perpetuate across the full continuum of our student bodies, again, prioritizing a Whole Child approach."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Kurt Rohrs: "Transparency will be the key issue. Schools must clearly explain to Parents what they are doing with new programs and why they are doing it in order to gain their support."

Lara Bruner: "CUSD focuses on educating the whole child. Students must develop the ability to empathize with others and treat everyone with respect and dignity regardless of who they are or who they love. This includes fully understanding our nation’s racial history without attributing blame to any demographic of students, and recognizing the systemic obstacles our history presents us with today. As a board member, teacher, and parent who has listened to our young people daily for over thirty years, I have faith that our children will overcome the political culture wars if they have models in their schools and community that first seek to understand with openness and respect.

"Over the last ten years, with the growing usage of social media, I personally have witnessed the decline of interpersonal skills in my students. This is concerning for both their current well-being and their preparation for the workforce. Evidence-based social emotional curriculum and group project-based learning embedded into academic lessons helps to address this deficit. Partnering with local government, parents, and non-profits, we can provide education for families on communication with children and teens, signs of suicidal ideation, and limits on social media use. I am currently working with the district to create community forums where we create an evidenced-based, community-based, comprehensive plan to not only prevent suicides, but help students thrive.

"Equity is a core value of our nation and our community. We must meet students where they are, whether that means they require specialized instruction or acceleration and enrichment to meet their needs. School materials should reflect the variety of voices that make up this great nation. All students deserve a quality education. That is the beauty of public schools and why I have dedicated my life to serving in them."

Marilou Estes: "There have been many attempts by our legislators to introduce bills that reflect the troubling beliefs of a group of misinformed and partisan driven individuals who would like to dismantle public education.

"With that said, the board must follow the laws the legislature has enacted, whether or not they are in the best interest of public-school students.

"The banning of books is one of the reasons I decided to put my name in as a candidate for the school board. It is very unsettling that a very vocal minority of individuals are controlling the narrative and attempting to unduly influence the state and school board decisions.

"For example, CRT is a college level course and is not a part of Arizona K-12 curriculum. Legislation has recently been passed that confirms CRT must not be taught in Arizona’s public schools. CRT shouldn’t be an issue, but it is. Unfortunately, the myth persists that CRT is infiltrating the curriculum at all levels of instruction.

"Socio-emotional learning, like CRT, has become another example of the politicization of learning. It is my opinion that SEL is a vital component of a child’s learning experience. I believe that a good teacher should provide the organizational structure, management strategies, instructional rigor and emotional support needed to allow every child in the classroom to feel safe, secure, respected and valued as an individual and as part of the whole. As I noted in my platform, CRT and SEL are both examples of how partisanship is a 'polarizing element in the design of a quality education.'

"With respect to the LGBTQ community, every child regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation must be treated with respect by all members of the educational community. The school board members must set the tone to make this imperative a reality.

"Equity in education is necessary for learners to reach a common goal. Even though the goal is the same, not all learners need the same level of support to reach the common goal. The goal of the School Board is to ensure that no learner in the school district lacks the appropriate support level to reach the common goal."

Patti Serrano: "Centering false narratives takes away from work towards progress. I would encourage our Board to follow the evidence and hold ourselves accountable to what is known and proven: we know our public schools must follow curriculum as outlined by state policy. We know children have better education outcomes when they are able to feel safely ‘seen,’ related to and when differences are celebrated rather than suppressed. Safety to thrive and learn in an academic setting means many things, not just physical safety.

"We know social-emotional learning is key to supporting our children in order for them to achieve their full academic potential. When families are able to thrive, our students fare better. We know LGBTQ students need specific support that is more than often missing or lacking — leading to a significant increased risk of depression, death by suicide and suicide ideation that cannot go ignored. We know we have students across our state and within each district that fall across a diverse spectrum and not all students exist under the same exact circumstances. This means that these various differences and needs must be accounted for and addressed in order to help each student achieve their full potential. Proper response, financial investment and resources will look different across our student’s range. Recognizing this and taking action to see all of our students through in a way that results for reaching an equal outcome is the definition of equity. If we truly want to do well by all of our students, regardless of their conditions, we must address equity.

"All of these aforementioned known issues and challenges relate to equity in some way.  Knowing scientific literature should hold school boards accountable to concrete responses and measurable action. I would like to encourage our district to make such literature available as a resource for district members who may have questions related to these issues. I also strongly encourage our district to better involve those directly impacted by these issues and board decisions/activities: our district students."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Kurt Rohrs: "School Choice is a reality that District Schools must face up to. We welcome the competition and intend to present CUSD as the best choice available to Parents for their children. Competition has driven some great innovations in CUSD and has made us a much better District."

Lara Bruner: "If Arizona aspires to be a hub for innovation in the global market, the state legislature and governor’s office must bring our public education funding up to the national average. The majority of Arizona citizens agree. So why is this not happening? Anti-public education politicians distract voters with disingenuous claims of waste so they can divert our tax dollars to vouchers for private schools with no accountability for students or taxpayers. School boards have no authority over school vouchers as it is the purview of the state legislature.

"CUSD works hard to maximize every dollar to the benefit of students, but we could do so much more if we were adequately funded. Imagine a world where teaching has dozens of qualified candidates for each position, where CTE programs can provide students with state-of-the-art materials, where class sizes allow teachers to spend significant time with each student, where technology in schools aligns with what is available in industry, where our legislators are guided by the citizens’ desire to support public schools."

Marilou Estes: "Truth be told … the state needs to do much better at funding public education.

"Vouchers, in its inception, was designed to provide students with special needs and their siblings a choice of which school would best fit their needs. Unfortunately, since 2011, legislation has substantially expanded voucher qualifications diverting $155 million dollars of state tax revenue from free public education to students who attend private/parochial schools and including educational expenses such as tuition, fees, and other miscellaneous educational costs.

"I had no problem with the original intent of ESAs, however, it has now morphed into a vehicle to potentially provide all Arizona students with the opportunity to attend private and religious schools on taxpayer dollars, and I cannot support that."

Patti Serrano: "The state should support public education by properly investing in our schools as opposed to funneling out tax payer dollars into for-profit institutions. The reality is that we fall short serving the over 90% of families like mine that choose and rely on public schools every day when it comes to funding our schools and paying Educators a deserved, competitive salary. This leads to the consistent poor outcomes Arizona schools fall victim to: ranking 48 in school quality and funding, 49 in per-pupil spending and close to bottom, 44, in teacher pay. This all translates to our inability to properly meet our student’s needs. Knowing there isn’t enough in the pot for our public schools alone, it makes no reasonable sense to take money out towards expanding school vouchers towards for-profit schools that are not held accountable in the same way, and are not held to the same standards as our public schools. Data shows these vouchers are majority utilized by those who are already attending and able to afford private schools — a misuse of public funds at the detriment of the majority of families with children in public schools across the state. Expanding school vouchers also directly defies the proven will of the majority of Arizonans who voted against ESA vouchers in 2018. We will not make needed progress with our public schools so long as Arizona law makers continue to choose lining the pockets of these profit making entities over Arizona’s children and future."

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Kurt Rohrs: "We cannot afford to lose any more experienced Teachers out of our classrooms. We must understand why these staff members leave their positions and take appropriate actions to correct those issues. It is not always simply a matter of more money. Teacher stress from overwhelming workloads needs to be properly addressed."

Lara Bruner: "The number one factor that determines student success is the teacher in the classroom. Unfortunately, the number of applicants that AZ schools receive has significantly declined, and CUSD has not been immune. As I have visited 40+ schools over my four years on the board, teachers have shared that they want to feel respect and support from the community, have the time and resources to do their jobs, and receive competitive salaries. With adequate financial support, school leaders can hire more educators and support staff so that teachers will not be swamped with numerous other duties and large class sizes. Instructional assistants have also been difficult to attract recently, so I have worked with human resources to use some carry-over funds to increase the pay for paraprofessionals in general and special needs classrooms.

"In addition, districts should always be asking how they can best support educators. Frequent and responsive interactions with supervisors and regular pulse surveys that ask relevant questions regarding testing requirements, safety procedures, leadership decisions, curriculum changes, and discipline are vital to a healthy and thriving school district. Additionally, I have been advocating for a regular meet-and-confer process so staff can proactively address issues with administration on a regular basis. Leadership that listens and takes action is key to retaining quality staff. "

Marilou Estes: "As a board member and former Chandler teacher, I want to be a voice for Chandler teachers and make sure that CUSD is committed to attract and retain the high quality of teachers, nurses and supporting staff who are currently in the district."

Patti Serrano: "This goes back to state investments that are lacking. As an elected official, I intend to use my voice to communicate to and hold our state legislature accountable to our school’s needs for proper funding to attract and retain qualified professionals as our teachers, staff and school nurses. These positions need investment, support and protection. On the local district level, I intend to work with our current teachers, staff and school nurses to best assess their situation and work together to identify solutions, goals and an accountable schedule to achieve retainment and testimonies for driving referrals and attracting talent into the District. Our workers from bus drivers to support staff to AP teachers and more must be treated with dignity and deserved recognition of their craft."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Kurt Rohrs: "We are fortunate that the Chandler District is well funded and well supported by the community through their Bond Elections. It is disappointing that not all Districts are as fortunate. That is where the State needs to step in to make sure that they have adequate facilities to educate their students."

Lara Bruner: "CUSD has enjoyed the continual financial support of the local community. The passage of bonds has allowed the district to build and maintain excellent facilities across the district. We are now focused on replacing roofs and more efficient cooling systems and upgrading safety measures such as fences and secured single entry points. Currently, we are also conducting a study on efficient space utilization to determine how to maximize the district’s facilities. I will be listening to input from members of each school community involved so we can proactively address enrollment shifts from the northern to the southeastern part of the district.

In addition to buildings, capital funds are used to purchase instructional technology and digital infrastructure for wi-fi access. I believe this to be of vital importance to our students and staff. During the last four years, I have pushed to greatly increase digital preparedness for our students with the help of ESSER funds, bond dollars, and industry partnerships with Dell and Intel. I look forward to expanding these partnerships to help grow future-ready students."

Marilou Estes: "Chandler Unified School District has been fortunate to see the district’s enrollment grow at a steady pace over the last 35-40 years. Voters in the CUSD area have been supportive of passing overrides and bonds in order for the district to maintain older facilities and build new schools. Past governing boards and administrations developed a long-term model to address maintenance and repair for existing facilities and plan for new construction to accommodate new growth. As the growth slows, CUSD school board members should build on the foundation laid by past boards and administrations to ensure physical plants and district facilities continue to provide and support a quality learning environment."

Patti Serrano: "Coming from a background working in grant funded studies, I plan to encourage our district to seek out grants for a variety of needs, including repairs and updates, while improving on energy efficiency. I will also shed light on the need to honor the value and history of our original District schools by ensuring we thoroughly evaluate all of our schools and assess them to determine what needs to be done in order to make sure they are all operating to their best capacity. Data predictions show that it is our older schools that are most likely to grow and retain student populations (reflective of what census data shows looking towards the year 2030); this means we should be very careful to ensure these schools are operating at the level our newer schools are."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Lara Bruner: "I want to thank parents, educators, and the community as a whole for all the support they continue to give Chandler Unified School District. It is because of you that we have such amazing schools for our children!"

Marilou Estes: "I taught in CUSD for 21 years at the elementary school level at three different schools within the district. I taught at Galveston, Bologna and Basha elementary and participated in many levels of leadership within each of those schools. I am a stepmom to adult children, all of whom attended CUSD schools at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.

I continue to be involved in educational issues: getting signatures for many educational ballot initiatives, supporting Red for Ed teacher movement at the capital, and I am endorsed by Arizona Save Our Schools as a Public Schools Proud candidate."

Patti Serrano: "I am the only CUSD Board Candidate that is from our district for our district with a proven pro-education record advocating for our public schools. From attending board meetings, making public comments, sending emails, organizing around pro-education issues and working in academic research to bring evidence-based programs proven to support Arizona families into practice, I know I am the right person for this Board today. We currently do not have one District Mother serving on the Board with firsthand experience and testimony to Board decisions that directly impact our families. I have also came to observe the degrees of separation Board Members may have to our contemporary times and current school experience. Electing a CUSD Mom, Alum and engaged community member like me, Patti Serrano, to our board would mean progress and give our students and families greater inclusiveness with meaningful representation. This board seat will belong to our community. I look forward to being the first elected Latina to our Board."

East Valley Institute of Technology, District 5

Two people are running for one open four-year term on the East Valley Institute of Technology governing board for District No. 5.

Candidates are Cien Hiatt Luke and Laura Metcalfe.

Hiatt Luke did not submit her answers by the time of publishing.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you. 

Laura Metcalfe: "I have lived in Arizona all of my life, and I've lived in Maricopa County for most of my life, so I'm familiar with the issues that are present here. I am an educator, with 27 years of service in Arizona public schools. Positions I've held include high school business teacher, high school principal, career and technical education director, grant writer, public information officer, and special education director. I've also attended Arizona universities. My educational credentials include a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Communication and Management from Arizona State University, a Master of Education and Doctorate of Education, both in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University."

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Laura Metcalfe: "Yes, the 2020 election results were certified across the country, and the courts have clearly proven that the election was fair and legal."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Laura Metcalfe: "Trade industries are suffering from a lack of qualified employees to work in areas, such as nursing, automotive repair, construction, and others. The lack of qualified employees slows the outcomes of businesses, increases prices for goods and services, and adds wait times for products and services consumers need and want. Shortages such as these turn into an economic burden for all. East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) is an outstanding source for providing the trades industries with highly qualified employees, it opens educational opportunities for adults and high school students, and it leads to increased economic benefits for everyone. I will work to make sure this cycle works: trades industries benefit from qualified employees, adults and high school students benefit from educational opportunities, and communities benefit from lower priced and increased amounts of goods and services." 

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Laura Metcalfe: "The biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona is a lack of qualified teachers, and East Valley Institute of Technology is also suffering within this crisis. Education in Arizona suffers from low teacher salaries, high workloads, and a lack of resources to support teachers. Decades of irresponsible budget cuts have provided us with a teacher shortage crisis we see now, and it will continue into the future. East Valley Institute of Technology cannot effectively recruit and retain qualified and certified teachers to educate the adults and high school students which are needed in areas such as nursing, automotive repair, and construction for example. Furthermore, the public school system in Arizona cannot withstand any more budget reductions. It is a crisis situation and it needs to be immediately rectified. I plan to work with my colleagues on the East Valley Institute of Technology Governing Board, the superintendent, and industry partners to plan a vibrant 3-part strategy to immediately address the shortage of teachers. My Three Part Solution involves working with industry to provide trainers within their areas to earn credentials to teach at EVIT, working with local colleges and universities to provide occupational and graduate-level certification programs in EVIT content areas, and improving the culture and climate of education to attract and retain teachers for many years."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Laura Metcalfe: "Schools and school districts that receive state and federal funding are not allowed to discriminate against any student based on race, color, and national origin, sex, disability, and on the basis of age. ALL students have a right to learn and grow in a positive and supportive learning environment, to have their needs identified and met, and to be afforded an education that is respectful and applicable to their goals. This means that any student of any background should be provided equitable opportunities to learn, grow, achieve, and determine their future, no matter where they are from, and no matter who they are. As a board member of East Valley Institute of Technology I will uphold and ensure that the policies and procedures are in place to ensure that East Valley Institute of Technology consistently meets legal and professional actions ensuring that each student is not overlooked and an equitable and viable education is in place for all. I am qualified and motivated to address these issues as a member of the Governing Board of East Valley Institute of Technology to ensure that no student is overlooked, at any level." 

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Laura Metcalfe: "The state should fully fund all public education, including East Valley Institute of Technology. This is how I believe it can and should be supported, and it can be accomplished with understanding the needs of schools, teachers, and communities, and placing public education as a priority that leads to positive economic development for the entire state. Education is an investment in the future, and fully funding it will be a return on investment.

"I am fully against expanding school vouchers."

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Laura Metcalfe: "To meet the needs of qualified teachers for East Valley of Institute of Technology, I offer a Three-Part Solution. One, partnerships with trade organizations that offer apprenticeship programs and other training opportunities should be established. There are highly qualified and experienced instructors in place in industry now, but there are not enough of these outstanding educators to go around. Second, building and expanding programs with local and state-level colleges and universities to offer low-cost or free educational opportunities to obtain state teaching certifications in career and technical education program areas will create a vibrant pipeline of instructors in the programs East Valley Institute of Technology offers. The Teacher Promise Program is already in place for undergraduate programs at community college and state universities in education, but expanding this to occupational areas and graduate-level teacher training, such as in nursing, automotive technology, construction and other areas, with free tuition, will be instrumental in meeting the massive teacher shortage. Three, teacher retention efforts such as relevant professional training in each content area, industry-recognized equipment and materials included in each program, and a climate and culture focused on teacher needs, will help to ensure teachers at East Valley Institute of Technology are provided with the resources they need to thrive in their programs, and offer the best education for adults and high school students."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Laura Metcalfe: "Building maintenance and improvements are an essential part of fully funding education in Arizona, and East Valley Institute of Technology should receive adequate funding to meet these needs. The Governing Board should not have to make a decision to not hire teachers or reduce program offerings to adults and high school students in order to adequately maintain buildings and facilities. I will work with the Arizona School Boards Association, trades organizations, and other entities to communicate a clear message to lawmakers to provide sufficient facilities funding to ensure safe, and functional learning spaces."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Laura Metcalfe: "EVIT is important to the East Valley because it provides quality trade professionals, strengthening businesses and making quality services more accessible to Arizonians. I am committed to ensuring that trade industries receive high quality employees, adults and high school students continue to have expanded educational opportunities that meet their goals, and that communities are able to benefit from the goods and services to meet their everyday needs. Thank you for voting all the way down the ballot!"

Fountain Hills Unified School District

Six people are running for three open four-year seats on the Fountain Hills Unified School District governing board.

Candidates are Jenny Amstutz, Libby Settle, Lilian Acker, Madicyn Reid, Tara Lamar and incumbent Judy Rutkowski.

Amstutz, Settle and Tamar did not respond to The Republic's attempts to reach them. Rutkowski declined to participate in the article. Reid did not send her answers by the time of publishing.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you. 

Lilian Acker: "My name is Lillian Acker and I have been living in Maricopa County for 9 years. My husband and I moved here from Ohio when I retired from teaching. I taught for over 25 years in the public school systems in Illinois and Ohio. I taught elementary, middle and high school. Most of my career was at the high school level where I taught Spanish and English as a Second Language. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree with majors in both Spanish and Elementary Education; a Masters in Education in Bilingual Education; and Administrative Certifications from both Illinois and Ohio. I have worked with the Ohio Department of Education by advocating for our students, writing testing material, administering Federal and State requirements and advising School Districts. I was instrumental in forming the Central Ohio ESL Consortium. I also taught at the University level and, after retiring, was an advisor to student teachers.

