This year, four candidates for the Kyrene School District Governing Board each face tight rivalry, as they compete for three available seats on the board.

The terms of current president Michelle Hirsch and members Ross Robb and Ellen Shamah all expire in December, and each of these three members are seeking reelection.

John King, a business owner and resident of Ahwatukee Foothills also hopes to be elected onto the board. Much like the other candidates, King believes in the importance of education in the community, and feels that he can contribute as a board member more so than he can as a citizen.

As parents, husbands, teachers, business owners and civic service men, all four candidates plan to contribute their specified skill sets to maintain and improve the Kyrene School District and the surrounding communities.


Michelle Hirsch

Age: 49

City: Chandler

Campaign info: or (480) 250-2577

Why are you running for the Kyrene School board?

I’ve always had an interest and passion for education. I was a good student, I went to ASU to be a secondary education teacher — and before I graduated, I took a turn to be in journalism — but I still did my student teaching at Corona del Sol High School. Having three kids go through public education, I see the importance of it.

I just have the passion and interest and I feel the importance. I have a lot of experience and knowledge that contributes to being a good board member. Not just the four years I have served, but before that I served on many councils and committees in the district. Being a reporter helped as well. I reported on lots of school events and issues. Between my knowledge and passion, that’s why I’m running.


What do you believe are the most prominent issues in the near future?

Class size will continue to be a challenge. Not only because of the task of managing that, but because the reason class sizes are higher is because we can’t afford another teacher or two teachers to lower class size. When we talk about class sizes, it’s all related to being able to hire more teachers. I think class size sounds nicer than saying “we can’t afford more teachers.” That’s really the issue.

I also think resources will continue to be an issue. There is never a guarantee of more money. And yet with Arizona Common Core Standards, we will need new resources and textbooks that align with those standards.

Compensation is also an issue. We want the best teachers and administrators. We want people managing out human resources, facilities curriculum and data analysts, but costs become an issue. Technology is also significant. People think of technology as laptops and computers and sometimes software, but it is also the grading system and training that teachers get. That is all software we have to pay for.

The challenges will be to fund these things that we know work and make the district more efficient, but we don’t have the money for it.


If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?



How does this word play in to how you would act as a governing board member?

Learner is identified as one of my top strengths. I can come to the governing board with my experience as a parent, my experience serving on district committees and experience as a journalist, my experience as a school teacher. All of that is valuable, but I need to understand the issue today.

It has to be about how things impact all of our students today. In order to understand that, I have to ask questions, read, and talk to teachers, staff, and other education leaders to understand from various perspectives — not just my own. I am always trying to learn and understand in order to make the best decision.


John King

Age: 64

City: Phoenix (Ahwatukee)

Campaign info: or call (480) 331-4555

Why are you running for the Kyrene School board?

I want to see things continue to move forward. Things are changing in the community, and we are starting to see those things affect us in many different ways. I have a business background and an education background, and I think that I can mold those together in such a way to enhance the board.

As a board member, I would have more ability than I have as a citizen to take to the board and to the district and say “I have an idea, here’s how I think we implement it.” I always try to bring logic to a set situation.

I don’t want to diminish the quality of our school district — I think it is an excellent school district — but it’s going to take some innovative thought process and some new fresh ideas to bring this along.


What do you believe are the most prominent issues in the near future?

Compensation is an issue. There’s a real issue about retention of qualified people in the district. There were comparison studies done, and are somewhat outdated. Because of the economy in the last few years, it is difficult to take a study from three years ago. It is irrelevant to use that data because of the economic struggles we’ve had.

What I heard, without them actually saying it was: “We want to raise taxes.” What I heard the board say was “wait, we need to look at this.” It’s not that anybody is opposed to taking care of the teachers. We need to take care of how we handle the classrooms. The classrooms include teachers and the materials they need to teach. I’m saying: let’s take a look at this and see if we can’t be clever.


If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?



How does this word play in to how you would act as a governing board member?

I’m kind of like a diamond in the rough. I have all these different skill sets that I bring to the table. I was an entertainer for a number of years, so I’m not afraid to speak in front of people, I have a good education.

From a professional perspective, I started late in life. I was in my 30’s before I got involved with corporate, and I started as a programmer for a bank. And I aspired to the level of executive vice president and chief information officer. I didn’t get there because I am a good looking guy, but I got there because I make things happen. I always focus on getting things done.


Ross Robb

Age: 57

City: Tempe

Campaign info:

Why are you running for the Kyrene School board?

I had somewhat made up my mind that I wasn’t going to run. I have this belief that at some point, whether on school board or any volunteer position, you’ve made your contribution and everybody’s heard your beliefs. But, I decided to run again because I think that I have certain skills that are pretty important: analytical skills, leadership skills, finance and accounting skills that are really going to be needed over the next couple of years depending how certain things go budget-wise in the state. I just have a philosophy about public service: to give back. I’ve been lucky in a lot of ways.


What do you believe are the most prominent issues in the near future?

In Kyrene, the two very significant issues are the outcome of Prop. 204 and related fiscal issues involving bonding capacity, which is a legislative issue. The other long-term issue will continue to be enrollment.

Every year, we incrementally become more reliant on out-of-boundary students to come to Kyrene. At some point, that paradigm may change. At some point in time, we have to have a strategy in place for if the day comes that we are not as successful in attracting those out-of-boundary students. They are important fiscally but also because Kyrene has great education and we want to offer it to all kids who want it.


If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?



How does this word play in to how you would act as a governing board member?

I believe balance means smart, funny and easy to be around. It means you’ve got to be smart enough, you can’t take yourself too seriously, and people need to like to be around you. And that’s what balance is all about. I try to be those things.


Ellen Shamah

Age: 69

City: Tempe

Campaign info:

Why are you running for the Kyrene School board?

I was the recipient of a free and excellent public education, kindergarten through my master’s degree. I know that opened opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I strongly, strongly believe that every child deserves a free, quality education. There are many opportunities that can arise from that. In a society that looks at short-term results, they really have to look at education for long-term results.

Compare education today with education many years ago. Do you like what you see?

When I was in school, there were bolted-down desks and chairs, textbooks, pencil and paper and a teacher who stood in front of the room. The teachers are on their feet constantly moving around the room.

Most importantly, now, children aren’t just receptacles of knowledge. I remember a high school teacher once said, “If you raise your hand and give an answer, you’ll remember that much longer than if I tell you the answer.” I think we’ve turned education around, because if a child asks me something in the classroom, I would say “why don’t you go look that up and present it to the rest of the kids.” They own their own learning. It is OK now — and it wasn’t before — to question a teacher.

Before they were recipients, now they are active participants.


What do you believe are the most prominent issues in the near future?

We have a divide in this country with people who are willing to support education financially and people who want no new taxes. I think that we live in a world with technology, which is expensive and in a world that changes, and change is hard and expensive. We have to decide what we value. I value the education of children and the investment in them, because that is our future.


If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?



How does this word affect how you would act as a member of the governing board?

I will always be in favor of programs to help children. I think children are our future as a country. The way that I look at things is upbeat. I believe in the people doing what they know is best for everyone, and I am optimistic that in the end, we do what’s right.

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