Candidates answer what voters can expect from them if they're elected

WHAT CAN VOTERS EXPECT FROM YOU IF YOU ARE ELECTED TO THE SCHOOL BOARD?

Andres Adan Barraza (TUHSD 213 School Board)

I will emphasize teacher retention, strengthening student activities and focus on growing opportunities for students to earn college credit and life skills.

I was born and went to school in this district. Rover Elementary, Fees Middle School and Marcos de Niza High School. I am proud to be a member of this community and have so many wonderful connections to this place and to the people. I played baseball here, was a Cub Scout and developed lasting friendships. Now I watch with my friends as the next generation of us grows up in the area. I want these kids to have the best education possible.

First and foremost, we must secure teachers to our district. Arizona more than doubles the national average regarding teacher retention loss and we need to address critical reasons why this occurs. Teachers are undercompensated and overworked.

The average teacher spends 20 hours a week grading homework assignments alone. Providing better compensation and working with our teachers and faculty to lean the workload and make processes more productive will save the district money, provide a better quality work environment and give back more personal time to our staff. I want to step up and solve this problem for our district.

Giving students opportunities to problem solve and expand their creativity helps develop life skills while fostering passion. A school in Nashville, Tennessee, opened a student-run coffee shop on campus.

Students learn employable skills like employee management, customer service and inventory management while being required to maintain their coursework in order to participate. Students learn responsibility and self-discipline; two components necessary for when they graduate move to their next step in life. In addition, this café in Nashville is generating revenue for student clubs and school needs. I would like us to seek innovative ways like this to keep students in school, generate funding for projects and give students creative outlets while helping them learn valuable life skills.

I will work and actively support the efforts of Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Baca and the district’s administrators to continue the successes of the partnership with Rio Salado College to provide college credit to students. I want to be the district known for having the most students who graduate with college credit. Continuing to support this partnership is essential for that goal.

Please go to my website BarrazaForTempe.com and my Facebook page to hear more of my platform.

MICHELLE HELM:

Knowledge, experience and caring.

I bring to the Tempe Union High School District governing board passion for educating children, knowledge and experience through my career as a classroom teacher with two degrees in education and my prior service on the Tempe Union High School District board serving twice as vice president and president.

During my tenure on the TUHSD board, all of our comprehensive schools have received an A rating while we have lowered our drop-out rate and raised our graduation rate.

I have helped ensure safer schools with the installation of security cameras and voted for all programs that prepare students for college or careers.  While a member of the board I have supported dual enrollment with ASU and Maricopa Community Colleges and the IB (International Baccalaureate Program).  My support has included our excellent drop-out prevention programs like JAG (Jobs for Arizona Graduates) and the Summer Bridge program.  

I have voted for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs, and supported high quality CTE (Career and Technical Education) courses.  While working on these and many other programs I have helped maintain a balanced budget and supported an excellent staff.

BERDETTA HODGE:

A vote for Berdetta Hodge is a vote for a former student of the Tempe Union High School District, a parent with one son currently enrolled in the district and a community leader with over 25 years of involvement.

There is a reason why Tempe Union is ranked among the top 5 percent of school districts in the State of Arizona. As a board member, I want to preserve the gains that the district has made with regard to graduation rates, student retention, student achievement, and community relations while continuing to improve upon our success.

First and foremost, I will focus on our students. To maximize outcomes for our students, we must ensure that all stakeholders have a voice at the table.

An effective school board member is one that is deeply rooted in the community; Tempe Union schools serve as the foundational building blocks for our future. I stand as an advocate for the precious stakeholders that make up our district. That is why I am running the “You Matter” campaign, because I strongly believe the following:

•Our parents matter, because parental engagement provides a springboard for success in the lives of our students.

•Our teachers matter, because they are our community’s greatest resource and we have to hire, train, retain and pay qualified talent.

•Our community matters, because our continued success as a community, state and nation depends on educating our youth.

•Our students matter, because everyone deserves an opportunity to receive a world-class education.

Next, I will be fiscally responsible. The valued taxpayers of this district fund our schools.  As a governing board member, one is entrusted to allocate every dollar the District receives in the most responsible way possible. As a single mother raising two sons, I know how to manage a fiscally sound budget.

If you would like to learn more, please email me at: BerdettaforTUHSD@gmail.com.

SANDY LOWE

If re-elected to the Tempe Union High School Governing board, I will bring the same passion and commitment to our students as I have in my first term. I will continue to be thoughtful, honest and transparent in decision-making as well as dedicated to fulfilling board responsibilities.

With more than 20 years of education advocacy, I possess an in-depth working knowledge of education both at the state and local level as well as a historical perspective of Tempe Union, which assists in guiding decisions for our future. I understand the importance of balancing fiscal responsibility with the goal of preparing students for success after high school.

My involvement in education as a PTO leader, school site council member, substitute teacher, and my experience as a stakeholder on a number of District and community education committees, has provided me with insight into issues facing our schools today.

Central to my experience comes an understanding of school finance, the process of decision-making, an awareness of school/teacher needs, and parent and community priorities. In addition, my business background, which includes an MBA and 18 years of experience at APS as a statistical analyst, provides me with a solid foundation upon which to make decisions.

While I believe my decisions made during my term were appropriate and thoughtful, I acknowledge that sometimes, some stakeholders may not agree. This brings a responsibility for me as a board member to be honest in explaining my reasoning for a vote, knowing our community deserves this.

I will continue to dedicate my full attention to the responsibilities of this position by always investing the time needed to understand issues.  As a result of these last four years, I have a greater understanding of the responsibilities of our education leaders as well as our teachers and how these roles play an integral part in preparing our students for after graduation.