"My husband and I have been married for 49 years, have 4 children and 3 grandchildren. I stayed home to raise my children for many years. At that time, I volunteered in their schools and began my career as a professional volunteer, being very active in what our family considers important causes in relation to our faith and help for those in need. I was president of ORT (an organization that funds technical and vocational schools all over the world) in two different States and also worked on the National level."

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Lilian Acker: "I believe the 2020 election results were accurate. All officials overseeing the 2020 election said that it was the most secure election in our history. We should all feel confident that our votes count."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Lilian Acker: "As a school board member, I will advocate for resources to provide a nourishing and challenging academic environment, for better pay for teachers and staff to attract the best educators, and for a safe school environment while being cognizant of the need for fiscal responsibility. This will lead to well-educated students with critical thinking skills and teachers and staff who are valued. Excellent schools will contribute to a vibrant community."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Lilian Acker: "The biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona is the lack and diversion of funding for the public schools. The fact that money could be diverted to charter or private schools via the parents will weaken our public schools. We need to fully fund public schools in order to provide a robust education to our students."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Lilian Acker: "There are many challenges these days regarding the national rhetoric related to several topics. I will tell the truth: there is no curriculum to do with critical race theory in K-12. Critical race theory has not and is not taught in elementary and high schools. LGBTQ students do exist and we should never marginalize them and we need to ensure that they feel safe in our schools and communities. Our schools must be a  safe place for all. No matter a person’s race, religion, or sexual orientation, he or she should be comfortable and secure in our schools. I will make sure, as a board member, that we embrace our differences and grow from them as intelligent individuals."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Lilian Acker: "I do not believe school vouchers should be expanded. We have a public school system that should receive adequate financial support from the state. Charter schools are a form of private education and families that wish not to take advantage of our public schools should pay to send their children to charter or other private schools."

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Lilian Acker: "The best way to address teacher, professional, and school nurse shortages is to treat them as the professionals they are and to pay them at an appropriate level. We should employ only individuals who have been awarded appropriate educational degrees from accredited colleges and universities."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Lilian Acker: "My plan to address needed repairs and updates is to work with the state, county, and local officials to address such needs in their budgets and to explore whether sensible bond issues also can address such needs. Good schools make for good communities and protect the values of homes and properties."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Lilian Acker: "I am an advocate and supporter for public schools. I believe in public schools and all persons serving on school boards should believe in, support, and advocate for our public schools. I am a proud retired member of the NEA and was a representative to the NEA for the school districts where I taught. I will be an advocate for teachers unions."

Gilbert Unified School District

Five candidates filed signatures to run for two open four-year seats on the Gilbert Unified School District governing board.

Candidates include Chad Thompson, Collette Evans, Trina Jonas and incumbent Jill Humpherys. Jesse Brainard was removed from the ballot.

Ronda Page will be appointed to a two-year term.

Thompson and Evans did not submit their answers by the time of publishing. Jonas declined to submit her answers.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you. 

Jill Humpherys: "I have lived in Maricopa County and Gilbert for 20 years. I am a stay-at-home mom who raised 5 children. I have served on the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board for 10 years.

"During my service on the GPS Board, I have visited schools regularly; supported the performing arts, fine arts, and sports; made salaries competitive while balancing the budget, adopted new curriculum, updated technology, and purchased new buses; secured GPS facilities and provided crisis intervention supports to enhance culture and safety for all students; and provided more choices for students.

"I also served as Arizona School Board Association Co-Director for Maricopa County for 5 years. In 2021, I received the School Connect Collaborative Leadership Award."

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Jill Humpherys: "Yes, the 2020 election was fair and accurate as our Maricopa County Supervisors and Recorder have demonstrated."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Jill Humpherys: "I believe in putting kids first and collaborative leadership. I am focusing on educating the whole child, smaller class sizes, more students taking advanced placement classes, encouraging community engagement through a Love Your School Day, and using the Arizona Progress Meter to measure progress towards goals."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Jill Humpherys: "There are two critical issues at this time that need to be addressed:  the teacher and staff shortage and the Aggregate Expenditure Limit.

"The shortage of teachers and staff imperils the education of our students. Being valued as a professional, scholarship opportunities, and higher pay will attract people to public education. This means we need our governor and legislators to value our public education system, to convey appreciation for the hard work of teachers and staff, and to value the students they serve.

"The Aggregate Expenditure Limit was adopted into the State Constitution in 1980. It is outdated. The Governor must call a special session to address the issue. If the Aggregate Expenditure Limit is not changed, there will be $2 billion in cuts to district budgets."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Jill Humpherys: "I navigate that challenge by telling the truth. We are teaching the Arizona Academic Standards set by the State Board of Education appointed by the Governor per the State Constitution. We are not teaching Critical Race Theory. Social-emotional learning was pioneered by Fred Rogers in his preschool television program, when he helped children to manage their emotions, be responsible, and care about others. Social-emotional learning helps students be ready to learn. Students are growing up in a diverse environment. We are teaching them critical thinking skills, communication skills, work ethic, and to treat others with respect and kindness in spite of differences."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Jill Humpherys: "Our Governor and our legislature should understand how our public education system, established by our State Constitution, works. They have the responsibility to fund schools while school boards make decisions for their community about staff, policy, budget, and curriculum.

"Our public schools are doing an excellent job under difficult circumstances. For Arizona schools to flourish, we need to be competitive with other states in professional regard, salaries, smaller class sizes, updated curriculum and technology, and safe schools.

"We have robust school choice already. I am not in favor of voucher expansion. A recent poll by the Center for the Future of Arizona shows that voters do not support voucher expansion. A similar law referred to the ballot in 2018 was defeated by 65% no to 35% yes."

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Jill Humpherys: "Our district is providing instruction to help people who already have a bachelor’s degree to become certified. As a board member, I have worked to make staff salaries and benefits competitive. We work to provide a culture of appreciation and support for our staff. It is essential that our state leaders help school districts have the funds to provide regular raises and decrease class sizes. I regularly use Request to Speak to comment on legislation and testify in the Senate and House Education Committees."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Jill Humpherys: "Gilbert Public Schools is very fortunate that our voters have supported our bond elections, giving us the funds needed to renovate and update our schools, which makes them safer and more appealing to our students and community."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Jill Humpherys: "Our public schools are the cornerstone of our democracy. Our students deserve a high-quality education that helps them pursue their dreams, provide for their families, participate in democracy, and give back to their community. Investing in our students is an investment in the future of our state. I believe in putting kids first and collaborative leadership. I would appreciate your vote in November."

Higley Unified School District

Six candidates filed signatures to run for two open four-year seats on the Higley Unified School District governing board.

Candidates are Amanda Wade, Anna Van Hoek, Brooke Garrett and Roy Morales. Robert Lilienthal was removed from the ballot, and Curt Vurpillat dropped out of the race.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you. 

Amanda Wade is running for a seat on the Higley Unified School District governing board.
Amanda Wade is running for a seat on the Higley Unified School District governing board.

Amanda Wade: "My name is Amanda Wade and I am a born and raised Arizona native, having spent the first 19 years of my life in Mesa. I married my husband in 2006 and moved to North Carolina while he was in the Army as an Airborne medic. We returned to Arizona where I finished my undergrad at ASU and then received a Masters's in Secondary Education from Grand Canyon University in 2011. I started my teaching career in the Higley School district, having student-taught in the fall of 2011 before becoming an official Higley employee in February of 2012. I then was hired at Williams Field High in the fall of 2012 and I remained at Williams Field until May of 2015. From June of 2015 to June of 2019 I lived and taught in Maryland, while my husband was in medical school at Howard University. After medical school my husband was placed at Phoenix Children’s Hospital for his residency and in the summer of 2019 we returned to our home in Gilbert and I went back to teaching at Williams Field High School. My two children attend school in the Higley District and in May of 2021 I decided to step away from teaching and pursue my dream of law school."

Anna Van Hoek: "My husband and I moved to Gilbert in 2003 from Burbank, CA. We have lived in the Higley district since 2006 and in the Higley schools since 2010. We are business owners, but I’ve also worked in the corporate banking world for the last 19 years. Our 2 daughters have attended Chaparral Elementary, Bridges Elementary, Sossaman Middle School and Williams Field High School. I’ve been a long-time parental rights advocate and have 25+ years of experience in finance, analytics and accounting."

Brooke Garrett: "My name is Brooke Garrett. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2005 so he could begin his neurosurgery residency training at Barrow Brain and Spine. I received my degree in Elementary Education and taught second grade before having children of my own. We have lived in the Higley Unified School District in Gilbert for the last 10 years. We have 5 children, 2 sons that have graduated from Higley High School, and 3 daughters currently enrolled in Higley High school, Sossaman Middle School, and San Tan Elementary. All of our children have thrived in HUSD and I feel our district provides an excellent education, that I plan to continue to grow and increase. I have volunteered as Classroom mom, Music Masterpiece teacher, Art Masterpiece teacher, Athletic Boosters treasurer, San Tan Elementary PTO President, co-founded the Higley High Uknighted Kingdom Booster, wherein I am currently serving as the Booster President. I have been awarded the Higley School District Points of Pride Award for my volunteer service 3 times from 3 separate principals for the work I’ve done in the various schools. I believe strongly that collaborating with the school systems and community we can see great improvement and successful partnership."

Roy Morales: "I am a husband, a father of four and a 12-year resident of Gilbert and have lived in the Valley for over 30 years. I have a BS in Accounting and earned my MBA from Grand Canyon University. I spent 25 years in the banking sector in various roles that includes Sales, Operations & Fraud Investigations. Currently, I am a Operations Support Manager with a national bank. Additionally, I served as a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol, auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force for five years. My duties included Public Affairs and Recruiting Officer as well as an air crew member in search and rescue. I have mentored cadets ranging from 12 to 20 years old in servant leadership, STEM and cyber-security achievements.

"I am a product of public education, first as a hard-of-hearing student in special education. I eventually mainstreamed into the general population with help of tremendous teachers and staff. I am grateful for what public schools have offered for me in my academic career." 

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Amanda Wade: "Yes I do. We have had not only our own state election officials, many of whom were members of the losing political party express both confidence in and the accuracy of our election process here in Arizona. We had additional court proceedings and audits that further confirmed their earlier assessments. We had federal officials, including the U.S. Attorney General, express confidence in our elections. Furthermore, continued testimony of individuals involved in the process that have become public over the last few months solidifies that the election was accurately recorded."

Anna Van Hoek: "There have been many arrested related to the 2020 elections. We must be able to trust the process. Election integrity is necessary for voters to know that their votes will count."

Brooke Garrett: "The results of the 2020 election have no bearing on my qualifications as a Higley School District Governing Board member. It is now 2022. I’m looking to the future."

Roy Morales: "It would be naive to think that elections are free of fraud, unreported errors or people engaged in the complicity or coverup of these acts. In my time as a fraud analyst, I’ve learned that no process, group or entity are immune from these acts.

"The investigations into the results of Arizona’s 2020 election to date, are not comprehensive in its findings. I do hope that future investigations will continue to bear light to any and all deficiencies. Any irregularities found, need to be corrected through our legislative and judicial process. Arizona elections need to be held with the highest integrity to ensure voters are confident in their election process, both in the past and going forward."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Amanda Wade: "Recognizing that school board members are limited in their power, my platform is to help guide and make decisions for the Higley School District that help to both strengthen Higley and prepare all Higley students for not only success within our school system but beyond as well. For Higley that means making the best decisions as we grow in population, this includes examining existing facilities, doing all we can to bring in the most qualified teachers and staff, staff retention, and updating curriculum to continue to make Higley competitive."

Anna Van Hoek: "The primary focus is the students, and their academic achievement needs to be a priority.

"Increasing parental involvement is a priority. Parental involvement is key to a student's academic achievement.

"Increasing the academic achievement of our students not only benefits the students, but also the district. Our schools will be the choice of parents as they seek out the best educational opportunity for their children. Increased parental involvement also has extra benefits to out districts, schools and teachers. Parents that are active in our schools will provide referrals to our district, volunteer in our schools, and be a resource to our teachers. The district should make every effort to encourage attendance and participation in governing board meetings. When parents have an understanding of what their children are learning and how the funds are being utilized, they are typically encouraged to take an active role in their children's education. Making it easy as possible for them to be more involved is also important.

"Last but not least, spending and curriculum transparency. Taxpayers must know how wisely their money is being spent and parents need to be aware of what their children are learning."

Brooke Garrett: "Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, my platform is to hold the Superintendent accountable to all policies, regulations, safety protocols, and to our Strategic Plan and Board Initiatives."

Roy Morales: "The job as a board member is to be the advocate and the voice of the community. Within that community, the pinnacle group are the students and parents of this district. Their voices should be the loudest and be given the special attention that they deserve.

"Emphasis should be placed in promoting the importance of academic rigor and excellence to our students. Academic virtue will teach students self-discipline, perseverance and overcoming adversity under the rigors of academia and later into their careers. I will also encourage parents and community members to participate in the shaping of the curriculum and policies by attending school board meetings, volunteerism and congregating in small gatherings to voice their ideas and concerns with the district. Parent participation provides students examples of the importance and impact of civic involvement has in their community, their lives, and for generations to come.

"Together, with parents’ involvement and instilling academic excellence, the bond between parents and their children will fortify their relationship, while elevating Higley Unified School District, as the premier option for families. In addition, it will allow HUSD to be competitive against other institutions for ESA funds. In return, this healthy competition between institutions will strengthen our schools; making the southeast valley a more desirable place to raise a family.

"Lastly, transparency between the district and the community is paramount to the success of both parties. The district is funded by the taxpayers at both the local and state level. The district is beholden to be transparent in all matters relating to finances and curriculum. Every penny needs to be accounted for and every single text-book, on-line class, and any and all class materials used, needs to be accessible to ALL members of the community as well as prospective parents and community members. Transparency creates trust and trust creates prosperity."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Amanda Wade: "In my opinion, the biggest issue that is impacting K-12 students in Arizona is staffing shortages and the reasons that teachers and support staff are walking away from education. Our education system ranks near the bottom amongst all states in the U.S. and the reasons for that are complex and important. However, the most pressing issue is the fact that we do not have enough teachers, qualified teachers who have spent the time learning the best ways to educate a diverse population of students, to fill classrooms in our state. Pre-pandemic we didn’t have enough certified staff and had open staffing positions filled with long-term substitutes. Post-pandemic the situation has become dire and the measures we are taking to address it are misguided. Opening teaching to less prepared individuals so we have bodies to fill a classroom is how we undervalue our children’s education. Focusing on making teaching a desirable career path is imperative and doing all we can to show teachers and support staff that they matter is how we provide for our students as well. We could have the best facilities, books, and access to technology available but none of that will make a difference if there aren’t qualified individuals implementing how they are used."

Anna Van Hoek: "The pandemic and politics wreaked havoc on our kids and their educators. Most of our students have suffered learning loss, and the existing achievement gaps have become even greater. If you look at the most current HUSD data available (2020-2021), all age groups in math, proficient and highly proficient combined was only 56% and ELA was 58%. These numbers are terrible. It is imperative that we return to our original mission of providing an excellent education and focus on academic rigor.

"The foundation for future learning requires the ability to read. As required, all HUSD students should be reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade. Target literacy: ensure quality professional development for teachers is available, and support literacy coaches.

"Bullying, vaping, drugs and a lack of respect for adults seems to be a huge problem at the High School level. We need to bring back the DARE program. I also believe that having SROs in school would help with this as well.

"Another big challenge for high schools is also ensuring that HUSD graduates are college ready. It is a disservice to students that move onto college to have to take remedial courses in college that don't count for credit yet cost the students time and money. A focus on academic rigor over activism will improve this issue that causes added expense and discouragement, which can lead to potential drop-out."

Brooke Garrett: "The biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona is appropriate funding. Arizona consistently ranks in the bottom 5 states for spending per pupil. Our community is only as good as the education we provide. With the growing focus on school choice and charter schools, we need to put public education at the forefront. As a Governing Board Member of a public school system, I plan to help do that."

Roy Morales: "First, is the issue of sub-par proficiency scores in both English, Language & Arts (ELA) and Math. Last year, HUSD reported both in proficiency and highly proficiency scores (for all grades), less than 50% rating in both ELA and math. When you translate that into a letter grade, that is a “F” on their report card. That is a dismal record when you see that more than 52% of the students are not meeting the minimum proficiency. We should turn our focus and resources in boosting those proficiency scores, across all grade levels. This is an all-hands-on-deck effort from the  administration, teachers and parents in promoting academic excellence from our students.

"Secondly, we need to change the focus away from on students’ social and emotional concerns to the development of their future career opportunities. Those would include preparation for university, technical or trade schools. However, to achieve this, we need to push our students beyond mediocre academic performance. In preparing our students, they will be more likely to find their calling and focus on what they can contribute to society that adds true value. Preparing our students for the future with the focus on academic excellence, they will grow to be productive and self-reliant members of the community.

"Third, we need to allow our great teachers to do what they want to do, that is to teach. To do this, we need to work with our local and state legislative bodies to remove common core and social-emotional learning from the classroom. These additional requirements are over-working our teachers into the point of exhaustion, despair and frustration. We need to allow them to be subject matter experts in their area of discipline. Allow teachers to develop individual lesson plans instead of being dictated from the Administration. Lastly, the Administration needs to fully support the teachers in the areas of student discipline. Administration needs to have the teacher’s back when a student is sent to them for disciplinary action(s).

"Inversely, teachers and administrators must understand that the students are under the sole care of their guardians, both on and off campus. Therefore, any and all curriculum, polices and materials must be accessible and approved by parents and the community at large. School staff must respect the sovereign rights over their students belongs to the parents."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Amanda Wade: "Having spent so much time in the classroom and having left teaching only a year ago, I am in a unique position when it comes to understanding some of the national rhetoric that is spilling into our local schools. Subjects like critical race theory are simply not part of curriculum outside of specific degree paths in colleges. With respect to social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues; I believe strongly these issues belong in the classrooms. We have students who are dealing with emotional hardships as a result of the pandemic that us adults are struggling with. Providing our children with resources to help them cope with problems and learn skills to help them both identify what they are experiencing and how to express it is how we equip our children with the resources to handle hardships throughout their life. We have LGBTQ students on all campuses just as we have all manner of students on every campus and each one of our students deserves to see themselves reflected in their educational environment and deserves to feel protected, heard, and welcomed on their campuses. This also means doing what we can to provide a safe learning environment to all of our students, but especially to those most vulnerable. Knowing that you have a safe environment helps to reduce trauma and increases student success for all students, not just those who are in a minority. Equity is vital and should be a priority. Each and every student deserves equal resources with respect to education; doing what we can to ensure that all of our students are provided the same platform to learn from helps us to ensure each student can thrive. At the end of the day, all any of us want is for our children to thrive, not merely survive."

