Immediate family: 6-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son.
Community you live in: Kyrene Waggoner neighborhood in Tempe
How long have you lived in the Kyrene district? My children are second generation Kyrene kids and fifth generation Arizonans.
Educational background: Villanova University School of Law (J.D., magna cum laude), Villanova University (M.B.A.), University of Notre Dame (B.A., cum laude)
What district do/did your children attend elementary, middle and high school and were they public schools?
Both of my children attend their neighborhood Kyrene school, Waggoner Elementary, where my daughter is in first grade and my son is in preschool. Their grandma is a teacher in Kyrene, and their grandpa teaches in Tempe Union.
Occupation: Business attorney in Phoenix.
Chairman of JAG Arizona, one of the largest student mentoring programs in Arizona. President of Phoenix One Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing students with technology, sports, and arts programs. Volunteer classroom instructor for students in Junior Achievement.
Kyrene School District involvement:
PTO Board at my children’s elementary school, where I oversee all PTO funding requests. Volunteer in my children’s classroom and help with school events. Member of the Kyrene Business Alliance.
Why are you running for school board?
I am running for school board because I want to help make sure that every child in Kyrene receives a quality education. I believe in giving back to your community and leaving it a better place than you found it. I saw a need for effective leadership on the board to address the many challenges that Kyrene faces. My children have had a wonderful experience in Kyrene, and I have come to realize this is not the case for every child nor will it continue to be possible without effective leadership and oversight. I feel lucky that my children are thriving in Kyrene, but a parent shouldn't have to be lucky in Kyrene for his children to experience what mine have.
How should a board member carry out their duties?
Collaboratively, respectfully, and keeping the end goal in mind every day: to do what is best for all Kyrene students within the limited means of our Kyrene budget. A board member must always work to be sure his or her work will leave the district better. Listening to the community is essential.
How do you define a school board member’s role?
A board member must collaborate with fellow board members to oversee the superintendent and the budget of the district. A board member has a duty to ensure that our resources are being properly spent to produce the best outcomes for our students. It is essential that he or she serves with integrity and listens to all voices in the community.
What is the district’s most compelling need that is not being addressed by the board right now?
Kyrene should focus on improving communication with all stakeholders. Parents need to be informed to make the best decisions about their children’s education. Teachers and staff do not always feel trusted and included in finding solutions and addressing the district’s needs, causing morale to suffer. Kyrene must listen to community members’ concerns and value their perspective and experience.
How would you propose addressing that need?
The right talent and proper resources must be dedicated to developing effective communications with parents and the community. Teachers and staff should be invited to share how proposed changes could affect their ability to teach and feel empowered to do what is best to help all of their students succeed, and this feedback should be given consideration before significant changes to curriculum and classroom resources are made. The new teacher-superintendent council being formed this year is a step in the right direction
How would you rate the superintendent’s job performance?
Dr. Vesely’s performance is more dynamic than one word. She has implemented many welcome changes. Under her leadership, Kyrene has returned counselors to every middle school, provided all families with equal access to curriculum offerings, and strengthened financial controls. Some changes have been disruptive, and there is an opportunity for Kyrene to better demonstrate how they are designed to help students.
Will you maintain the board policy of televising meetings live then archiving the videos?
Definitely. The community values this. As a working parent, I understand the challenges that prevent many parents, teachers and community members from attending meetings in person. By televising the meetings, and making meeting materials available online, Kyrene enables the community to be involved and informed. Transparency and community involvement keep Kyrene strong.
Should Kyrene consider merging with Tempe Union?
Any merger would need to serve two purposes: provide the best possible education to all students, and be cost efficient garnering a significant savings that could be invested in our students’ education.
I know that our community has rejected a proposed merger in the past, and I would want to ensure the community had an opportunity to provide feedback on any future proposed merger. Kyrene can find other ways to work with Tempe Union to reduce redundant costs, and both districts should coordinate to ensure that our Kyrene students have the curriculum and resources to prepare them for success in high school.
What three personal skills/attributes would you bring to the board?
I am balanced and pragmatic; I will listen to all sides and work to find solutions that are best for students. My experience as a business attorney helping clients create new value in their businesses gives me a tremendous advantage to oversee the financial challenges facing Kyrene. I will ensure that the district's budget allocates our resources to benefits students the most. I have track record of strong focus and persistence with measurable results.
What, if anything, should the board do to improve school security?
Our schools must be safe places where students learn and thrive. I have two children in our Kyrene schools, and their mom is a police officer and school resource officer (SRO), so I see how SROs protect our students and can create positive interactions with law enforcement. Providing SROs with proper training is essential. I will work with our local municipalities to help fund SROs on campuses.
What is the district’s most significant achievement in the last two years?
The district has rightfully focused on improving special education. Teachers are provided with more training to better meet their students’ needs. Parents are given greater involvement in their child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and learning. Interventions are getting students the services that they need to learn and develop at an earlier age. Kyrene’s new pilot program to help preschool children with dyslexia is the first of its kind. There is still work to be done, but recent changes are showing significant improvements with more satisfied families.
Why should people vote for you?
As an involved parent, an active community member, and a business attorney with financial experience, I am uniquely qualified to serve Kyrene by working to ensure all students receive a quality education. I will serve with integrity and respect for our Kyrene schools and community. I have a proven record of getting work done to meet goals efficiently. I would bring a perspective and skills that are needed on the board. Where there are challenges and needs, I will work to create and support effective solutions to serve all students in the best possible way.