TRINE NELSON

Students in OR grads of Kyrene schools? Yes, I have a 7th and 2nd grader who attend Kyrene schools.

Occupation: Curriculum Manager

Years in the district:  I’ve been involved with the Kyrene School District since 2014 when my oldest child entered Kindergarten. In 2017 my family was fortunate enough to move into the district. 

Educational background: My bachelor’s degree from Utah State University is in human development and I hold a master’s degree in learning design and technologies from Arizona State University.

Community involvement: I’ve had the privilege of serving for two years on the Superintendent Community Council. These experiences allowed me to see the strengths, the diversity and the specific needs in the Kyrene Community. I’ve also had the opportunity to serve as a teacher appreciation chair and have been a regular school volunteer since 2014.

What top three skills would you bring or do you bring to the board? I take a balanced approach to decision-making, looking at all of the information before me, and try to determine an appropriate solution. I am collaborative in nature and goal-oriented. Throughout my career, I’ve been able to demonstrate the ability to identify priorities, to successfully work with large groups who have diverse viewpoints, to work together to build consensus to achieve a common goal. 

Why should voters vote for you? As an engaged parent and community member, coupled with my experience as an education professional, I am positioned to serve Kyrene and to ensure all students receive a quality education. Through my varied experiences in Kyrene, I’ve been able to see the strengths, diversity, and the specific needs in the Kyrene Community. If elected, I will work to celebrate strengths and meet needs with respect, transparency, and efficiency.

Has the pandemic affected your view of a governing board’s role in general? If so, how? The pandemic has strengthened my view of the importance of local governing boards. We’ve seen local leaders tasked with an unthinkable challenge that they are trying to navigate by examining the data and using that to balance the needs of students, teachers, and staff. Governing boards set the tone and priorities for a district. We are all seeing how those decisions impact our daily lives. 

Assuming COVID-19 will be with us indefinitely, does Kyrene need to do something it isn’t doing now to ensure a quality experience for students over the next four years:

1) Where academics generally – and preparation for high school specifically – are concerned? If components of digital learning are going to be our new normal, I would like to see greater professional development opportunities for staff around online learning. If the growth shown by staff from the spring to the beginning of this school year is an indicator, they are willing and eager to engage in this work and will be able to create increasingly dynamic digital learning environments. 

2) Where students’ social-emotional wellness is concerned? Kyrene has taken proactive steps to address the social-emotional wellness of our students and I hope to see those efforts continue. COVID-19 has been a traumatic event for everyone. Whether it’s an economic impact in their home or social isolation from their peers, our children have had their worlds change dramatically. Having trusted teachers be responsive to that trauma will help to bolster our students.   

What is the biggest challenge confronting the district that must be addressed within the next two years and how would you propose addressing that challenge? With the 20-21 budget approved. We need to look at potential funding challenges within the next two years due to a loss of revenue from the state. Kyrene, like many other Arizona districts, has been tasked with doing more with less. Funding shortages impact our ability to provide quality education to all students and to attract, and retain, quality educators. Addressing that challenge will require continued work with elected officials to advocate for continued and, if possible, improved funding for public education. This has consistently been a priority for Arizona voters but has not been adequately addressed by the legislature.

If funding became a critical issue for the district, would you be more inclined to cut programs or raise taxes? When faced with these decisions in the past, the community has been very generous and voted to approve bonds and overrides to avoid the loss of critical programming. Ultimately, if voters did not approve similar measures in the future, it would be up to the governing board to examine the budgets and find cost-saving areas that would have the least amount of impact on the quality education offered to students.

Knowing what you know now, would you vote to extend Dr. Vesely’s contract beyond June 2021 or buy it out? Dr. Vesely has provided a steady hand in a continually changing circumstances. She has worked, in concert with the governing board and administration, to address the independent audit findings through strategic planning. If she wanted to extend her contract beyond June 2021 I would vote to extend her time with Kyrene School District.

What one area is the district not addressing adequately and what would you do about it? The district has done a good job communicating to the community about COVID-19 impacts. I would like to see this model of communication followed in other areas. One example would be around the equity work within the district. While the work being done is vital, there is a lot of misunderstanding within the community about how success will be measured and what it entails for staff and specific school sites. I recognize that this work is in the initial phases but hope that more concrete information will be provided.

What is the one area the district is addressing in an exceptional manner and why do you think that? I have been impressed with Kyrene’s response to COVID-19. From the creation of Kyrene Digital Academy to the recent decision to purchase HEPA filters for classrooms. Kyrene has been responsive to the needs of the community while adhering to data, not political pressure. If there is anything this pandemic has taught us is that a school is more than a place where our children are educated. We’ve seen Kyrene mobilize to provide meals to the community throughout the school closures and facilitate laptop distributions to over 12,000 students. There are no easy choices to be made that will have 100% approval, but the district has gone out of its way to explain the “why” behind each decision.

In what three areas has the current board not met your expectations and what would you do differently? One need is to have greater transparency with the community on board actions. Having a unified board voice that provides communication to the community about upcoming study sessions or votes would allow greater insight into pressing district issues. While the board agenda is available prior to the meeting publicizing the information on different platforms might reach more of the community.

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