Anna Van Hoek: "I believe all children need to be treated equally and there shouldn't be any type of bullying. I do not support any of these ideologies being promoted or taught in schools. The primary function of schools is to educate and schools are failing our children in basic academics. Our focus must return to core subject matters. The Governor signed a bill banning CRT. Districts claim that there is no CRT being taught in schools but that is not the case as parents are finding it in many areas of district curriculum after having to research information themselves instead of the schools being transparent and following the law. For HUSD, the curriculum isn't available to all parents or potential parents to see. A parent could request information from their child's teacher but a potential parent or anyone who lives in the district can't simply go onto HUSD's website and be able to see what is being taught in each grade. That's not very transparent."

Brooke Garrett: "As for national rhetoric spilling into local schools, so far it has not been an issue we’ve faced in our schools in HUSD. Our Governor has stopped these issues from coming to school boards in Arizona. I am in a unique position to understand the pulse of our community from my involvement throughout the district the last ten years with my children being enrolled in the district at all levels of education. I had the opportunity to be involved with and provide feedback on the 5 year HUSD Strategic Plan that will largely affect how our district will move forward. As a result of my experience volunteering with students and families in the HUSD, I know how to navigate our community to get a broader understanding of what our families need and represent that to our Governing Board."

Roy Morales: "Social and emotional learning (SEL) is transforming schools to focus on students’ behavior over students’ academic knowledge. This theory is counter-productive to the sole job of schools in providing education, not psychology. This psychology focuses on training our students to react using their emotion in lieu of intellect. It also is used to modify behavior to regulate people to think and behave according to what is acceptable by group think. SEL is the gateway to establishing compliance with environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores. ESG will be used on the masses to regulate what is acceptable and what is not. This will lead to the loss of individualism and dumbing down the educational excellence of our students.

"SEL is designed to replace parents with the state. We need to understand that parents are the primary teachers in the development of proper behavior in our students. We need to protect and respect parents’ role in the upbringing of their children. The educational system is a mere extension of the parent and it should NEVER replace the parent.

"Critical race theory (CRT) is an off-spring of critical theory developed by the Frankfurt School. This school originated from Germany in the 1920s by Marxist scholar Carl Grunberg. Carl and his group of scholars were known to rebrand classical Marxism into culturally focused neo-Marxist theory. They promoted Marxist ideologies to be embedded into sociology, culture and media; otherwise known as cultural Marxism. These ideologies are in stark contrast of American liberalism. We cannot deny that this isn’t impacting our educational system as well as our culture. CRT has been banned by our Arizona legislative body. Therefore, we need to be steadfast and recognize these ideologies for what they truly are and root them out of our educational system.

"Our American culture has been built on inclusion when our forefathers came to this country to escape religious persecution in Europe. Later, Americans accepted immigrants of all types of nationalities, culture, sex and creed. This Americanism is exceptional as there is no other country in the world that will accept an immigrant as a true American citizen once naturalized. Additionally, America has worked hard, over many decades, to recognize the dignity and respect needed for all Americans regardless of their background. The foundation of learning about human dignity and respects starts at home and in our religious institutions. From there, those teachings will permeate into our schools and in our communities. The government should never interfere with the moral code and ethics established by the community.

"Our founders made it a point that all people should have equal opportunity in their American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The reality is that we do not have equal talents or means. We come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, color, and talents. We are not equal; however, we are diverse! On the other hand, equity is the pursuit of equal outcome. To have equity means that we would have to take from one and give it to another. When a society pursues equity among its citizens, it kills innovation, respect of private property and charity. Instead, we should teach our students to accept their diversity and shortcomings. Through adversity, our students learn to find their inner strengths to overcome their inequities on their own; not from the handout of the government.

"In summary, I believe that all HUSD students and staff are to be treated with respect and dignity. This falls in line with the commandments of 'love thy neighbor' and 'honor thy mother and father.' There is no substitute for those commandments."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Amanda Wade: "Arizona ranks near the very bottom in per pupil spending, teacher salaries, and overall education rating when compared with the rest of the nation. A growing focus on charter schools in Arizona has led to a dramatic hit on public education. In addition to growing misinformation on how schools spend their money, misinformation on what schools teach have both contributed to Arizona’s decline with respect to public education. Now more than ever we need to focus on our public education because our community is only as great as the education we provide. Our education system touches all areas of our community because our students will grow to be members of the community they live in and we are better served when we have granted them the fullest capability to both challenge themselves and grow. Our students today are community leaders of tomorrow and our education system is failing our students. We, the supporting community, are failing our students when we turn our backs on public education. Doing everything we can to help bring Arizona from near last and helping our state navigate a way to lead the pack only helps better all of us but it will take a collective effort from all of us to accomplish this task. That starts with focusing on public education. We emphasize parent choice, which is vital, but we cannot continue to feed lies into the narrative of what goes on within our schools. School districts post their curriculum and budget breakdown, teachers have continually gone above and beyond to post curriculum materials and course information, and teachers and schools do everything they can to help bring our students up to the level they need to be. However, without continued funding, funding that isn’t bare bones, we are tying the hands of our schools and then blaming them for failures in student academic performance. We compare our public education system to charter schools without focusing on the reality that charter schools often kick out lower performing students or students who are deemed 'difficult,' because it helps their numbers and scores look better. With these students returning to the public school system after being kicked out from the charter schools, that per pupil funding that was allocated at the start of the year doesn’t transfer with them. This means the public schools have to figure out ways to stretch fewer dollars to more students. I hope Arizona makes efforts to keep the money with the students and we can do that when we no longer allow our state legislators to profit from personal ties to charter schools. When people making decisions about our education system stand to financially gain from those decisions we can no longer trust the community’s interest is the main focus."

Anna Van Hoek: "I support an ESA For All/Universal ESA program that does not discriminate against any student. All children deserve to have access to the best educational environment for their individual needs, available to them. I would like the district to thrive and be very desirable to parents for them to want to bring their children to Higley. Students, parents and the community are our customers and we must outperform in order for them to want our product."

Brooke Garrett: "I feel that the state needs to do more to expand and support public education, especially in regard to funding. If the state is going to expand vouchers, the same rules should apply to the schools receiving the vouchers that we put on our public education system. If our tax dollars are going to vouchers, I think all schools should be transparent with how they are spending the money. The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) is helpful for those in need for special education services, but there are too many loopholes for those not in need taking advantage. Who is the gatekeeper of all those monies allotted?"

Roy Morales: "Arizona should support public education. After all, the state receives taxpayer funds that funds our schools. We have to recognize that public school is not a one size fits all solution for Arizona families. Families should have the choice of where they send their children to school. Therefore, Arizona should not only support public education, but also support the ESA program to families that choose not to attend public education.

"The average ESA award is only $7,000. The average cost per student in public schools is $13,306. That is higher than the cost of full tuition at ASU per student at $11,838.

"The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program is not a voucher system. It does not fund a system, but the student. This program is no different when a veteran receives the GI Bill, or VA loan. Or if a student receives a grant for college. The recipient chooses where to use those funds. The funds follow the student just as it currently does for any charter or district school 'open enrollment' system.

"Contrary to what many believe, ESA does not defund our public school system. Parents who send their children to non-public schools are funding both the public schools as well as their child’s school. ESA allows that parent to use a sliver of taxpayers’ funds, earmarked for public schools, that they have already contributed into; to be applied to their school of choice. The recipients of ESA funds have to account for all and any expenses used in their child’s education by providing proof of receipts to the ESA online portal and are subject to audits by AZED.

"Lastly, per the Goldwater Institute, ESA gives back $900 per student back into the system from the 'Classroom Site Fund' and 'Prop 123 add-on revenues’ for every student that leaves the public school system. Meaning, for every student that leaves the public school system, public schools end up with more money per pupil than they had before. In addition, it lowers the expense per student for public schools. Since the inception of ESA in 2012, public school funding increased to over $1,600 per student.

"In essence, the ESA expansion is a win-win for both public, charter and private and for the home schooled. Arizona is the first of its kind pioneering this program across the nation. We need to allow this unique program, designed by parents, to flourish and function to see how we all can benefit from it." 

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Amanda Wade: "The only way we can address the teacher, education professional, and school nurse shortage is to start valuing the individuals in these positions. Lowering the standard of qualifications to be a teacher, education professional, or school nurse is not only a temporary fix, it devalues our children and their education. We address these shortages by creating a competitive salary structure. If we have more competitive salaries, not only are we asking for the best teachers in Arizona, but we are drawing in the best teachers from all over the nation as well. I also would love to see teachers and support staff get access to state employee benefits. Our current structure is to provide benefits like health care as a district, which creates a smaller pool of employees to pay into these programs. With a smaller number of employees accessing these programs it leads to a higher cost for each individual, however, participating in the state employee benefit system creates a larger pool of employees than what our districts are able to provide for our education staff."

Anna Van Hoek: "Good teachers are driven out of the profession (or out of public schools) by teachers’ unions and their woke agenda. The key to retaining good teachers is to get rid of CRT, DEI, SEL and to enforce discipline in the classroom to allow kids to learn and teachers to teach. Teachers will do better if pay is aligned with performance, not seniority. I have no problem when outstanding teachers are paid well. I have a problem with seniority pay and collective bargaining that removes incentives for performance. HUSD staff has given a 40% salary increase since 2018 so I do not believe there’s a pay issue. The highest expenditure in Higley is salary and benefits.  The teachers’ unions control public schools, they are to blame for the problems that public schools have. Get rid of the unions, and good teachers will come and stay. We also need to ensure that parents take responsibility for their children’s behavior. Children must be respectful."

Brooke Garrett: "Teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages are becoming an increasing nationwide issue. One educational researcher at RAND found, 'This is a five-alarm crisis. We are facing an exodus as more than half of our nation’s teachers and other school staff are now indicating that they’ll be leaving education sooner than planned.' We are already training far fewer teachers than we need, and that was BEFORE the pandemic crisis hit. It’s not about just putting a body in a classroom. At one of our middle schools, they are short a Spanish teacher. The substitute will be using our virtual online academy to help her navigate the class, even though she does not know Spanish, while they continue to try and find a teacher to hire. This is not the case only for public schools. I know of another neighborhood elementary charter school starting in five days that is still short three teachers. This struggle is real and unless we see some real change happen, I don’t foresee it getting better. We HAVE to collaborate with our state legislators, work with the voters, and see what we can do to implement some change. Better health insurance, more partnerships/tax breaks for our educators, increasing pay, and better support can be done to help improve the situation and make education a more desirable profession. We need to view our educators as partners in building our community, not vilify them."

Roy Morales: "The retention issue of teachers isn’t just about the money, it’s about the lack of respect they receive from the Administration, the students and sometimes the parents. Our teachers need to be held in high regards in their professional role as teacher and mentor.

"1. Teachers should be free of extraordinary demands passed down from governmental agencies or external sources (e.g., common core, administrative functions, SEL/DEI). This will reduce work hours and burnout.

"2. The teachers need room to create their own lesson programs, not dictated from a governmental agency, but from the approval of the community.

"3. The Administrators and parents need to support teachers when students are sent for disciplinary actions and to instill in students the importance treating fellow students, teachers and staff with the upmost respect, both inside and outside of the classroom.

"4. Teachers’ salaries as well as staff should be based on performance and merit, not solely on seniority. Seniority based income does not foster good performance.

"5. Teachers and staff should be compensated for extra duties outside of the classroom and normal work hours to host events and activities."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Amanda Wade: "I think the best plan of action when it comes to updating and repairing our school facilities is to create a list of all the items that need to be done. Then reflect on which of those items are the most pressing. Specifically looking at safety concerns first; such as, immediate fixes of exposed wires or other potential hazards to anyone on campus. When dealing with safety and hazards there is no debate on making sure each facility on campus is a safe environment for our students. Once the hazardous or potentially hazardous issues are resolved the next analysis must focus on cost-benefit. Where are our dollars most impactful on our campuses and tackle each item accordingly. As far as funding for these projects we need to do better at getting our communities to understand the realities that our campuses are facing. That starts with passing bonds that are coming up in the current election and looking at returning to programs that we previously had that were successful such as the 2010 Quality Education and Jobs Initiative."

Anna Van Hoek: "A bond or override should only be requested after exhausting all other budgeting possibilities. If and when the district requires additional funds, we must be transparent with the community and accountable for the funds we’ve spent. Every attempt should be made to live within our means. It is our duty to be good stewards of taxpayer funding. Should we need to go back to our community to ask even more of them, we should present a detailed plan that includes specifics about how the money will be spent, and how we will position the district so that it is not an ongoing, necessary renewal upon expiration. We must be fiscally responsible. Just like our personal budgets, we should remain within what we can afford. The state just increased the per pupil funding from 12,357 to 13,306. That will provide HUSD approximately an additional 13 million dollars in 2023. Higley also wants to build an elementary school on the north side of the district yet many of our schools are not at capacity. We must eliminate unnecessary spending.

"We have $70 million in outstanding debt, and the last bond matures in 2034 or 2037. The goal should be to use bonds sparingly if needed to supplement our increased budget. We need to spend some focus on our buildings with a big focus on safety and borrowing may be needed. The goal should be to blend any new debt into existing to keep taxes as low as possible but still try and have debt paid off when that last bond matures."

Brooke Garrett: "Higley Unified School District is definitely among those in the valley that need long-term repairs and updates for their schools. The biggest thing we can do is utilize bond money to try to catch up to charter per-student funding. Public Schools get two-thirds of what the charter schools receive per pupil. It is up to the voters to help narrow that gap — which is hard, especially with all the special needs that fall on the public education system's shoulders."

Roy Morales: "HUSD currently has an outstanding bond due to mature in 2035. That bond will cost Higley residents $93MM. $83MM to pay off the bond as they mature and $13MM toward interest. Almost all of those funds are spent for items needed almost 10 years ago.

"On top of that bond, HUSD has a lease for the construction and use of their two middle schools since 2013. The cost to build each of the two middle schools were $27.6MM or $55.2MM for both. The lease costs increased over time, the district $6.4MM annually. The cost of the lease over the life of the lease is expected to reach $157MM per school or $314MM total.

"There is another bond measure again on the 2022 ballot for $77MM after the $177 bond measure did not pass by voters in 2021. The 2021 bond measure was just too big to swallow, so, they are presenting a 'bite-sized' bond. 50% of the proposed bond is to fund major projects for a new elementary school, Phase II Higley HS and the upgrade to the HCPA Performing Arts center. 25% is dedicated to technology to include display panels/projectors, teacher laptops/copiers, enhancement to network and to fund that every student from 7th to 12th grade to receive a laptop.

"I am betting that if the 2022 bond passes, there will likely be a third bond initiative to follow-up in order to purchase the two middle school leases in the next few years. The prevailing interest rates on these bonds is undetermined, however, it is a sure bet the rates will be higher. This will then leave Higley residents stacked with three potential bonds, paying for enormous sums of consultant fees/points, interest and bond debt for generations to come. The question is, can the district deliver on the bond debt going forward with the looming recession? With inflation at a 40 year high, the housing market will correct and put downward pressure on property values, impacting revenues collected to pay for these bonds. This will put this community into greater peril in paying its debts and increase the likelihood of bad financial decisions being made by future board members.

"Districts should take pragmatic approaches in seeking ways to fund their districts for large projects. They could consider using tax levies in lieu of bonds to avoid paying large fees/points in underwriting bonds and interests over the life of those bonds. Change the mentality to pay-as-you-go versus financing long term debt. Districts should also urge local and state representatives to come up with new funding formulas for districts to eliminate the unnecessary annual ritual of scrambling for overrides. Lastly, the district needs to dig deep into their budget and trim any excess fat from their expense column. They need to see if the current budget can sustain past pay increases, eliminate unnecessary administration positions, prioritize essential projects and rethink the wants over their needs; such as one to one laptop for all students. Textbooks tend to break down less often than laptops. The district needs to look into every nook and cranny to seek savings and ways to unlock potential funds from our local and state municipalities and perhaps donations from developers who want to build on our district."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Anna Van Hoek: "I am motivated and am known to go above and beyond to ensure all the students' needs are met in order for them to learn and be successful.

"I have an analytical and accounting background which would serve well in being able to assess the areas of need in HUSD to make educated recommendations of change.

"I will collaborate with the other board members, ask questions instead of rubber stamping everything placed in front of me, make sure the community is informed of the actions being taken by the board and the progresses and challenges the district faces."

Brooke Garrett: "Higley Unified School District is a smaller district. There are two high schools and two middle schools. Our current board has a solid representation on the Cooley Middle School and Williams Field side, I feel that to best help meet the needs of ALL our district we will need board members who are familiar with and understand the Higley High School side of the district, and create a broader view, not tunnel vision. I know that side well — especially as the current Higley High Booster President who works with all the boosters at Higley High, staff and students. I feel that my experiences in this community give me a solid understanding of the issues facing our school district and families today."

Kyrene Elementary School District

Three people are running for two open four-year seats on the Kyrene Elementary School District governing board.

Candidates include Kristi Ohman, Triné Nelson and incumbent Kevin Walsh.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you. 

Kevin Walsh: "I’m a Kyrene dad, local business attorney, and education advocate running for re-election to the Kyrene School Board. I currently serve on the Board, having been elected for a 4-year term in 2018. I’ve been President of the Board for the last 2 years.

"I have 2 children in Kyrene. My kids are fifth-generation Arizonans and second-generation Kyrene kids. They come from a family of educators, and their grandma is in her 24th year teaching in Kyrene.

"In Kyrene, I have served with the PTO as a board trustee for many years, and I'm a regular Art Masterpiece volunteer in the classroom. I am the current Chairman of JAG Arizona, an education non-profit that has provided resources to engage disconnected students and facilitate academic improvements in Arizona for over 40 years."

Kristi Ohman: "My husband and I are raising two Kyrene Kids. I grew up in Minnesota, but Maricopa County has been my home for the past 16 years. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from St. Cloud State University and my master’s degree from Grand Canyon University. I have taught in public and charter schools; Elementary and Middle over the past 16 years. I am currently teaching gifted elementary students in an Arizona public school district. My passion has always been instructing students face to face. I believe that true learning happens in the classroom. I chose to resign from my community district, so I can serve Kyrene students, teachers, and parents in a new capacity."

Triné Nelson: "I am an Ahwatukee resident that has lived in Maricopa County for 13 years. As a mom with children in the Kyrene district for the past nine years, I have spent extensive time volunteering in classrooms, serving on PTO boards, the Superintendent Community Council, and most recently as the co-chair for Keep Kyrene Strong, whose work was integral to the success of the 2021 M & O override continuance election. I am deeply committed to the continued success of the Kyrene School District, not just as a parent, but as a community member. I have spent over 20 years working in, and around education and have seen first-hand the link between educational success and community involvement. The Kyrene community is engaged and focused on creating a positive environment for our students and staff."

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Kevin Walsh: "Absolutely. Baseless assertions otherwise undermine our democracy."

Kristi Ohman: "I believe that there should be more investigation into voter fraud claims based on evidence that has come out and arrests that have occurred in Arizona and other states. Voter integrity should be the highest of priorities and elections should be taken more seriously, so the results can be trusted by all no matter what the outcome is."