I will continue to support a process that includes gathering timely input before a decision is made so I have a clear understanding of all sides of an issue. Timely and relevant communication should be a part of this.

From my years of involvement in my children’s education, I understand and empathize with parent priorities and concerns. I believe every person’s opinion matters; and it’s vital to listen to what is being said and thoughtfully consider how that applies to how our district operates.  

I express a deep gratitude to our District staff for their dedication in providing quality education to students. They continue to do this despite constant change and a recent societal negativism towards education. I thank our parents for their support and entrusting their children to Tempe Union.  Finally, I thank our community for their continued support of our overrides, bonds and schools; and for standing with us in our challenges and our successes.    

 

SCOTT RYAN

A woman walks into a party and announces excitedly “I just got hired as a teacher!”  Another teacher says “I’m sorry.” Sadly, this is a true story, a very painful reminder that morale for teachers is low. If morale is this low, then what does the classroom experience look like?

Now, let me tell you about my four-year plan to resolve this. For the next four years, we will focus on what we can control. The biggest challenge that the school board can address is retaining and attracting highly skilled teachers. Effective teachers in the classroom will have the biggest impact on raising student achievement.

Teachers want to feel excited and actually teach. They don’t want to spend their time learning how to use a new technology product, having to go through demoralizing and punitive evaluations, or sitting through mandatory administrative training.

I am a highly strategic person and I have a plan to address some of the largest challenges the district faces. Funding is a challenge and we all agree about the need to fully finance education. But that is not something we can control at the board level. What we can control is how we spend the dollars we do get. I intend to put more dollars into the classroom, and reduce the amount of administrative costs.

Every year new technology purchases are made and teachers are forced to learn a new product that takes away from time they can actually interact with students. This technology spending ends up being wasteful because behaviors are not changed and the benefits of the technology are never realized.

I would move away from costly programs and work for adoption of successful teaching practices. That is where the most impact will be made.

I will support our teachers. Change has the best chance of being successful when it is driven from the bottom. I will work with teachers to push for an evaluation system designed to support, not reprimand teachers.

Stringent evaluation systems do not weed out the weaker teachers, but they do demoralize the stronger ones. I would work with teachers and principals to create a support model for struggling students. If these strategies are created at the teacher level, and embraced by administration, then we have a real chance of making a positive change in our school district.

This is what voters can expect from me: helping our teachers succeed, enabling student achievement, responsible and strategic decision making, and making sure your dollars are well spent.

DON C. FLETCHER

ABC Channel 15 News ran a story on September 27, 2016, under the headline of “Arizona teacher shortage reaching crisis level.”  According to this news story, our Arizona schools had 2,041 unfilled vacancies for teachers as of August 28, 2016.  I understand that our Tempe Union High Schools did not face as severe a crisis as other school districts, but just the same, many Principals in our high schools were still scrambling at the beginning of our current school year to fill various positions.  I have wondered why this is happening and how did this reach a “crisis level.”  

During this campaign, I have met with several teachers, and also a few former teachers.  Recently, I specifically met with two former teachers that left the profession after each having been a teacher for over 10 years.   I asked them why they left the profession.  Their answers were somewhat surprising as they shared with me how they greatly enjoyed the interaction with the students and they wanted to continue to teach, but they were deterred by the lack of support from administration, and its ever changing teaching guidelines.  Simply, they reported too much top-down management, and not enough opportunity for personal development.  Interestingly, while wages were a concern, these two former teachers said they would still be in the classroom if there was better management at the administration level.

We need to do better.  Our children deserve better.  

As a member of the Tempe Union High School Board, I want to tackle this issue head on and make a difference for our teachers, keeping the good ones in the classroom and seeking to return teaching to a more noble profession.  If there are too many changing guidelines, we as a School Board need to work with the Arizona Department of Education and our District Office to find ways to avoid this situation.  If the administrators are not supporting our teachers, we need to have a heart-to-heart discussion about what works, and what does not, from the bottom coming up—and not so much the other way around.

We also need to address many other issues that are important to our schools including making sure we never forget that every taxpayer is a stakeholder in our schools.  We must show the taxpayers that their dollars are wisely spent.

Part of my educational priorities have been shaped by my wife, Christine, who is a teacher, and having raised four children.  We understood the value of peer groups in the lives of teenagers, and how sports, music, drama, and other programs provided a vital role in the fabric of teenagers’ lives.  Desert Vista High School served three of our children well in this regard.  While academic should always came first, we believe children need to feel connected, and be a part of something bigger than just their grades and themselves.  

Why am I running if all my children are raised and out of High School?  Because I believe I can make a positive difference for the youth of our area and the schools they attend.  I believe in our youth and the wonderful future they can build.  I have made a difference in the lives of our youth in this area though my other civic positions including serving in Boy Scouts of America for some 20 years, most recently as the Chairman of the Salt River District for BSA—being responsible for an area the size of our High School District.  One of my monthly highlights is my continuing service on the committees that approve new Eagle Scouts and seeing the very best and brightest youth of our area.  I also believe my professional experience would be a great benefit to our School Board as I am a small business owner and a lawyer, with a Tempe law practice.  I am a commercial litigator who also works with many companies in restructuring their business.  Consequently, I know and understand finances including a balance sheet and a profit and loss statement.  In 2015, I was ranked as one of the Top Rated Lawyers in our area by the Arizona Republic, and have been fortunate to help many individuals and corporations with their legal needs for some 29 years.  I currently serve on professional committees including teaching seminars with the International Conference of Shopping Centers and a faculty advisor to the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM).  I believe I can and will make a difference, and I would appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve in our community as a member of the Tempe Union High School Board.  

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