Triné Nelson: "Yes. Arizona has one of the best election systems in the country and there has been no evidence of widespread fraud locally or nationally."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Kevin Walsh: "I'm running for re-election because it's so important to keep strong public schools in our Kyrene community. My children are thriving in Kyrene, and I want to help ensure that every child in Kyrene receives a quality education.

"Board members must work together to oversee the superintendent, policies, and budget of the district. We have a duty to ensure that Kyrene’s resources are being properly spent to produce the best outcomes for our students. It’s essential to serve without ego and listen to all voices in the community.

"I'm proud of the great work accomplished during my current term on the Board, and there is always more that we can do to support students."

Kristi Ohman: ​​​​​"Transparency is a priority for parents, teachers, and the community. I want parents to know what is being taught, where additional resources are coming from, and approval policies are being followed openly and honestly. Everyone wants to hear the truth. Teachers and parents should be working together to provide every student with what they deserve. Parents’ involvement in the classroom should be encouraged and valued, and there needs to be a focus on the fundamentals.

"I also aim to bring accountability to all. Dialogue should be open, and every voice accounted for. Healthy discussion should be encouraged and not hushed. Everyone should be held to a high standard. The home and classroom need to be connected. Students will learn to value their development, grow confidence, and take responsibility for their actions and learning.

"A school is only as strong as its community. Strong schools keep property values high, and everyone’s involvement is essential. I will keep monies in the classroom to help keep class sizes low, purchase needed equipment, and make sure students are directly affected. I want Kyrene to be every parent’s first choice for their child because they trust that they are not going to be left out of decisions related to their child."

Triné Nelson: "My platform is focused on fostering continuous improvement in various areas like student achievement, educator support, and promoting sound administrative practices. A governing board member is a part of a decision-making body, so in order to enact any change, it's imperative to have a collaborative spirit. I will serve my community by collaborating with parents, educators, administration, and other community members to find solutions that best meet the needs of our children. I will work with other board members to build on the success Kyrene has experienced and make sure that we share progress and achievements with the community."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Kevin Walsh: "Many students saw less academic growth during the pandemic, so we need targeted resources in the classroom that provide individualized academic support. Focusing on early literacy for our youngest learners is key. Assessments help teachers identify gaps, but student success must be defined by more than test scores."

Kristi Ohman: "The biggest issue impacting students in Arizona is the distractions and divisions caused by social media and social trends. What students are seeing and hearing on social platforms are impacting their values, attitudes, and behaviors. There is a sense of entitlement that has caused a lack of respect for adults, peers, and our country. While in the classroom students should be focused on one thing and that is their learning within core subjects."

Triné Nelson: "Mental health is one of the biggest issues impacting K-12 students. Talking with educators and students a common theme is a rise in anxiety and depression in classrooms."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Kevin Walsh: "Many politicians have tried to politicize education for their own personal gain. Their strategy may have gained some traction in certain parts of the country, but I believe that in our community, most people sincerely want what’s best for students. When you keep students at the center of conversations, you can bring people together. Honoring parental rights and supporting educators are both essential to keeping strong public schools, and they are NOT mutually exclusive.

"While I’ve served on the Board, Kyrene has continued its efforts to ensure every student has access to a quality education. Communication and transparency around this work is essential. The data collected from our students last year shows in stark contrast the gaps that exist in Kyrene. The same data also shows that when resources are equitably allocated to where they are most needed, students achieve greater growth.  One of the Board’s current goals is to develop a system for measuring and publicly reporting out on student achievement. In doing so, the Board can articulate a compelling case to our community for why this work is so important."

Kristi Ohman: "Honestly, critical race theory, gender ideologies, and equity issues have no place in the classroom. The classroom should be a place where the minds of our students can grow as a learner and problem-solver. Yes, the whole child should be taught, however, there should not be a hidden agenda within social-emotional learning materials. The teaching of empathy, working cooperatively with others, and respecting all people has a place in the classroom that can be addressed organically by educators."

Triné Nelson: "All children and staff deserve to feel safe, supported, and valued for who they are at school. Using that as a framework, I will respond to issues from the point of what is best for students/staff and not be swayed by provocative rhetoric."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Kevin Walsh: "Arizona continually fails to invest in our students, the vast majority of whom attend public schools. Arizona is among the worst states in the nation for per-pupil funding. Allegations regarding widespread administrative waste are not supported by the Arizona Auditor General’s findings, which demonstrate that Arizona’s public schools spend less on administration than nearly all other states.

"Expanding vouchers is not the answer. Arizonans overwhelmingly rejected voucher expansion by a 2-1 ratio only 4 years ago, and this current expansion demonstrates a brazen disregard for the will of the voters. Our taxpayer dollars belong in public schools, not in private schools with minimal transparency or accountability. Vouchers drain resources from our already underfunded public schools, which makes it more difficult for our students to succeed. The data has shown that approximately 80% of new voucher applicants have never spent a day in public schools, which undermines the false narrative that vouchers help students escape 'failing' public schools. Rather, it shows that expanding vouchers will hurt most students and primarily serve to subsidize private school tuition for families who can already afford it."

Kristi Ohman: "I am running for Kyrene School Board because I want our parents and teachers to choose our community public school district. Healthy competition is needed to hold all parties accountable. A school or district should always be striving to be the best option for their scholars. With that being said, I do believe in expanding school vouchers. Parents should be able to choose any school that they think best fits their child. I think the state should better support classrooms and fairly compensate teachers. A good place to start would be to look at what high-achieving states and schools are doing regarding retaining teachers, standards, curriculum, and other policies and actions that are working. I think it is ok to say, we made some mistakes; let’s research, grow, and make changes to break the cycle we are on. Public schools have been chosen and thrived in the past; we can solve this problem over time."

Triné Nelson: "The state can best support public education by following the clear direction of Arizona voters. Time and again our elected officials are told voters want a fully funded public K-12 education system. I do not support the universal expansion of school vouchers."

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Kevin Walsh: "Arizona is seeing a mass exodus of educators leaving the profession, and Kyrene is feeling the impact. Our school staff is amazing, and if we don’t keep skilled educators in the classroom, our students won’t reach their full potential.

"We don’t have a teacher shortage in Arizona; rather, we have a shortage of educated professionals who are increasingly being driven from the profession due to low pay and a lack of respect. Arizona has tried to address the teacher exodus by lowering teaching standards, but that solution isn’t best for students.

"Competitive salaries are key. I’m proud that while I’ve served on the Board, Kyrene has increased staff pay by $10.5 Million in recent months, through a combination of stipends and an average 7% increase to base salary. We must also respect and value educators and hold up teaching as an esteemed profession. This includes providing teachers with the resources and autonomy to deliver instruction in the way that they know is best for students and their learning styles."

Kristi Ohman: "I have been in the trenches and am still a proud public educator. My colleagues have felt undervalued and confronted with one distraction after another. It is hard for them to have a no excuse philosophy because the staff has had to accept one excuse after another. This feeling has come from the lack of respect displayed by some students in the classroom, the lack of accountability, and behaviors. During the pandemic students’ attendance, work ethic, and behavior were let go for too long. There is a helplessness that needs to be addressed and higher expectations need to be supported in the classroom with disciplinary action by the admin. To address this shortage, I feel like the first step would be to have a common expectation on all campuses. Students, no matter what circumstances can be met with grace and high expectations. There needs to be a limit and consequence for all parties that are taking away from instruction and learning in the classroom. Finally, we need to find a way to fairly compensate hard-working teachers and staff members who directly impact our students daily without putting a burden on taxpayers and community members."

Triné Nelson: "Teacher and professional staff shortages are a nuanced issue. As a board member, I would support allocating funds to keep salaries competitive hoping to attract potential employees. It's also important to make sure the working environment honors them as professionals and keeps retention as a priority."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Kevin Walsh: "Kyrene has developed a comprehensive Capital Master Plan to manage its capital spending that is funded by bond proceeds. This Capital Master Plan encompasses a ten-year period and provides a detailed listing of all bond eligible projects across the district. Without the bond funding, there would be insufficient funding to maintain and improve Kyrene’s schools and facilities.

"Our voters’ support for bonds cannot be taken for granted, and while I’ve served on the Board, Kyrene has remained diligent on spending these funds efficiently and with transparency. I remain immensely grateful for our community’s support in passing bonds, but I recognize that not all communities are so fortunate, and the lack of adequate state funding for capital projects only serves to increase inequity among Arizona’s school districts. The Building Renewal Grant fund established by Arizona is a good start, but Arizona needs to do more if it truly wants students to succeed."

Kristi Ohman: "To fund renovations, I would need to communicate with financial leaders in the district to understand what facilities were initially funded through M&O and those that were funded through the School Facilities Board. By planning and utilizing funds through the School Facilities Board new structures could be built using the funds that they provide through an application and process. Repairs would be easier to fund if they were initially funded through this board."

Triné Nelson: "While the state provides some money for repairs and updates, it's often not enough for the needed maintenance. As a board member, I would advocate for capital bonds to meet these needs while supporting legislators to allocate the necessary funding for schools."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Kevin Walsh: "I commit that if re-elected, I’ll continue putting students first in all decisions and advocating for our students, educators, and community for a second term on the Kyrene School Board. To learn more about my campaign, please visit

Kristi Ohman: "I am a proud educator; however, I am a parent first. I am ready to fight for our Kyrene kids in both capacities. I want Kyrene to be every parent’s and educator’s first choice because they know that there is transparency, high expectations, accountability, and decisions that affect their students are not being decided behind their back."

Triné Nelson: "Anyone who would like to learn more about me can find information at"

Mesa Unified School District

Seven people are running for two open four-year seats on the Mesa Unified School District governing board.

Candidates are Chris Hamlet, Edward Steele, Jacob Martinez, JR Wright, Rachel Walden, Ray Deer and incumbent Marcie Hutchinson.

Steele and Walden did not submit their answers by the time of publishing.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you. 

Chris Hamlet: "I’m an Arizona native, born in Phoenix, raised in Globe Arizona. I left Globe at 18 years old and spent 5+ years out of state serving in the United States Army as an Airborne Medic and Orthopedic Specialist. Once back in Arizona after service in 1999, I moved around the west Valley for a few years. Back in 2005, I permanently moved to Mesa after finishing school in Phoenix to obtain my Associate of Applied Science in Electronics and Computer Technology, and my Bachelor of Science in Technical Management from DeVry University. I have been in the district for 17 years total now. I do believe in the same Creator/God as mentioned in our Declaration of Independence, on our money, and in our Pledge of Allegiance. I am currently self-employed as a contract courier with multiple clients. Prior to that, I was in telecommunications for over 13 years, 7 of those years running #1 crews in the industry with teams anywhere from 4 to 35 technicians, and 2 of those years spent in commercial business. Being a single parent of 2 for over 8 years now; with my ex-wife and mother of my children now deceased, with 1 child still in school while I run a school board campaign, the flexibility of what I do now is invaluable." 

Jacob Martinez: "I’m a lifelong resident of Mesa and proud graduate of Mesa Public Schools. I own a small business based right here in Mesa, and am a Commercial Corridor Manager with RAIL CDC, a nonprofit centered around community development here in the city. I also have the distinct privilege of serving in the United States Navy as a Master-At-Arms."

JR Wright: "I’ve lived in Mesa my entire life. I have greatly benefited from my education in Mesa public schools. All seven of my children have gone through or going through Mesa Public schools currently. My heart is in Mesa and I value the tremendous tradition that Mesa Public Schools have given its students, teachers and staff for decades."

Marcie Hutchinson: "Marcie Hutchinson is a 43-year Mesa resident with 31 years of experience teaching in public high schools in Norwich, New York and Mesa. During her twenty-eight-year career with Mesa Public Schools, she taught American and European history and advised extra-curricular activities at Mesa, Dobson, and Red Mountain High Schools. After retiring from MPS, Marcie became the Director for K-12 Initiatives for the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies (SHPRS) at ASU. During her seven years at ASU, she trained future history teachers and worked on many projects with Arizona teachers who wanted to provide innovative and engaging learning experiences for students in their classrooms. Hutchinson is currently serving on the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board. During her tenure, the board has taken many actions in the critical areas of literacy, student and staff wellness, and arts education while creating multiple avenues to student success. Marcie Hutchinson is married to former Mesa City Manager Mike Hutchinson. She and Mike are the proud parents of two daughters, Erin, and Mary Beth, who were educated in the Mesa Public Schools and graduated from Red Mountain High School.  All the members of the Hutchinson family have earned history degrees and are graduates of Arizona State University. Go Devils!!!!"

Ray Deer: "I am Ray Deer. I am running for the Mesa School Board. My wife is Erniestina and we have four sons. Two have graduated from Mesa High School and we have two other sons in Mesa Public Schools. I taught middle school for nearly twelve years both in Los Angeles and in Mesa. I am an enrolled member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. I have a Master of Arts degree in education.

"My family and I have lived in Maricopa County since January 2009, all of which have been in the city of Mesa. I am an associate judge for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. I preside mainly over civil family and civil court matters. I am also a pro tem judge for Gila River Indian Community, Yavapai-Apache Nation, and Tonto Apache Tribe. I have been a judge for just over nine years. I also have school board experience. I was a school board member for Salt River Schools for around two years; I was the secretary and vice-chairman."

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Chris Hamlet: "This question has nothing to do with the school board and is seemingly a purely politically charged partisan question in a non-partisan school board election. As such, and the fact that it does nothing to help fix the current broken state of our education system or contribute anything of educational value for our children’s sakes, an answer will not be provided here."   

Jacob Martinez: "Yes."

JR Wright: "Yes."

Marcie Hutchinson: "Of course."

Ray Deer: "As a judge, I believe in the rule of law. I believe all candidates have a legal right to contest election results. Once the legal process has been exhausted, then all candidates must accept the results and prepare to run for the next election cycle if they choose to do so. Therefore, I accept the 2020 election results."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Chris Hamlet: "My platform is simple; get the politics out of Mesa Public Schools and put our children first. Our children are such blessings, they are our most precious and valuable assets. We, as a society, as the adults around them, are doing them an enormous injustice and disservice by allowing this politically charged curriculum and demoralizing policies to continue unchecked." 

Jacob Martinez: "Our people are everything — without them we are nothing more than empty buildings. From students, to teachers, to classified staff we need to ensure we’re fostering positive environments that make Mesa Public Schools the place where people want to be. This means being an advocate. That’s the biggest role that any board member can have, advocating for changes and policies that are going to improve the lives of the people we serve."

JR Wright: "While I don’t have a personal platform I do have a big vision for Mesa Public Schools. I believe in Mesa Public schools. I believe in teachers, I believe in the administration, and I believe that as a board member I can work effectively with the board. Part of this will be to stay out of the way for administrators and teachers so they can do their job but in other ways provide them with great insight and decisions that will allow them to do their jobs more efficiently, and have a stronger desire to achieve the excellence that they want to achieve. I come with a very open and am willing to learn attitude that great teamwork produces the best outcomes. If you have personal agenda that’s going to cloud your judgment and ability to work well with your other board members. It doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to have different opinions and disagree on certain things but we all need to be open-minded and rely on everyone’s strengths."

Marcie Hutchinson: "Mesa Public Schools provides the mortar that supports strong families, the foundation of a  strong community. Our future depends on strong public schools.

"Therefore, four commitments guide my work as a governing board member.

  • "Every student deserves a great public education.

  • "Every student learns in a safe and healthy school.

  • "Every student must be engaged in meaningful real-life learning that meets their strength and needs. Students must learn with purpose and passion.

  • "Every student should be served by professional educators and dedicated support personnel in a fully funded school."

Ray Deer: "My platform will be to promote transparency as much as the law will provide; I will promote high expectations at all levels within the Mesa School District; I will seek to ensure school safety at all school sites; and I will seek to promote accountability at all levels and positions within the Mesa School District. As a board member I will ask questions and request updated information on an array of issues that face the school board. I strongly believe that a school board member must ask the right questions and must be succinct in answering questions and concerns from parents and all stakeholders. As a veteran teacher and as a fact finder (being an associate judge), I believe I would be the ideal candidate to promote my platform."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Chris Hamlet: "Hyper-sexualization of our children is by far the biggest issue. It is the most morally corrupt of the current issues that adversely affect our children, it must be dealt with accordingly. Recently, a transgender support plan that by-passed the board was introduced by MPS legal and superintendency that would allow children to shower in the locker room of the gender they identify with. During public comment at a Governing Board meeting on August 23rd, I posed the question to the board and asked them to show me 1 parent that would be okay with their daughter having male genitalia in her face while her and said biological boy get ready to shower together in the locker room, just one parent of a daughter who would accept that.

"The dress codes are diminished from previous years in the name of inclusivity and equity and the power to supplement them on a per-campus basis has been stripped from the School Improvement Advisory Committees (SIAC) and school administrators. After speaking with actual Mesa Public Schools (MPS) teachers on the campaign trail, it is my understanding that some MPS personnel are told not to enforce the dress code at all. Some do not enforce the current dress code out of fear of the woke-mob, they just don’t want to 'deal with it'. I would work to get that dress code reverted back to the 2015 revision that was acceptable and enforced well across MPS. Or, at the very least, find a way to get the current MPS dress code revised to give supplemental authority back to respective school administrators and SIACs so they may decide what is appropriate for their own children. Teachers need to be empowered and encouraged to enforce a set dress code as opposed to told not to enforce one at all, thereby, unwillingly contributing to the demoralization of our children.

"The most appalling part of the continued push toward the hyper-sexualization of our children is the fact that our children can access what is called 'Q-Chat' on the Arizona Department of Education’s (AZDOE) website that also gives them a 'quick escape' button in order for children to exit immediately and go back to a Google search bar if their parent should happen to walk in a room. Q-Chat is a place where our minor children can interact with LGTBQ+ adults online. The issues of gender dysphoria and sexual orientation are private family issues that have no place in our public schools."

Jacob Martinez: "The COVID-19 lockdowns unveiled an issue that we’ve been facing for much longer than we’ve been talking about. That’s the mental health of our students and employees. As a district, we need to ensure we’re doing everything we can to support our people, and that they have access to the resources they need when in a crisis. By caring about our people, we’re being proactive not only in mental health, but in school safety as well."

JR Wright: "I believe our biggest challenge and opportunity is to raise our students to the level of the technology and ever-changing job market that our economy will demand now and in the future. Both students and teachers must adapt to the ever-changing landscape of what lies ahead of us and I believe Mesa Public schools are rising to that challenge and will meet those important standards. Another challenge will be to utilize the budget in the most effective way possible in order to accomplish this."

Marcie Hutchinson: "Funding. We cannot recruit and retain the teachers, administrators, counselors, psychologists, bus drivers, food and nutrition workers, custodians, technicians; all the personnel needed to serve our students without proper funding. I am committed to continue working tirelessly with government officials, businesses, non-profits, and educational organizations to secure long-term and sustainable state funding to attract and retain the best teachers, support staff, and administrators to educate our kids and help our community thrive. Our successful budget increase passed by Mesa voters in 2019 demonstrates the commitment of our community to Mesa Public Schools."

Ray Deer: "I believe the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona is for every school site to provide a safe and predictable learning environment. As an educator and a judge who has presided over family matters, I know that children thrive in a safe environment. In such an environment, children are able to concentrate and work on skills in an interrupted fashion. Educators and all stakeholders within a school district must provide a predictable environment, one that has awards and consequences. The awards must be consistent, and the consequences must be fair and just with room for the student to take corrective measures for improvement."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Chris Hamlet: "The polarized national political rhetoric should not be infiltrating our schools. Schools are a place for ideological diversity, critical thinking, and important discussion; they are not a place for teachers and administrators to force their political ideologies upon our children.

"We need to teach our children the differences between equality and equity as well as the history of these ideas. Giving our children an equal opportunity to succeed (equality) is an aspirational dream we should strive towards; forcing them into an equal outcome (equity) is a dystopian nightmare. Critical Theory and its ideological progeny; Critical Race Theory and Critical Gender Theory, should not be used as a lens with which we teach our children. It is important to study works of political philosophy, it is revolting to put said philosophy and theory into play. In essence, we should teach our children about figures like Marx and Horkheimer, but we shouldn’t teach our children like Marx and Horkheimer.

"Children dealing with gender dysphoria should not seek affirmation or guidance from their educators; these are family issues that have no place in our schools. No public-school parent should ever have to be concerned with a biological male’s genitalia in front of their daughter’s face as they get ready to shower together in the school locker room. The purpose of our educational institutions are to prepare the next generation for success, not to contribute to polarizing partisan political disputes." 

Jacob Martinez: "This boils down to being diligent about the communities that we serve. Public schools are for everybody, and we need to make decisions with outcomes that will be best for students. As long as we enter every conversation with that in mind, I’m positive we will be able to avoid the politics of these topics that have become increasingly polarized."

JR Wright: "I think this answer is very simple. All students should have a safe and accepting place to come and learn to express themselves and develop into the students and citizens that we need them to become."

Marcie Hutchinson: "Our students face many challenges as they prepare for their futures. Mesa Public Schools listened to the many perspectives in our community when designing the Portrait of a Mesa Public Schools Graduate. The essential attitudes and skills Mesa Public Schools students need to graduate ready for college, career, and community reflects the values of our community. Those attitudes include graduates being inclusive, ethical, and resilient. Our community wants our graduates to be collaborators, communicators, critical and creative thinkers, and problem solvers. Our district established five strategic goals drive the work needed to realize both the Promise and the Portrait of a Graduate.

"Listening to the perspectives of parents, students, community members and educators leads to better decisions. Every student and their family have the right to tell their story; stories that deserve to be heard. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1964, 'We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.' We must bring all members of this community to the table to listen, think, share, and act together for the good of our schools."

Ray Deer: "As previously stated, each school site must be safe and predictable. I believe that school board members must ensure such an environment, thereby ensuring that all students are provided with a learning environment. When a proper learning environment is established, then I believe that many issues can be resolved and become non-issues because all stakeholders would be on the same page, that is, providing a proper education for students regardless of their background. With that stated, I believe that personal matters such as CRT and the like should be left to parents and guardians to address with their children. When I taught middle school I would keep my politics out of the classroom. I was hired to teach a specific curriculum and I would strive with fidelity to teach the curriculum. Our goal as educators is to teach the curriculum and help our students to be life-long learners. Again, we need to respect the parents and guardians and not interfere with personal family matters."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Chris Hamlet: "The state can start dismantling the AZDOE, starting with the top administrators and working their way down the line. Expanding school vouchers is important as it will create healthy competition and force the MPS Governing Board into a position to make changes and better decisions that would attract parents to enroll their children." 

Jacob Martinez: "The state needs to be doing far more to support public education. This starts with adequate funding so that we can pay our staff, and not passing legislation that takes local control away from school districts. Budget transparency is important, and that’s not something that we get with ESA vouchers. We should not be taking money away from public schools to give to businesses that have no accountability. That’s not fiscally responsible."

JR Wright: "I appreciate the recent increase in public education that the state has recently announced. The bonds have been a tremendous help and lifeline for Public education and I want to thank the community for supporting public education through necessary bonds and budget adjustments. We’re going to continue to need this help.  Particularly I am impressed with the MPS practice of looking forward without extreme raises in the tax rates. MPS maintains one of the most stable Districts in the State! We have to maintain and be focused on the fact that 85% of our students are still in public education. Charter schools provide other valuable options and it keeps public schools on our toes and having to be competitive in this environment. So while I think a limited number of vouchers in charter schools is acceptable, we have to maintain the fact that public education should still be the primary focus of our state legislators."

Marcie Hutchinson: "Public education is not a cost; it is an investment — an investment in our economy, our democracy, and in each other. Obligated by the State Constitution, the Arizona Legislature must provide public education in every district. The state should:

1. "Revise the school finance formula to:

  • "Provide a stable, dedicated revenue source

  • "Provide funding to improve student achievement by addressing student well-being

  • "Fully fund full-day kindergarten and funding for preschool programs

  • "Meet the needs of schools serving diverse student populations with many academic and other needs.

2. "Maximize state funding for nationally and locally competitive salaries to recruit and retain the most talented teachers and staff.

3. "Invest in technology and reliable internet so students can access instruction and resources.

"Vouchers drain desperately needed revenue away from public schools. By passing universal ESA vouchers with HB 2853, the Arizona Legislature has defied the will of Arizona voters who voted down voucher expansion in 2018. My hope is Arizona voters will stand up for our public schools one more time and reject universal ESA vouchers by referendum at the ballot box in November of 2024."

Ray Deer: "The state should support public education through state and local taxes. Also, each school district should strive with fidelity to seek grants to help support the many different programs at each school site.

"I believe that school vouchers should be provided to parents who chose to utilize school vouchers."

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Chris Hamlet: "I will perform an audit with the end goal of stopping unnecessary frivolous spending so that monies can be reallocated to teacher staffing. I would work toward making MPS such a positive experience for teachers, parents, and students, that it attracts quality personnel who have a passion for teaching children. There has been no indication that a nursing staff shortage exists at MPS at this time."

Jacob Martinez: "First and foremost, this starts with paying staff a livable wage. Our people aren’t in it for the money but they need to be able to feed their families. When crafting a budget we need to be sure to have staff compensation at the forefront of our conversations because without them we can’t serve our students. It also means fostering positive environments and caring about their wellbeing, this not only helps retain the staff that we have, but will be apparent to students who will then want to return to the district after graduation because they’ve seen what a great place to work it is."

JR Wright: "By promoting Mesa Public schools is a great place to learn, to work, and to be recognized. We have to continue to develop a culture of excellence of accomplishment and outstanding achievement. When we do that we will attract the greatest teachers and support staff organically."

Marcie Hutchinson: "We must pay our dedicated employees a living wage. Period. But we must also treat them as professionals. I am committed to listening to the concerns and ideas of those who work in our schools: teachers, counselors, administrators, school nurses, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, secretaries, operations workers, and custodians. They all must feel respected and valued."

Ray Deer: "As a school board member, I would seek to increase pay for teachers, school nurses, and support staff. It is about time we paid those who educate and help educate our children a comparable salary as compared to other professionals. Secondly, each school site must be a professional environment. The school site must be one in which school personnel can thrive and free of any toxic behavior. With increase pay and a professional environment, I believe that professional staff retention would be inherent."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Chris Hamlet: "Not sure what schools in the valley this question covers, but Mesa Public Schools is not lacking in these areas. A variety of schools within MPS have several new buildings, new furniture, new HVAC, new lighting, and new and extremely unnecessary upgrades throughout the district thanks mostly to the pandemic money, known in the district as Emergency and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. It seems to me that Mesa High School having 2 new buildings and enough money left to put a big metal purple MESA sign in the front of the school makes this a moot question."

Jacob Martinez: "This is why keeping trust within our community is so important. We’ve been fortunate in Mesa that our neighbors have been widely supportive in passing our Bond & Override efforts which have allowed us to embark on capital improvement projects over the years. As a board we need to make sure we’re being fiscally responsible and transparent so that the community continues to trust us and allow us to keep our schools safe and up to date."

JR Wright: "We have to look at all of the options and make the decisions in the best interest of now and in the future. It may mean closing some schools while rebuilding others. Keeping contractors honest in their bidding processes and making sure that the improvements will allow us to increase our technology abilities as well as energy efficiency’s in the years and decades to come."

Marcie Hutchinson: "School boards must be good stewards of the properties bought and paid for by taxpayers. Like any homeowner, the district must maintain, repair, renovate and update our learning spaces. Mesa Public Schools has schools/buildings in need of repair, updates, and renovations. We must maintain safe and healthy schools where students can learn and thrive. In addition to the M&O (maintenance and operation) and SFB (Schools Facilities Board) funds provided by the state, we are grateful to Mesa voters who passed our bond election in 2018. This bond election has allowed us to renovate Mesa and Mountain View High Schools, make our schools safer, expand facilities, buy energy-efficient buses, and update technology. We are using federal dollars known as ESSER (Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief) Funds to modernize our school’s HVAC systems and provide learning spaces that meet the unique learning needs of children in our neighborhood schools. The Mesa Public Schools master plan guides these long-term repairs and updates."

Ray Deer: "School boards should seek within their budget, seek donations from local businesses, conduct local fundraisers, and seek answers from the public."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Chris Hamlet: "At some point, we need to have a serious discussion about completely dissolving the Arizona Department of Education and what it would look like to take steps toward that goal. The AZDOE has done too much damage to our children by indoctrinating, hyper-sexualizing, and demoralizing them with dumbed-down curriculum, immoral policies, and incompetence at the highest levels within the organization."

Jacob Martinez: "This is why keeping trust within our community is so important. We’ve been fortunate in Mesa that our neighbors have been widely supportive in passing our Bond & Override efforts which have allowed us to embark on capital improvement projects over the years. As a board we need to make sure we’re being fiscally responsible and transparent so that the community continues to trust us and allow us to keep our schools safe and up to date."

JR Wright: "Yes, I am looking forward to represent the school district I grew up in, that my parents and now my children were apart of for the last 70 plus years! My heart is in Mesa and my business background will allow me to make sound financial decisions for the district’s budget."

Marcie Hutchinson: "Based on our Strategic Goals, our district has determined we will:

  • "Increase the percent of students who are proficient in grade-level standards.

  • "Increase the percent of students who graduate on time.

  • "Retain quality employees and recruit highly qualified applicants.

  • "Implement a system of supports at schools to meet the needs of all learners.

  • "Increase the percent of students who say they feel they belong at school.

"Marcie Hutchinson has the experience, the commitment, and the collaborative spirit to further this work. She is advancing community literacy, workforce development, arts education and providing multiple avenues to student success."

Ray Deer: "I believe I will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Mesa School Board if elected to this position. I would be a representative for the people, therefore I would have a duty to listen to the voters and not shut them out from the decision-making process. You can follow me on Facebook at: Ray Deer for Mesa Unified School District Governing Board 2022."

Paradise Valley Unified School District

Five people are running for two open four-year seats on the Paradise Valley Unified School District governing board.

Candidates are Edward Jackson, Sandra Christensen, Sheryl Evenson, Tony Pantera and incumbent Susan Matura.

Three people filed to run for one open two-year seat on the Paradise Valley board. Candidates for this position are Lisane Farr and Kerry Baker. Eric Bistrow dropped out of the race.

Christensen did not submit her answers by the time of publishing. Farr did not respond to The Republic's attempts to reach her.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you? 

Edward Jackson: "My name is Eddy Jackson. I am a husband and proud father of 4 PV students. I am an IT Manager with extensive experience negotiating contracts and managing budgets. I am a Students First and parental rights advocate."

Kerry Baker: "I have lived in Maricopa country my entire life. I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. I currently am a stay-at-home mom to my children. I have six children of my own and one stepson. Four of my children currently attend school in PVUSD.  This school year my youngest will start first grade and my oldest will be a senior. Before staying home with my children, I taught self-contained special education for seven years. I taught six of those years in the Peoria Unified School District and one year in Dysart."

Sheryl Evenson: "My name is Sheryl Evenson, and I am running for the Paradise Valley USD Governing Board. I am an Arizona Native, mother of two college graduates (NAU and ASU), and a retired science teacher. I attended public schools growing up in Prescott, graduated from Northern Arizona University in 1993 with a BS Degree in Secondary Physical Science Education which includes Chemistry, Physics, and Biology.  I also hold a Master's Degree in Science Education from Western Governors University (2011). My husband and I moved to Phoenix in 1995 when I was offered a job teaching 8th Grade Science at Royal Palm Middle School. I have worked in Public, Private, and Charter schools teaching Jr. High and High School; as well as a Non Profit online University. I retired after teaching for 25 years in 2018."

Susan Matura: "My name is Susan Matura. I have lived in Maricopa County for 23 years and I have three children (one in college, two in K-12 schools). I currently serve as the President of the Paradise Valley Unified School District Governing Board and I am passionate about public education. I have a background in business banking, lending, and website management. I am also a former PTO president and a long-time volunteer in the District and my faith community." 

Tony Pantera: "My name is Tony Pantera. I’ve lived in Maricopa County since 1960. I grew up in Scottsdale. Am a graduate from Hohokam Elementary, Saguaro H.S. and A.S.U. I am retired from teaching 43 years in the Paradise Valley Unified School District. I am a member of Elks Lodge 335, American Legion Pat Tillman Post 117, the Pulaski Club and St. Luke’s Catholic Church."  

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Edward Jackson: "As a candidate for PVUSD, I am focused on the issues facing students, parents and staff at PVUSD, not national rhetoric. As a board member, I will make sure our district focuses on academics not politics."

Kerry Baker: "Yes I absolutely believe in the election results."

Sheryl Evenson: "In regards to the 2020 election for the Paradise Valley School Board, I believe the results were legitimate. The 2022 election is the only election I am focused on right now."

Susan Matura: "Yes."

Tony Pantera: "I believe in the results of the 2020 election. I wish more Arizona Legislators were elected that supported public schools, but accept that those who serve now were legitimately elected."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Edward Jackson: "My platform is to return control of PVUSD to the Parents, Taxpayers and Voters of the district and establish board policies that ensure greater transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility."

Kerry Baker: "My platform is two parts. It is to support teachers as best I can and to be voice for ALL students. This includes students who are special ed and students who are part of the LGTBQ+ community. It also means ensuring we are teaching diversity in all areas. Representation matters for each student in our district."

Sheryl Evenson: "As a Board Member, my focus will be on the classroom. Just like the home is the heart of the family, I believe the classroom is the heart of education. The classroom is where learning takes place. It is where students come together, grow, collaborate, and feel accepted as part of a team.

"The classroom is the place where teachers build relationships with students, where lessons are presented, and real learning happens.

"My focus will be on classroom issues such as:

  • "Attracting and retaining the best teachers

  • "Making sure the classroom has necessary supplies

  • "Limit classroom sizes

  • "Parents are informed according to established policy

  • "Students who graduate are college or career ready."

Susan Matura: "Focus on EVERY Learner: Provide academic growth and support for every student and prepare every student for post-graduation success in their career, college, or community journey.

"Support Students and Teachers Through Collaboration: Maximize resources to ensure students are ready to learn and allow teachers the time and space to teach.

"Effective (and Positive) Communication with All Stakeholders: Reach out to underrepresented stakeholders, provide professional and constructive discourse, and ensure transparency and accountability of public funds.

"Keep the District Strong: Maintain excellent schools for strong communities, do not micromanage, and set priorities to create a climate that allows staff and student to succeed and meet District goals."

Tony Pantera: "I want to make sure we do more to reach out and connect with the parents of the district. Make sure all voices are heard. The board must serve the needs of every student while making sure we stay within the parameters of state law. I will work to make our schools more community oriented. Schools should be the hub of the neighborhoods they are located in. Learning should be physically and emotionally safe for all of our shared children."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Edward Jackson: "The biggest issue facing PVUSD is declining enrollment and test scores and the effect on increased class sizes and STEM specialty funding."

Kerry Baker: "Funding is hands down our biggest issue. Without proper funding, we don’t have enough teachers, support staff, bus drivers, and supplies. We have overcrowded classrooms in which teachers cannot do their jobs to the best of their ability. In some schools and districts, programs are being cut including band, choir, music, STEM, and theatre. For some kids, these important subjects are what keep them in school and engaged in learning, especially our at-risk students."

Sheryl Evenson: "While collecting signatures and talking to parents, teachers, and community members, I have been hearing one common theme — support. Schools need support which includes increasing the number of teachers, substitutes, bus drivers, coaches, paraprofessional workers, etc. Schools need people. I intend to look closely at the budget for overages and find areas where funds can be reallocated to the human resources that affect our classrooms and students directly."

Susan Matura: "I believe that school funding is the biggest issue in K-12 education.  Without a stable source of funding for education, and with the looming Aggregate Expenditure Limit, it is difficult to plan and budget for each year. Our students deserve and need academic and social support. Our teachers and staff members deserve and need higher pay so we can reward their work and also attract and retain highly-qualified employees. Unfunded mandates, including burdensome legislation placed upon school districts without sufficient funding to comply, needs to stop. Arizona residents support public education. It is now time for our state to prioritize public education at the statehouse and to ensure that sufficient funding exists to help our students succeed."

Tony Pantera: "Lack of funding to public schools continues to be a problem. Teacher recruitment and retention is challenging as well as recruiting and retaining all other staff that support the learning of our children. Security issues are ever present and we need to be vigilant to make sure we are doing all we can to keep students safe."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Edward Jackson declined to answer this question.

Kerry Baker: "CRT — CRT is simply not taught in our schools. People spouting the CRT rhetoric do not truly understand what it means and are using it as an umbrella term to call out any sort of diversity taught in schools they do not agree with. As a governing board member, I will strive for inclusion, diversity, and representation in our schools.

"SEL — I feel that SEL is more important now than ever. We have students coming out of a two-year pandemic, and it was not the easiest time. That combined with social media and the current issues in our country, we have many students who need support.  It is vital that our children learn coping skills, communication skills, self-regulation, building self-esteem, and being an advocate for themselves. In the climate of so many school shootings, a good SEL program could help with interventions at a crucial time. I will continue to be an advocate for SEL in the classroom and funding to support it. In addition, I will work to help parents understand what is truly being taught in the class to educate them and hopefully build understanding.

"LGBTQ+ — I hold these issues near and dear to my heart. This is our most vulnerable population, and we have a responsibility to make sure these students feel safe in our schools and classrooms. As a board member, I will only support policy that protects and supports our LGTBQ+ students. In fact, one of the biggest reasons I decided to run for governing board was to be a voice for these students. I understand there are some parents who feel differently, and although they are noisy, they are a small percentage.  Again, I will do my best to help educate and inform, but my number one priority is the students.

"Equity Issues — There many equity issues that face our public schools. Funding, food insecurity, homelessness, mental health issues, English Language Learners, and mental health issues. As a governing board member, I need to prioritize policy for these populations. I will explain my position and my rationale, but ultimately, I am here for the students. My job is to serve in their best interests."

Sheryl Evenson: "As a teacher, my job was to educate students. I believe that the parent and the student can make the decisions on how to best address the issues that are facing the child. The school’s responsibility is to make sure the child is safe at school, educated in the classroom, and leaves school ready for college or a career."

Susan Matura: "Some people have forgotten that their words can be hurtful to children. By discussing these issues in generalizations and scare tactics, it removes actual people from the equation. As a school governing board member, it is my job to continue to focus on students and learning. When supports are needed to help students succeed in our schools, we need to provide those supports. I do not see teachers pushing an agenda; rather, I see teachers pushing their students to work their hardest and to move the needle on academic achievement. I do not see teachers trying to indoctrinate children; rather, I see teachers trying to help EVERY student meet their goals and succeed. If someone has an issue with a specific lesson for their child, they need to bring that concern to the teacher or principal to find a resolution. Assigning distrust based upon national rhetoric does nothing to help our students, and helping ALL of our students must remain our priority."

Tony Pantera: "By focusing on teaching unbiased facts not fiction our students can draw their own conclusions about how to go about following their dreams and attaining their aspirations in life.

"CRT: Has never been part of the PVUSD curriculum. The district has always had committees composed of parents, teachers and administrators to choose the type of curriculum the district offers be it math, reading, social studies etc. For CRT to be part of our curriculum, parents would have to approve it. Social-emotional learning: Every time a staff member interacts with a child this learning takes place. We want to make sure the learning is positive. You can’t learn if you are depressed or frightened. Sadly, child abuse happens, bullying happens. We need to give our students support to overcome these and other factors that interfere with their learning.

"LGBTQ/Equity: Public schools have all sorts of cultures, genders, and faiths within their boundaries. All are entitled to learn without fear of persecution. We are not to decide how a student wants to live. We are to help them achieve positive life goals no matter who they are."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Edward Jackson: "Arizona should fund students, not systems. My kids attend public schools, but I respect the right of parents to send their children to a school of their choice. If we build more competitive districts, more students and families will choose public schools."

Kerry Baker: "The state needs to support education by fully funding it in addition to raising the Aggregate Expenditure Limit so schools can use those funds. Charter and private schools are held to the AEL so they can freely spend any money they receive. I do not believe in expanding school vouchers, and this is one of the reasons. The oversight for the charter and private schools is minimal at best, yet public schools are help to the strictest standards. If government is now also going to funding private and charter schools, shouldn’t they also have the same limitations? In addition, expanding vouchers drains funding from our already poorly funded public schools, and it still only helps those who can afford to supplement education and drive to different schools."

Sheryl Evenson: "I believe that the state should support schools more, but I also believe that the schools have a responsibility to use funds wisely. My goal is to make sure that funds are appropriately allocated to student learning. Too much money is wasted on administration and unnecessary extras that have nothing to do with educating our children.

"I understand the concept of expanding the State Vouchers was to enable parents to make the decision on how use funds in order to educate their child. However, we must develop a checks and balances system to inhibit a swell from school to school or year to year based on the flavor of the day school."

Susan Matura: "The state needs to make public education a priority in Arizona.  Additional funds from the state this year are a welcome start, but without the resolution of the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (an antiquated system that needs a permanent fix), the funds could prove to be an empty promise. Arizona should strive to fund education at closer to the median — spending per student that ranks in the bottom ten states in our nation should not be an acceptable level. I think that ESA (voucher) expansion will remove more funding from the state's general budget, which will leave less money for funding public schools (especially when it comes to adding funding for programs and beyond a per-pupil basis). ESA expansion will also make it harder for students with special needs to access the ESA funds that were initially set aside for them. Voters have voted down ESA expansion in the past, and the issue should be brought back to the voters again." 

Tony Pantera: "I agree with the 60% of Arizonans who voted against expanded school vouchers the last time it was on the ballot. Less government is better than creating a new layer of bureaucracy that surrounds charter schools. Our public schools need funds. Our school staff need respect and a career they can depend on to help them and their families live the American dream."

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Edward Jackson: "According to the Arizona Auditor General's District Spending Report, PV Administration and Plant Operations sq footage costs per pupil is significantly higher than their peer average. I have a plan to redirect more funds to the classroom and recruit and retain quality teachers."

Kerry Baker: "Again, this largely has to do with funding our schools. However, I will do everything in my power as governing board member to vote on policy and salaries that support teachers and staff."

Sheryl Evenson: "Teacher shortage is definitely my highest priority. Maybe it is time to look into viable alternatives of the one teacher one classroom model such as team teaching which brings in some interns from the local University’s education program. I think all options need to be examined right now where teachers are supported and respected so they want to stay, and for future teachers to be mentored and lead by professionals."

Kerry Baker: "Again, this largely has to do with funding our schools. However, I will do everything in my power as governing board member to vote on policy and salaries that support teachers and staff."

Susan Matura: "As a District, we need to maintain a welcoming atmosphere, offer competitive compensation, and practice respectful and productive collaboration. We need to continue to engage all staff in District decisions and support the staff by allowing them the time and space to do their jobs. We need to treat District staff as professionals, and we should expect others to respect the profession and the positions as well."

Tony Pantera: "The board can not control the funding we get from the state, but we can do everything else we can to help our staff find cause to choose to work and stay here. We can listen to what working conditions they need and make those conditions a reality. We can take any task off their plates that interfere with them being able to perform their primary function, to educate and protect our youth. An example would be less staff meetings workshops, new programs on top of the new programs or duplication of efforts."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Edward Jackson: "PVUSD has approved every bond and override requested of voters in recent years and doesn't have an issue funding plant operations. Last year, the district approved 8 million dollars of bond money to renovate the Auditorium at Pinnacle High School."

Kerry Baker: "PVUSD has done a good job and keeping their schools updated and replacing buildings when needed. I will continue to vote in favor of funding school repairs as needed."

Sheryl Evenson: "At this point in time, I would like to fund classrooms first. Students can learn without a state-of-the-art facility, but they can not learn without a teacher, materials, or necessary support. I would make sure schools are clean, healthy, and functional. Big ticket renovations may have to wait until we can address classroom concerns and cutting down administrative funds."

Susan Matura: "Paradise Valley Unified School District has been fortunate to have the community’s support through the passage of Bonds and Overrides. Without these funds, it would not be possible to keep our buildings in good condition. District facilities are taxpayer-owned properties, and investments in schools are investments in the community."

Tony Pantera: "Unfortunately, lack of proper state funding makes updates and repairs hard to complete. We have to resort to Bonds and Override elections in many cases. I would make sure from the district level we continue to seek out and apply for any and all grants that may be out there to fill the financial gaps we are burdened with. We also must be sure to use the scant funds we do get as efficiently as possible."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Kerry Baker: "I am a Save Our Schools candidate and a Gun Sense Candidate for Moms Demand Action. I am currently seeking an endorsement from the Paradise Valley Education Associate PAC."

Sheryl Evenson: "Serving on the Paradise Valley Unified School District Board is not a stepping stone to the beginning of a political career. I am running because I have a heart for students, families, and teachers. I have 25 years of experience with students, parents, boards, and administration that I want to bring to the district. I’m willing to listen to ideas and try something new if it helps a child."

Susan Matura: "I am honored to have served as a member of the Paradise Valley Unified School District Governing Board, including as the current President. In my current reelection, I have received the endorsement of the Paradise Valley Fund for Children (comprised of teachers and staff within the District) and of the Arizona Latino School Board Association. I am also a Save Our Schools candidate. I am proud to serve the community as a member of the Paradise Valley Unified School District Governing Board and I plan to continue to work hard on behalf of ALL students, educators, parents, and the entire PVUSD community."

Tony Pantera: "Every day during my career I spent my early morning moment of silence praying for my students and that I might serve them as best that I could. Now that I’m retired, I find that I still start my day with a moment of silence and the prayer is still the same. Knowledge acquisition is or should be a constant. As Socrates said, 'A life unexamined is a life not worth living.' I am still examining life and want to instill that same wonder in our students every day."

Queen Creek Unified School District

Three people are running for two open four-year seats on the Queen Creek Unified School District governing board.

Candidates are James Knox, Ken Brague and Samantha Davis.

Brague and Davis did not respond to The Republic's attempts to reach them.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you. 

James Knox: "I left Arizona in the late 90s to pursue career opportunities and was elated to have the opportunity to returned three years ago. Currently, I am employed by a large financial company in the role of a Disaster Recovery Resiliency Manager responsible for the technology services for our bank. I have long been involved in my community, serving as a state legislator, and on multiple city, county and state boards. As a freshman legislator, I introduced 18 bills and carried 16 through various process stages, seven directly related to education.

"I have been married for over 20 years. I have three children, one from a prior marriage whom I raised as a single father with sole custody awarded in California. My wife and I have chosen to homeschool our sons, and as homeschool parents, we are actively involved in curriculum choice, extracurricular activities and ensuring they are well-rounded citizens."

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

James Knox: "This question has nothing to do with the office of a school board member, but it is no secret that I worked with Liz Harris and ran the Maricopa County Canvas effort. Yes, I believe in the results, and as time goes on, many other citizens feeling the pain will believe in the results too. "

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

James Knox: "My platform is to be a voice for taxpayers and parents while ensuring the teachers, our most precious resource, are represented and provided a non-hostile work environment. Having a 39% loss of staff in the 2021/22 year is unacceptable. The board's role is to hold the superintendent accountable for the goals set forth by the board. The board is the taxpayer's voice and needs to engage and drive their will. Rubber stamping budgets and initiatives are not acceptable, but my ideal goal is to expect and work towards developing a public education system parents choose to enroll their children in."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

James Knox: "The lack of a value-based curriculum and divergence from a classic American education is detrimental to our schools and children. Education should consist of reading, writing, arithmetic, science, critical thinking and entrepreneurship. This is what is critical to educating children to build a lifelong love for education and make the right life choices for their successful futures."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

James Knox: "Bullying and disrespect for others should never be acceptable in schools or society. All the parents I have spoken with overwhelmingly do not support the 'feeling-based' issue doctrine in our schools at any level. If we embrace classic American education and critical thinking, our children will grow up and be fully capable of logically approaching these topics and making their own factual base decisions. Until then, we must protect them from this very confusing message which generally is opposed by the values taught within our homes."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

James Knox: "Arizona has low taxes, and this does result in lower overall funding per pupil, but quality education is not based upon the dollars per pupil. If you look at the spending trends since 2000, spending for administration has gone up 88%, 37% for Principals and assistant principals, 8.3% for teachers and 8% for students. We have a top-heavy system that is robbing the dollars from reaching the classroom.

"The recently passed HB 2853 (Universal ESA Voucher Expansion) bill, has turned Arizona into the nation's most parental choice empowering state in the nation. This potentially could result in added funding per pupil as the ~12k of state funding per student will allow parents up to ~7k resulting in the balance of ~4k to remain in the school district in which the student resides. This can also reduce overcrowding if there is a significant change in enrollment.

"The argument the public school system may claim is it is removing funds from its budget. I believe another goal of my serving is to ensure our public option steps up its game and produces quality products parents want to choose, not forced to."

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

James Knox: "There are multiple reasons for these shortages. Money is just one of those factors, and when we look at the top-heavy budgeting, I think we can find plenty of funds to restructure salaries. Perhaps the more pressing issue is the toxic environment Teachers are forced to work in, the lack of support in the classroom and the lack of discipline and addressing the pupil problems. Add the large amount of paperwork to support the funding of additional grants that interfere with the teaching time while in the classroom."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

James Knox: "Conservative financial planning and living within the district's budget. A budget should consist of savings for these known and predictable expenses."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

James Knox: "If you are happy with your schools and the continual drive for more bonds, vote for the current incumbents. However, if you want someone who will be available to you, be your voice, fight for what it takes to keep quality teachers in the classroom, and be accountable, then vote for James Knox!"

Scottsdale Unified School District

Six candidates filed signatures to run for two open four-year seats on the Scottsdale Unified School District governing board.

Candidates are Amy Carney, Andrea Keck, Carine Werner, Mary Gaudio and Robb Vaules. Sara Solem dropped out of the race.


Can you introduce yourself please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you? 

Amy Carney: "I’m Amy Carney and I am a candidate for the Scottsdale Unified Governing Board. As a mother of six children educated in our Scottsdale Unified schools, I'm stepping up to serve on the district’s governing board after being involved and invested in our community — long before election season. My husband and I graduated our firstborn triplet sons and daughter from Chaparral in 2020 and 2021, while our younger two sons are currently enrolled in our Scottsdale public schools.

In addition, I am an author, speaker, and entrepreneur working in the family and parenting space locally and nationally, publishing content and speaking to moms and dads about the importance of raising their children with intentionality. So, serving on our local school board is a natural extension of how I have already been living my life personally and professionally: championing our children, families, and community.

Our public schools must be a strong pillar in our community. Therefore, we need to elect leaders who will ensure that we offer rigorous academics and enriching extracurriculars so parents can confidently send their sons and daughters to our neighborhood schools."

Andrea Keck: "I have lived in Maricopa County for 25 years. We moved here from the north shore of Chicago where we had some of the finest public schools in the country.  So I know what good public schools can be.

"I have an undergraduate degree from the Indiana University School of Business, and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

"I spent the bulk of my corporate career as a brand manager for Kraft Foods and The NutraSweet Co., managing $100 MIL -$300 MIL businesses such as Parkay® Margarine, Lender’s® Bagels, and Celestial Seasonings® Tea.

"I also have 25 years of experience in the educational sector. In addition to the typical PTO/Booster Club activities, I have been involved in education in substantive ways. I formed community partnerships to support schools, bringing in partners who provided academic enrichment programs such as Fantasy Baseball Math and Where’s Waldo Geography. I facilitated a collaboration between a resourced and an under-resourced middle school which included 7 joint academic, cultural, athletic, and mentoring events each year for over 400 students.

"I spent 8 years volunteering at the Pappas Schools in Phoenix whose entire enrollment consisted of homeless students. I was on the Board of BoysHopeGirlsHope of Arizona for 7 years providing at-risk students, both residential and commuter, holistic programs with top-tier education opportunities. I was also a member of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, a statewide collaboration between business and education leaders with the goal of creating a superior public education system in Arizona.

"I have both Gifted and Special Ed experience. I have mentored more at-risk, Hispanic, and African-American students than I can count!

"I started my own educational business 11 years ago providing curriculum and personal coaching to help 7th – 12th grade students 'Find Their Passion', 'Build Their Strengths' and develop and execute a personalized roadmap to post-secondary success. Over 1000 students in the Phoenix area have participated in DreamRoads®.

"I believe education should be a non-partisan issue. I am not being managed by, thus not beholden to, any political organizations or players.

"I am the best educated, most experienced candidate in the SUSD race. I am uniquely qualified for the Governing Board because I have both significant business experience as well as nearly 30 years of substantive experience in the educational sector."

Carine Werner: "At 11 years old, I landed on the tarmac to 'America' by Neil Diamond playing over the loudspeakers. Three weeks later, I walked into a public school classroom and stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. While I did not speak English, I knew in that moment I was in the greatest country on earth.

"As a public school mom of three, proven leader, and business owner, I have been on the front lines and in the trenches in our Scottsdale Unified Schools for a decade, as my youngest just graduated in May. I attend board meetings — even the ones no one else goes to. I meet with administrators and review the curriculum on their devices; I know where the problematic curriculum is and have a plan to remove it. I served on various committees in SUSD and have built strong relationships with parents, teachers, and administrators.

"In May 2020, the community was in lockdown, and Zoom was the new classroom, while athletic programs and extracurricular activities were canceled. I recognized the harmful impacts that closing down these outlets had on students. So, I took action and launched a campaign, rallying 140 parents, and successfully got sports and extracurricular activities restarted. I recently spoke with a coach in the athletic department who told me, 'Carine, had you not done that, we would not have had sports in 2020.'

"I have witnessed the steady decline in merit-based academics, with test scores tanking and teachers leaving the district in droves. Even the eight-year age gap between my oldest and youngest has revealed stark differences in how our children are educated.

"In 2021 the 10th-grade math proficiency rate at Coronado High School was 8%, and Desert Mountain High School was 49%, according to the state exam. Not one of SUSD's five high schools graduated their students at above 50% proficiency in math or ELA.

"Here’s my plan for strong schools:

  • "Put our students and academic achievement first.

  • "Empower parents and give our community a voice.

  • "Support our quality teachers-putting more money back in the classroom.

  • "Build a culture of trust – ensuring transparency and accountability.

"Restore traditional education, focusing on academics, not politics, and return to developing students' interests, not identities.

"Real change will take common-sense leaders who can influence others to see their vision for our schools. I am that leader and experienced the disarray in our district, and I am committed to getting our public schools back on track for Scottsdale students, parents, teachers, and our community. As your next school board member, I will bring an enduring passion to secure our children's future, respect for our parents, restore trust, and build consensus without compromising our values. However, most importantly, I have a proven track record of positively impacting our community.

"I'm ready to serve our community on the Scottsdale Unified Governing Board. With an extensive professional background in finance, as a business owner, and on-the-ground experience in causing positive change for students, parents, teachers, and community members, there is no better voice to advocate for you. Learn more here —"

Mary Gaudio: "Growing up in poverty and raised by a disabled, widowed mother, the education and community support I received from my Phoenix neighborhood schools made all the difference in helping me to succeed. I graduated from Alhambra High School in 1984 and received a full-tuition scholarship to Arizona State University as an Arizona Board of Regents scholar. I earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising in 1988. After a successful career in advertising and 14 years of active-volunteering in my children’s public schools, I am currently retired.

"I reside in Paradise Valley with Joe, my husband of 30 years. We are the proud parents of two young adults, Alex and Maggie, and one super mutt named Vera. We moved to the suburbs of Dallas when our oldest was in kindergarten. Both of our children attended public schools K-12 in Plano and Allen Independent School Districts. This is where my involvement and advocacy for public education began, as a PTA and Booster Club President and K-8 substitute teacher. I have devoted nearly 25 years in service to my community, as a volunteer mentor, advocate, and community leader for non-profit organizations focused on children, education, and healthcare.

"I strongly believe that every child deserves equal access to a high-quality public education, regardless of their zip code. As a Governing Board Member, I will work to build relationships within our community based on a foundation of empathy, tolerance, and respect for all. By setting high expectations and providing the proper resources, I aim to help close student achievement gaps within the district and ensure every student receives an excellent education in an inclusive, nurturing environment. I will advocate for adequate funding of our district schools and oppose all voucher expansion programs proposed by the state legislature.

"For further information, please visit my website:"

Robb Vaules: "I am Robb Vaules, and I was born and raised in the Valley, attended the Scottsdale Unified District schools, and graduated from Arcadia High School. I earned a bachelor's degree from Northern Arizona University and completed my graduate work at The University of Texas, Austin. I am currently Senior Vice President with a Phoenix-based Telemedicine Practice. I serve as the Board President for the Arizona Center for Disability Law and have previously served on the Minnesota and Arizona State Boards for the March of Dimes. I also serve on the Desert Mountain High School site council and committees with the Scottsdale Parent Council. I live in Scottsdale with my wife Renae, and Son, Andy, a district student. I am a Save Our Schools pro-public education candidate and support the Scottsdale USD Override. I support teachers and will work to improve their working environments, retention, and pay."

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Keck declined to answer this question.

Amy Carney: "I am a candidate running for the school board. I'm more concerned about the future of public schools in Scottsdale and ensuring every student has a positive, rewarding educational experience. I'm running because I know well the frustration and pain our community has experienced under our current district leadership. I plan to take my knowledge and passion for our students and schools to the board and be an unwavering advocate for parents, teachers, and our community. That's where my focus is."

Carine Werner: "I believe all elections should be transparent and fair. This November, Scottsdale Unified residents have the opportunity to cast a vote for change in our public schools. I urge everyone to cast their vote for the two candidates who are proven parent leaders that will put students first."

Mary Gaudio: "Unequivocally, yes!"

Robb Vaules: "Yes, I do."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Amy Carney: "Strong communities have strong public schools, and I'm committed to ensuring that our budget and curriculum are focused on giving all of our children opportunities to thrive. Our public schools should be the top education option in the neighborhood and an institution our community can be proud of.

"Our public schools should focus on educating our children and ensuring they are prepared with the necessary skills to successfully go to college or enter the workforce after graduation. However, it's vital that we look at the recent School Climate survey results, which showed that only 21% of the 6-12th grade students surveyed say they enjoy learning, while only 33% said they like school. We must find ways to reengage our students and provide them opportunities to develop a love for learning and the school communities they are a part of. As your next school board member, I am dedicated to ensuring that every action I take puts the success and well-being of our students first.

"I'm also committed to cultivating an environment of trust through transparency and accountability. Furthermore, we must fully welcome our parents onto our school campuses and listen to their desires as respected partners in their child's educational experience."

Andrea Keck: "My platform consists of 4 things:

"1. School Safety

"After a student was found inside Arcadia H.S. with a gun in his backpack school safety became my number one issue.

2.  Improve academic achievement

  • "PRE-Covid we had only 46% of our high school students proficient in English, Math, and Science.

  • "SUSD now ranks 6th out of 10 Phoenix-area districts in 10th grade math.

  • "40% of our 3rd-8th graders are not at grade-level in English or Math.

"3.  Parental Rights and Transparency

  • "Time spent on race, gender, sexuality, social justice, equity, etc. is negatively impacting academic results — the number one responsibility of our schools.

  • "There have been gender, sexual, political, and racial events, surveys, assignments, and personnel incidents within SUSD. These kinds of things have to stop! No divisive, identity-based curricula; sexual or political indoctrination.

  • "Schools assist, but cannot supersede, parents in raising children.

"4. Fiscal Responsibility

"Prioritize spending on teaching core subjects. Reduce overhead and waste. Spend your tax dollars wisely to produce a good return on your investment."

Carine Werner: "There are four critical issues that I will tackle as your next school board member: 1) Abysmal academic performance, 2) Parents' rejection of SUSD in record numbers, 3) Ensure fair teacher pay, and the 4) Safety and security for our students and staff.

"We must put students and their academic achievement first. I will work relentlessly to ensure our schools develop strong, engaged, academically successful students prepared for the world. I will restore traditional academics, developing students' interests over identities. Politics, ideologically charged rhetoric, and divisive curriculum have no place in our classrooms.

"The school board must empower parents, not dismiss their input. My superpower is building bridges with people of all backgrounds. We need a board who will listen to and support parents and community members' ideas. My promise to parents is to be accessible, accountable, and transparent in all areas, and make SUSD the number one academic option in the neighborhood.

"We must recognize and reward our quality teachers by putting money back in the classroom, building a culture of trust and transparency, and making SUSD a place where good teachers want to stay. The Arizona Legislature approved the most significant yearly increase in K-12 education the last eight years (with an additional $1 billion in year-over-year spending, total K-12 spending for this year is $8.45 billion). Governor Ducey directly called on school board members to ensure these funds are directed to teachers – adding property tax and federal funding the total budget is $14.88 billion dollars. I commit to using my vote on the school board to put money back into the classroom, not administrative bloat.

"We must ensure the safety of our schools through support of our valued School Resource Officers (SROs), partnerships with the Scottsdale Police Department and continuous review and improvement of our safety procedures. The Arizona Legislature has approved $50 million in ongoing funding for school safety, supporting school resource officer salaries, and $20 million for the school safety interoperability program, which provides funding to county sheriffs for real-time communication solutions between schools and public safety agencies in the event of an emergency. We must elect individuals who will direct this money to support school safety measures and have uniformed police officers on each campus."

Mary Gaudio: "Restore trust & foster a more respectful environment

"Public education is a community partnership built on trust and respect between schools and the families they serve. I will work to restore trust and foster a more respectful environment within our SUSD community. Our students deserve no less.

"Advance educational equity

"I will work to further advance equity within SUSD. Every child deserves equal access to a free, quality public education with a certified teacher in every classroom. I firmly believe every child can succeed if given the right opportunities, with high expectations set, and the support in place to achieve those goals. It is in our community’s best economic interest to ensure every student has what they need to be successful. Additionally, all students, administrators, educators, and staff deserve to learn and work in a safe, inclusive environment where they feel valued, respected, and seen.

"Invest in our #1 Resource: Teachers

"In board meetings and across social media, much has been said about our students’ declining proficiency in reading and math. Professional, certified teachers, along with smaller class sizes to allow for more individualized instruction, are key to improving academic performance. We must work to recruit, mentor, and retain qualified, talented teachers."

Robb Vaules: "I believe every child deserves a quality education that prepares them for the future, regardless of race, background, or disability. I am concerned with our special education students' services and will be a voice for my fellow SPED parents as we support our students and teachers. I know aspects of the SUSD SPED policies are not being held to account. The board adopted these, but the administration has not set up reviews and reporting to hold staff accountable, and I would start here by asking the district to follow the policies they adopted."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Amy Carney: "While there are many areas of improvement for the Scottsdale Unifed School District, one of the most important is our ability to retain and attract quality educators and students. It's vital that district leaders do the work to find out the truth of why people at all levels are leaving our schools (or not coming in the first place). And then we must pivot to create a culture and educational experience people want to be a part of.

"We can't have strong public schools unless we support our quality teachers and make sure more money makes it into their pockets and classrooms first. Our teachers have been overwhelmed and I've talked with many who feel forced to go along with policies or ideologies they don't believe in. We must ensure our teachers are appreciated and adequately supported in educating our children."

Andrea Keck: "Without question the poor levels of academic achievement. Statewide only 38% of our students are proficient or better in English and 30% in Math (2020-2021). That means 60-70% of our students are not at grade level. Simply unacceptable.

"SUSD performs better than the statewide averages (see stats in #3 above) but still not at acceptable levels."

Carine Werner: "Many parents are not choosing SUSD when deciding where their child will be educated. This has had a devastating, and worsening, impact on district funding and frankly, SUSD's reputation. Communication between board members, parents, and the community needs to be simple, transparent, and accessible. Current leadership has not been listening to parents or community members. We must mend this divide and put our students first.

 "The current leadership has espoused ideologically charged rhetoric and have dismissed parents who seek transparency. To fix this problem, we will begin by exploring the reasons parents are rejecting SUSD. We will start with the recent exit surveys, which revealed a lack of faith in administration and the board. Failing academics, politically charged classrooms, promotion of divisive curriculum, and anti-American sentiment are among the top parental concerns."

Mary Gaudio: "The biggest issue impacting our K-12 students, in my opinion, is the unprecedented teacher shortage across the state. Many vacancies are filled by teachers who are not certified. This will have an impact on students’ academic success, especially in high poverty districts. With this shortage of teachers, substitutes, and other support staff, educators are being asked to wear multiple hats: covering classrooms for other teachers, acting as counselors, recess monitors, and more. Teacher burnout, especially since the Covid pandemic, is causing many to leave the profession entirely. To attract and retain qualified teachers, Arizona must offer more competitive salaries. There is no guarantee, however, that increased salaries will be enough to lure Arizona’s certified teachers back into the classroom, given our state legislature’s chronic underfunding of education and increased hostility toward public school educators."

Robb Vaules: "I believe the biggest issue impacting K-12 students is teacher pay and retention."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Amy Carney: "Parents send their children to school to be educated in the core subjects and want to see academic excellence in our schools. The classroom is not the place for culture wars, and we must put our efforts into developing and strengthening our students' interests instead of their identities. Our public schools must provide quality, ideologically-neutral education for all students to thrive.

"We must strengthen the core academic subjects and ensure our students have the opportunities to learn the skills they need to succeed and excel in school and life. Our students must come first, and our Governing Board needs to refocus efforts on giving our students every educational opportunity available and see that academic achievement goals are met."

Andrea Keck: "The 'ultimate firewall' between national rhetoric and local practices lies with the Governing Board: 1) their expectations (priorities), 2) the curriculum they approve, and 3) their oversight of the Superintendent.

"The number one job of SUSD is to educate — to teach 'Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic' as the saying goes. Given where SUSD’s academic results currently stand, and where they need to be, much more time needs to be devoted to academics, particularly in middle and high school. Focusing more on academics will, by definition, reduce the amount of time for non-academic issues such as CRT, SEL, DEI, etc.

"The Board approves all curriculum. This is where what is permissible within SUSD is defined, the right balance is struck, age-appropriate instruction is delineated, and approved programs/materials/activities are outlined.

"There is certainly a place for the positive elements of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Social Emotional Learning, etc. Many of these are found in the original iterations of these programs, and I would support these positive elements.

"The Board oversees only one employee, the Superintendent. It’s up to the Superintendent to assure that all employees (both during and after-school) understand what is permissible and what is not. He/she must create a culture where staff members know what is acceptable to say/do and what is not acceptable. If employees are not strictly adhering to the guidelines then the Superintendent must be held accountable accordingly by the Board."

Carine Werner: "Every student, no matter their background, are valued and must be given every opportunity to thrive. I take seriously every one of these parental concerns about critical race theory, culturally responsive teaching, social emotional learning, and other divisive curriculums. I will fight for transparency and be the voice that parents and Scottsdale Unified residents don't have today. When small children come home confused about gender or questioning American values, parents rightly should be concerned. This must end. We must let our children be children. We must refocus on academics — not politics."

Mary Gaudio: "The culture war being waged against public schools and educators is not based on facts, but rather, meant to create fear and division along partisan lines. Politicians utilizing that harmful rhetoric do so to gain political power. In reality, the majority of parents want their children to have equal access to a quality education with highly effective teachers in every classroom. They want their children to learn in a safe, inclusive environment. They want their children prepared to either enter the workforce or to further their education beyond high school. Learning that everyone deserves respect creates a safer, more inclusive environment for all students and staff. Learning age-appropriate foundational knowledge such as information about their bodies and changes they are experiencing; learning key concepts such as privacy and respect for self and others; learning conflict resolution and self-management strategies — these are all measures that keep our kids safe and allow for positive growth and self-esteem. All of this creates space for children to learn and to thrive. As a Governing Board Member, I will stand up for common sense in our community and focus on what matters the most — creating an environment in which all students can thrive and educators are valued and respected."

Robb Vaules: "Critical Race Theory is not taught in the Scottsdale School District or any K-12 school district in the country.  Anyone pushing that CRT is being taught to our kids is doing it to impart misinformation and damage public education intentionally. I trust teachers and believe in teaching history that accurately depicts reality.

"Social Emotional Learning is vital to the development of kind, compassionate kids.  Again, anyone demonizing SEL is doing it to damage public education.

"I will support, protect, and defend our LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC students, teachers, and staff in my district and elsewhere."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Amy Carney: "I believe strong communities have strong public schools. Families shouldn’t have to look elsewhere for the rigorous academics and well-rounded extracurricular experiences they desire for their students. Our two youngest sons have always been eligible for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts since they were adopted from Arizona’s foster care system. As their parents, we are able to take their state educational dollars and educate them how we see fit. Fortunately, we have not needed to utilize an ESA because we have found the schools in our community to be a good fit for each of our children individually and for us as a family too. While my family has had a positive experience, the reality is that many of our community members are choosing other education options over our local public schools. We must support their choice while looking into why this is happening and strive to bring them back. Now is the time to elect school board members that are serious about listening to the community and making our public schools the number option in our local communities."

Andrea Keck: "Without question, the state should support public education. It is our moral obligation as members of society to best prepare our youth to succeed in life.

"A couple of things need to be improved:

1) Accountability, so that parents and community members can more easily see school-level academic and financial details.

"2) Balance funding in more equitable ways. Schools in more affluent areas often have more resources (i.e. tax credits, property tax revenues, bonds/overrides, etc.) than schools in less affluent areas, sometimes even within the same District.

"I support vouchers. I believe that competition 'raises all boats'.  The fact that 54% of eligible K-12 students in Scottsdale do not attend SUSD schools tells me that SUSD has to improve in order to attract and retain these students.

"There are some students whose needs cannot be met by their local public school. I have a granddaughter with autism. There came a point where the public school wasn’t able to fully serve her needs. She ultimately went to a private middle school for students with similar challenges, then came back to the public school system for high school.

"Recent data from The Goldwater Institute shows that the state funding per pupil in an Arizona public school far exceeds the average ESA Award, $10,854 versus $6966. So vouchers are more cost effective."

Carine Werner: "I believe that strong communities have strong public schools, and I'm committed to ensuring that our budget and curriculum are focused on giving all students opportunities to thrive. Our public schools should be the number one academic option in the neighborhood and an institution that our community can be proud of. Parents have the right to direct their children's education and are the ultimate decision-makers of which school is best for them. I will fight to improve students’ educational experience, so parents want to choose SUSD."

Mary Gaudio: "I would like to have a state legislature that values public education and invests in our future — our children. Low funding directly correlates with lower standardized test scores and graduation rates. It also directly correlates with our inability to attract and retain certified teachers. Arizona’s poverty rate is higher than the national rate, yet we are one of just eight states that do not account for student poverty in our funding formula. Additional funds and qualified, experienced teachers are necessary to support these students’ educational needs. Funding all-day kindergarten and providing adequate funding for special education are also investments I’d hope the state would make in public education.

"I am firmly against school voucher expansion for a number of reasons. The main reason is that every child deserves equal access to a free, quality public education. Our state’s current public education funding system is already an inequitable one. Private school vouchers will only exacerbate this problem and further the divide between our students’ academic success and educational attainment, along ethnic and socioeconomic classes. Furthermore, the bill that was signed by Governor Ducey has no accountability or transparency measures built into it. If we are funding two separate school systems with public taxpayer dollars — one public, one private — both ought to be held to the same accountability and transparency standards. Lawmakers and parents should have access to academic performance statistics, student demographic information, and socio-economic data. If these vouchers are truly designed to provide greater educational opportunities for all students, shouldn’t we have access to data that provides evidence of academic success and that all students are provided entry to these private schools?

"This opinion piece written by Joshua Cowen, a professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University, is informative:"

Robb Vaules: "The current state administration and legislature have intentionally ignored funding for public education, and I support fully funding our public schools and universities. Education is an investment, not an expense, and the return on that investment benefits every Arizonan.

"I support vouchers for special-needs students who need access to programs that might not be available in their local district. Otherwise, I oppose voucher expansion, including the recent legislation Governor Ducey signed into law, and I have been working with Save Our Schools Arizona to repeal that legislation."

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Amy Carney: "Teaching is a noble profession and it's time we get back to treating it as such. To retain and attract quality teachers and staff to our district, we must start by offering the compensation that reflects their value. But that's just a start, as we must also cultivate a culture and educational environment that people want to be a part of. I've said this several times already, but strong communities have strong public schools. I'm positive that we can turn this trend around and make Scottsdale Unified schools the number one destination for teachers and eduication professionals, and in turn, the number one education option in the community."

Andrea Keck: "First we need to assure that money intended for direct-to-student professionals actually goes to them. SUSD has comparatively high overhead and building maintenance costs that often siphon money intended to go to these employees.  We need to reduce overhead and building costs to free up money for direct-to-student professionals.

"Often significant pay increases aren’t achievable for new teachers for many years because pay is heavily determined by years of service and credentials. Making increases accessible sooner could aid retention; tying pay more to performance is one way to do this. Teachers of certain subjects such as math, science, and special ed are more likely to leave, and perhaps need additional resources and compensation.  Research shows that other factors also play an important role, most notably better support from Principals.

"I’d also look into innovative ideas like recruiting retired teachers/counselors/nurses, perhaps on a job-sharing basis. Doing so would actually save SUSD money as the District wouldn’t have to pay retirement or medical benefits for them, and salaries might be less than that of the current most tenured employees."

Carine Werner: "We can't have strong schools unless we support and reward quality teachers. Many teachers are overwhelmed with unnecessary, laborious tasks while being forced to teach curriculums they don't believe in. We must restore traditional academics and ensure teachers have the support they need, which directly impacts the quality of our students' education. Welcoming parents back into the classroom to lend a helping hand our teachers is so desperately needed.

"We must pay our teachers a better wage. The current board has failed our teachers. Funding made available for salary increases for teachers historically has been directed to administration, social media marketing, consultants, and an increase in administrative overhead, even as our student enrollment declines.

"The Arizona legislature approved the most significant yearly increase in K-12 education the last eight years (with an additional $1 billion in year-over-year spending, total K-12 spending for this year is $8.45 billion). Governor Ducey directly called on school board members to ensure these funds are directed to teachers – adding property tax and federal funding the total budget is $14.88 billion. I commit to using my vote on the school board to prioritize funding for teachers' compensation and putting money into the classroom."

Mary Gaudio: "First, paying our teachers, classified, and support staff competitive salaries should remain a top priority. Scottsdale Unified School District cannot afford to lose talented and experienced staff to neighboring districts or private institutions. I’d look to find creative ways to fund a mentoring/coaching program, possibly through community partnerships or grants, matching retired teachers with less-experienced teachers. Other strategies could be employed, such as team-teaching models and providing additional professional development opportunities. To help teachers cope with stress and burnout, I’d recommend providing integrated mental health support on campus for our teachers, if at all financially possible."

Robb Vaules: "Teacher recruiting and retention is the one major issue that looms over the Scottsdale district. The Scottsdale district recently had 56 open positions — which I believe is a normal level for a district with 22,000 students. Digging into this, we know that many positions we have not hired directly but are covered by current staff taking on additional work. These teachers chose to take 6/5 positions, which is good for them, but I support staffing at a level that would allow planning periods for our educators. That said, I believe that there will come a time that that pay and benefits will need to be addressed by the board to support and retain our staff and teachers. When we don’t pay teachers and other educational support staff a living wage, and need to hold a second or third job to make ends meet, we shouldn’t be surprised when we lose teachers and staff. We all suffer when that happens."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Amy Carney: "Scottsdale Unified has been investing in rebuilding and renovating many of our schools using voter-approved 2016 Bond Funds. Three of those renovation projects are currently underway."

Andrea Keck: "Again, my responsibility is only what’s happening with SUSD schools.

"This ties in with two issues SUSD is facing: 1) school safety, and 2) under-utilized facilities.

"Regarding school safety, the state has a $5 BIL budget surplus. I’d like to see legislation that directs each school to conduct an expert physical security assessment and present a list of needed upgrades and costs to the State for funding.

"SUSD has approximately 10 school facilities that are either closed or substantially under-utilized. As this issue is addressed by the new Governing Board, many possibilities will be considered — from renting out space, consolidating/closing schools, to innovative ideas like providing affordable housing for young teachers. What all the possibilities are are unknown at this time. The ultimate decision(s) that come out of this real-estate utilization project will determine what funding options are needed to support any needed architectural changes." 

Carine Werner: "SUSD has been consistent in upkeep, repairs, and renovations."

Mary Gaudio: "Unfortunately, Arizona schools are among, if not the most inequitably funded, in the nation. Under-funding of education shifts the burden of our schools’ long-term repairs and updates to taxpayers through property taxes, bonds, overrides, tax credits, and PTOs. Schools in low-income areas do not have access to those resources. They are left behind, with ceilings literally falling down on students, as LD4 State House candidate Laura Terech can attest.

"In Scottsdale, we are fortunate to have historically had the support of voters to fund school repairs and renovations. Scottsdale voters will be asked to continue their support of our public schools by approving an extension of the District Additional Assistance Override on the November ballot. I am fully in support of the Override and advocate for it at the doors I canvass and on social media. Our community is stronger when we invest in our neighborhood public schools. If only our state lawmakers agreed."

Robb Vaules: "Overall, I believe that the district has done a good job of renovating and rebuilding our schools. Work has also been done to retrofit some schools to better address facility security needs. While there is always a need to do some work to maintain current facilities, I believe most of the district schools are in a good place where no new major projects would be needed in the short and medium terms. If this were to be the case, I would favor any bond proposal to fund new construction and/or maintenance."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Amy Carney: "It’s important that we elect school board members who have a vested interest in the success of our students, district and community. Learn more about me at

Andrea Keck: "There are many good things happening within SUSD. We’re lucky to have dedicated teachers and administrators, involved parents, a wide variety of academic programs and extracurricular activities, etc. However our academic results are unacceptable. We are failing our youth on our most important task, educating all our students. In addition, as taxpayers we should be receiving a better return on our investment in SUSD. With the support of all stakeholders in our community, SUSD can meet the challenges we face and improve academic performance.

"SUSD is a large operation, with 22,000 students, 3000+ employees, 29 facilities, and a $460 MIL budget. An effective Board member must be skilled in a variety of management skills; not just one issue. They must not only be able to oversee curriculum (where most candidates have spent their time), but must have experience in strategic planning, in-depth financial analyses, real estate management, contracts, etc. The SUSD Governing Board desperately needs someone with large-scale management experience.

"The best teams are made up of people with differing backgrounds, expertise, and perspectives; not those where everyone is cut out of the same cloth. There are two open seats in this election. I urge you to vote for two people who have COMPLEMENTARY, not DUPLICATIVE, profiles. Who bring different sets of expertise and skills to the table, and who represent different stakeholder groups in the community, so that the sum is greater than its parts.  

"Approximately 85% of Scottsdale residents do not have K-12 age children. Yet they are the primary funders of SUSD. I believe they deserve a voice on the Governing Board.

"I am motivated only by one objective — that is to see every young person maximize their potential and graduate from high school with the academic and life skills they need to be successful in their next chapter. I have the skills and the passion to make a difference. I would be honored to have your support and to serve our Scottsdale youth.

'What the heck, vote for Keck!'"

Carine Werner: "It would be my honor to serve as your next SUSD board member. My vision for SUSD is where each student knows that no matter their background, that they are valued, and that every opportunity is offered to them by our great nation. I will work to ensure a school system where students graduate at or above grade level, are prepared to secure meaningful employment, attend a vocational school or college, find great on-the-job training programs, or start their own businesses. This is my vision. If it's yours too, let's stand together. Vote for Carine Werner for Scottsdale School Board on November 8, 2022. Learn more here —"

Mary Gaudio: "In November, I hope Arizona voters will place our students over politics and elect candidates who will serve in the best interest of every single student in our state."

Tempe Union High School District

Four candidates filed signatures to run for two open four-year seats on the Tempe Union High School District governing board.

Candidates are Amanda Steele, Stephan Kingsley and incumbent Andres Barraza. Margaret Pratt dropped out of the race.

Barraza did not submit answers by the time of publishing.


Can you introduce yourself, please? How long have you lived in Maricopa County, what do you do for a living, and any additional information about yourself you think voters would like to know about you? 

Amanda Steele: "Thank you for taking the time to learn about me. My name is Amanda Steele and I am an engaged member of the community; working and advocating for those within this district. I have deep roots and a heart for this community as an AZ native, and a former Tempe Union High School District student and a mother of a recent graduate. My son is my biggest motivator to bring a much-needed perspective to the school district. I am married to my best friend, who is widely known for his love and dedication to the community he serves."

Stephan Kingsley: "My name is Stephan Kingsley, I am a native to Arizona and I have lived in Maricopa County my whole life. I was born in Phoenix and grew up in Mesa. My mother immigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands and met my father on the East Coast. I have a total seven other siblings. My dad has been a teacher for 41 years, and all my family members are either educators, musicians, artists, engineers, or in mathematics and linguistics. I have been an educator for 15 years, the last twelve being an English teacher in a middle school or high school classroom. I taught in the Tempe Union High School District from 2019-2022 at Corona del Sol. I am currently a full-time student and candidate for a PhD in industrial and organizational psychology at Grand Canyon University. I am passionate about public education, diversity, equity, and being inclusive of all perspectives."

2020 election results

Do you believe in the 2020 election results?

Amanda Steele: "Yes, I believe in the integrity of our election systems."

Stephan Kingsley: "Yes, I believe the 2020 election results are valid. We have an established, valid, and secure democratic voting process in Arizona and in the United Sates. This is what makes America a strong and influential nation."

Main ideas

Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?  

Amanda Steele: "Student success and well-being are two of my main priorities.

  • "Inclusion so that all students are represented in school and district-level discussions.

  • "Social-emotional initiatives so that students can thrive.

  • "Solutions that inspire students and those guiding them.

  • "Fostering interventions to decrease the achievement gap through a student-centered accessibility approach.

"Educators are an invaluable resource who ignite the brains of our future, through their work our students' potential is fostered.

  • "Pay, support, and resources that reflect the responsibilities placed on teachers and support staff.

  • "Funding to assist our students and the educators supporting them.

  • "Bringing educators to the table, to include their voices in conversations, and ensuring all teachers and their support staff have equitable access to the resources within the district.

"Community collaboration will create post-secondary opportunities for our students in their own neighborhoods that suit their individual interests, abilities, and current readiness.

  • "Local jobs.

  • "Trade opportunities.

  • "Certificate programs and two-year community colleges.

  • "Four-year universities.

  • "Other post-secondary options."

Stephan Kingsley: "As a board member it is my duty and responsibility to solely represent the voice, community, and choice of students, families, and community members in the Tempe Union High School District. I will work with the school Superintendent and executive team to ensure school policy and budget priorities reflect the input given by students, families, and community members. I will continue the current boards direction to put policies in place that protect students and support their mental health and well-being. Polices also need to be in place for teacher and staff well-being, which includes a budget that increases salaries, decreases class sizes and workloads, and offers competitive pay alongside retention and recruitment stipends. I urgently want to talk to voters and community members as I go door-to-door to give them the opportunity to share their concerns and desires for the district’s direction. Tempe Union is in the process of creating their next five-year strategic plan, so the time to give input is now so I can take that with me to include in the strategic plan if I am voted into office."

What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 

Amanda Steele: "As a society, we are in need of picking up the pieces caused by a global pandemic, which impacted all students' educational experience. Students across the district and state were facing disproportionate achievement scores when assessed at a national level, prior to the pandemic. Today more students are showing delays and/or falling further behind in their academics, social-emotional well-being and overall development. Teachers are struggling mentally and emotionally from the trauma consumed over the last several years as well. I am a speech therapist with trauma and mental health training, so I will bring my prior experience to the board to improve the well-being of our Tempe Union community."     

Stephan Kingsley: "The short answer would be legislation and budget. When it comes to public schools, some legislators want to ban books, micromanage how history is being taught, openly and aggressively discriminate against students and teachers in the LGBTQ community, and take away school funding. These are not the biggest issues impacting K-12 students in Arizona. This kind of bad legislation just adds more stress to students and teachers who may already be feeling burned out. Their mental and emotional resources may be drained, and COVID only exacerbated the issue. What about policies to support their mental health and well-being? What about trauma-informed training for teachers and staff? What about increasing student behavioral support, providing funding for competitive wages, fully staffing special education classrooms? What about taking a strong stance on automatic weapons and revising school safety plans to eliminate guns and senseless murder? Where is the financial support for community or mandated programs that help families?

"Students in Arizona are struggling academically now, more than ever before. COVID was hard for everyone, but it was especially hard for students and families in a lower income bracket or below the line of poverty. The inequities are real. The student achievement gap has only widened, and it cannot be blamed on the students or teachers. It makes me angry when I hear legislators say, 'We just need more highly qualified teachers,' as if teachers that have stayed in the profession or are just entering the profession are not highly qualified. I feel sad and quite discouraged that Arizona has not done more to support our public schools, support our students, and prevent teacher burnout. They have known about teacher burnout and attrition for years before COVID! Throwing money at the problem is not the only way to fix the achievement gap, but it sure would help so we could start funding public schools and programs that support our students and families, retain good teachers, and recruit teachers from other states.

"More importantly, what I have learned over the years as an educator is that EVERY student wants to do well. Every student, at some point in their elementary or high school education, comes to school excited to learn. They have hope in the American dream; maybe they can be that person who will learn, go to college or a trade school, so they too can build a home, have a family, and live in freedom. It never worked for me to teach students to look at their achievement gap or tell them all the ways they didn’t measure up to someone else or to their grade or developmental level. Students succeed and highly achieve when they see what they are good at. They need opportunities to explore their interests, work with their strengths, and learn the skills to think critically, listen to other perspectives, and engage in respectful dialogue. Good teachers are instrumental in building this in students. When this happens, I think the 'student achievement gap' will begin closing itself.

"Students are smart. They hear things about 'not performing' or 'Arizona being 47 or 48th in the U.S.' They hear and feel the messages people tell them when they say that they are not going to succeed because of where they live, the culture or country they come from, or because they are not as smart as other kids and have a different learning style. The is no standard box with a level of achievement to put all children in. Ask any parent! I have taught students from other countries, worked in lower income areas, and now in Tempe Union, and I see the inequities. I would love for some of these legislators who make bad decisions for public schools to come shadow a teacher for a day. Let them tell the student who is homeless or whose family lives below the line of poverty, whose main food source comes from school, that they are no longer allowed to have as much food as they want or need. Let them tell the students that schools lose money when they are not in attendance and that it doesn’t matter if they don’t have access to transportation, that a family member has died from illness, has been murdered, or they missed school because they had to care for their younger brothers and sisters while their caregiver worked two jobs because one of their other caregivers was deported.

"The kind of legislation that micro-manages public school budgets, teacher’s curriculum, and ignores the realities of its communities does nothing to address the real issues facing K-12 students and families. Using buzz words like CRT, social emotional learning, and LGBTQ to get votes, only creates a distraction. It keeps people from remembering that every legislative decision affects a human child sitting in a classroom. How can you be “pro-life” but not care about the children who are alive and sitting in classrooms today? These legislative decisions directly affect every child who enters a public-school classroom that is excited to learn, has hope in the American dream, and wants to try their best. We cannot continue to kill their hopes, dash their dreams, beat out their curiosity, and silence their voices in the name of making America great again. It is so anti everything America stands for."

Diversity, equity and inclusion issues

How will you navigate the challenges regarding national rhetoric spilling into local schools related to critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues? 

Amanda Steele: "There is a lot of misinformation being spread. I will focus on providing educational information and factual details to the surrounding community, to increase their knowledge and expand their awareness on these issues."

Stephan Kingsley: "I think taking an approach to acknowledge the national rhetoric is helpful, but then defining the terms and educating people on issues as it relates to the school and local school district is key. I have observed that people often throw around these terms in agreement with national rhetoric rather than stopping to ask questions like; What is CRT? When my child goes to school, do their teachers teach this? How does a teacher or a student talk about names and pronouns? Is there even a way to push an agenda to make students LGBTQ and choose that lifestyle? Why do they equate LGBTQ adults to felons grooming students and assume that students choose to join the LGBTQ community as if it is a military branch?

"I really wish people would start asking questions like this to stay curious, then learn the answers by doing research and listening to others. The national rhetoric takes away curiosity and ends the conversation because it provides people with 'answers' and a way to 'fix a problem' that may not even exist. As a result, it is hurting students and teachers. Good teachers are culturally responsive, and they make sure that when hard topics come up that no one is shamed, and no one is made to feel better than another. They make sure that all students feel respected and facilitate conversations that allow all voices, perspectives, and beliefs to be heard, respected, and validated. They don’t push one perspective over another, or force students to believe something against their will. When national rhetoric uses absolutes, human dignity, respect, and real human connection are left out of the discussions. Doesn’t believing the national rhetoric without asking questions take away freedom of thought, anyhow?

"As a board member I can help define these terms and put policy in place to ensure that students are protected mentally, physically, and emotionally while in the classroom. Policy can be put in place to hold people accountable who harm students and force them to believe something that goes against their values. These are real topics and challenges that are often charged with intense emotion, and it deserves careful and deliberate attention when making decisions for a school district. Especially given the nature of the national rhetoric, it seems difficult for people to listen to others while also trusting that they can still to hold their own beliefs and values. We don’t all need to come to an agreement. That is what freedom of speech gives us. It gives us the ability to hold our own beliefs and the ability to listen to others who do not agree while having a civil discussion. As a board member, I will do the same. I want to listen to everyone, even those who do not agree with me. That is why a school board has multiple people serving, and why each member should represent different life perspectives. It is not just about me. The decisions made from discussions that multiple perspectives, that have agreement and disagreement, are often the decisions made in the best interest of everyone. That is democracy."

Public education funding

How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 

Amanda Steele: "I believe Arizona should invest in public education and in our students. I think the expansion of vouchers will hurt the most vulnerable students in the community. I believe a plan that doesn’t support all students and doesn’t expand on their individual educational outcomes is not for the student. Without an increase in each student's average daily membership (ADM), students across the state of Arizona will remain last in the country when it comes to education. We need a legislature that will invest in our students, our schools, and our outcomes." 

Stephan Kingsley: "Like what I mentioned before, Arizona should start supporting public education by funding it. We remain one of the lowest in funding per pupil, funding for public school budgets, and funding for mandated programs. The archaic funding formula only takes funding away from public schools, which in some cases, directly eliminates teacher salaries and positions. Arizona currently has one of the highest teacher attrition rates. We need to retain teachers at all costs. This is also why raising taxes to pay for students to attend private schools and charter schools rather than supporting public schools makes no sense.

"I absolutely do not believe in using everyone’s tax dollars to pay for a select few to go to a private, charter school, or to be homeschooled. I say select few because the vouchers only partially fund tuition, and families are left to cover the rest. Families who cannot fund the rest are left out of this choice and will send their student back to a public school that the government refuses to fully fund. Parents who have the means to fund a private or charter school, in part or whole, already have the choice to send their students to these schools or pull their child out to homeschool them. And I say this being a child that was pulled out of a public school at one point to be homeschooled!

"If I am not mistaken, over 1.1 million students are currently enrolled in Arizona’s public schools, and only about 11,000 students are currently enrolled in private or charter schools. This means parents are also making the choice to send their students to public schools. As a taxpayer and educator, I feel there needs to be a return on investment. If private schools, some charter schools, and parents who choose to homeschool do not have accountability for how money is spent, the curriculum being taught, or the type of assessments used to track student progress, how will I know if my tax dollars are being used appropriately?"

Professional shortages

How do you plan to address teacher, education professionals and school nurse shortages? 

Amanda Steele: "We need to invest in our teachers, provide a safe and effective work environment where one feels supported, and offer competitive wages that meet the demands of today’s inflation rates. We also need to provide a space where one feels supported and give access to the resources they need to effectively be prepared to educate with passion, determination, motivation, and with a plan to help their students gain success." 

Stephan Kingsley: "Teachers, educational professions, and school nurse shortages are horrific. Some, if not most of the staff, currently working in public schools are drained and burned out, but they stay because they love working with students. We need policies supporting their mental health, trauma-informed training, while increasing their salaries, increasing employment, stipends to recruit and retain, and reducing class sizes and caseloads. We also need to work with universities, community programs, and community businesses to help us come up with a sustainable solution to address the shortages for ALL our communities."

Capital projects

Several schools in the Valley need long-term repairs and updates. What is your plan to fund renovations? 

Amanda Steele: "I am currently serving as the Secretary for the YES Support Our Schools PAC and leading the Social Media committee. We have come together as community members working to get our 3 ballot initiatives approved this election cycle. We are looking to renew the continuation of funding by investing in our schools this election cycle by voting yes on all three Tempe Union ballot initiatives, four if you are in Tempe Elementary. Strong schools help build and strengthen communities."

Stephan Kingsley: "Renovations at some of our schools have already started, but there is still so much work to be done. Some of our Tempe Union campuses are over forty years old and our buildings need immediate attention. The money most often used for renovations come from bonds. I hope voters remember that when they see a bond on the ballot it is not 'extra money that can be spent however they want', after 'already having given schools more tax dollars.' Bonds restrict their use to things like renovations. I want to help voters understand this because Tempe Union has bonds on the ballot this November and we desperately need them to pass. Our students deserve safe buildings, air, water, and proper maintenance so they can focus on learning."

Additional information

Anything you would like to add? 

Amanda Steele: "The district would benefit from the accessibility lens I bring as a mother to a child with autism and an intellectual disability, a neurodiverse woman herself, and an advocate wanting to listen to your voice. I'm a passionate community leader here to inspire impactful change; igniting conversations that shift mindsets to include all."

Stephan Kingsley: "As a former teacher for the district, I offer multiple perspectives to amplify voices for students, teachers, and community members. I’m especially passionate about ensuring vulnerable and minority student voices and perspectives are represented, alongside the majority. Every perspective matters. I am looking forward to meeting voters and listening to what they feel is important to make Tempe Union a better high school District. I will work hard to earn every vote so I can help Tempe Union reflect and maintain the deep and valuable cultural history, that lives in every person’s story.

Renata Cló is a reporter on The Arizona Republic's K-12 education team. You can reach her at and follow her on Twitter @renataclo. 

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: School district voter guide 2022: Scottsdale, Chandler, Mesa