Ask the Candidates

Scottsdale school board candidates discuss campaign goals

Posted 10/9/20

With early voting starting, the six current school board candidates are still hot on campaign front.

The Nov. 8 election is approaching, and the Scottsdale Unified School District’s …

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Ask the Candidates

Scottsdale school board candidates discuss campaign goals


With early voting starting, the six current Scottsdale school board candidates are still hot on campaign front.

The Nov. 8 election is approaching, and the Scottsdale Unified School District’s governing board currently has three open seats after three of the incumbent board members decided to not seek reelection.

The list of candidates includes:

  • Kathleen Angelos
  • Julie Cieniawski
  • Lucy DiGrazia
  • Elizabeth Hart-Wells
  • Zachary Lindsay
  • Rose Smith

With concerns for the continued defense against the raging pandemic and better education for all, those running have expressed clearly in their campaign statements that if elected they are looking to make changes for the betterment of all district members.

The candidates come from different backgrounds and experiences that offer a variety of different perspectives on what they want for a better school district.

A common campaign theme has been the promise to work for a better district for parents, students, and educators, especially in these uncertain times. In what ways do you plan to balance supporting teachers and their individual interests with the interests of students and their parents?

Kate Angelos

A teacher’s primary interest should be educating students. Parents have the sole authority and responsibility for what their children are taught. They enroll their children in a public school in good faith that they are being taught the basics, namely reading writing and arithmetic without a teacher’s personal opinions or ideologies. Parents should be afforded school choice if teachers are not putting their students’ interests first.

Julie Cieniawski

As humans, we value what we call freedoms, and at times we feel authorized to get what we want. Humans generally become frustrated when decisions are dictated to them. And having a voice gives a sense of personal value and commitment to the decision. We cannot pretend to care about our children if we do not consider the well-being of those who love, nurture, and educate them. The teachers in our district public schools are college-trained professionals and are given a huge responsibility to educate, encourage, motivate, honor, and shape the interests and skills of future leaders in our society. Our teacher retention issue is the result of years of disrespectful treatment. Compensation, autonomy, providing necessary accommodations to the physical environment, honoring research supported class sizes, providing resources from them to be successful in their vocation, and seeking input in the decision-making process for their students, are a few factors affecting this ongoing issue. I value the golden rule and believe it very simply applies to this question.

Parents want what is best for their children and when children struggle, families struggle.

The simple connection of working together as a team, for the best interest of our children, will validate that both teachers and parents are respected and appreciated. I know teachers and parents both want the safe normal to return to our schools and our community ASAP.

Lucy Digrazia

Teachers should teach their subject of expertise to the best of their ability without an agenda or personal beliefs. Teachers should present facts and materials clearly, allow students to research validity, and to encourage critical thinking and logical problem-solving.

Dr. Elizabeth Hart-Wells

The first and greatest priority of each board member is the educational welfare of all students. With that touchstone, I will focus on strengthening and, where needed, rebuilding relationships between and among the district and all its support network, of which teachers are a crucial part. I am an educator currently going through similar challenges as other teachers. So, I empathize with what all the SUSD teachers are going through right now. I can relate on a personal and professional level and that puts me in a unique position.

Zachary Lindsay

I believe it starts with communication and collaboration between the district and stakeholders. Open dialogue is imperative to understanding the views of all stakeholders. While decisions may be made that a stakeholder group may not be fully in agreement with, open dialogue helps establish trust and respect.
Board members need to be assessable, and open to conversations with all stakeholders. It is critical for board members to actually listen, and learn.

Rose Smith

Teachers, site administration and parents are partners in providing a positive, successful education for students. Providing the best educational opportunities for all of SUSD’s students is the shared interest of all and I honestly can’t think of a single teacher or administrator who has conflicts because of their “individual interests”. The shared interest is in making certain that students have the opportunity to learn and grow; the teachers I know are always thinking and working on ways to improve delivery methods during this pandemic. They worry about making online learning creative and engaging.

They worry about kids who don’t participate. Teachers are also parents, caregivers, sons and daughters. These are strange days indeed, but the teachers I know have been awesome. I couldn’t be prouder of the way our SUSD community of administrators, teachers, and staff have worked together on behalf of our families.

If elected to the board, what is the most imperative issue for you to address in accomplishing your campaign goals and ideas?

Kate Angelos

My primary focus is to return more power to the parents and less to the teachers’ unions, school board and superintendent. Parents have a right to transparency according to A.R.S Title 15-113.

Julie Cieniawski

My interest in serving on our Scottsdale USD governing board is not a political endeavor, I see it more as a continuation of the vocation I have served throughout my lifetime.

As a resident of Scottsdale for 27 years, parent of two children entirely educated in SUSD schools, and as a career public school teacher, I see there are a lot of imperative issues to address. My journey from the classroom to the governing board room is the result of knowing that the voice of an experienced educator can provide great benefit to the future of our district and our community. The most imperative issues will be restoring trust in our community, analyzing our expenditures and ensuring resources are student-directed, honoring collaboration, and committing to the success of every student.

Lucy Digrazia

If elected to the board I would strive to implement parent/teacher teams to overhaul every aspect of the current curriculum and remove all indoctrinating anti-American materials as well as fuzzy math and settled science. I will insist on full budget transparency, insisting that the bulk of the budget actually makes it to the classroom and that SUSD follows the Arizona Constitution and the 2019 Arizona revised statutes.

Dr. Elizabeth Hart-Wells

My goal is to work with the community – all of the community – to broaden the definition of “literacy.” Historically, the word literacy has been used to define abilities to read and write. I want to expand the definition to integrate science and data literacy, pre-K through 12. An equally imperative issue is a fiscal policy review. This is squarely within the scope of a governing board and would go a long way in rebuilding trust with the community, specifically taxpayers.

Zachary Lindsay

If I am fortunate enough to be elected to the governing board, there are numerous imperative issues that need to be addressed. They are increased communication and collaboration between the district and stakeholder groups, increased financial transparency, and progress on equity, inclusion, and diversity.

Increased communication and collaboration would go a long way to solving a lot of the issues that have plagued the district. Ensuring stakeholders feel they have a voice, and it is valued, will repair the broken trust that exists. The district is severely lacking in financial transparency and needs to be open and honest with how funds are allocated and spent. The hiring of an internal auditor to do a thorough review is needed. And finally, diversity, equity, and inclusion are so incredibly important to address. The district should always be a welcoming place for all students, teachers, staff, and parents. It’s also vital that all children have the tools they need to be successful.

The committee that was formed to discuss these issues and come up with solutions, needs to be made a priority and have much more frequent meetings.

I am encouraged that the district has made these important issues a part of the superintendent’s goals for the year. My hope is the district becomes a leader in the valley on addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Rose Smith

My campaign tagline states that “strong schools build strong communities”. Our SUSD schools have been the hearts of our neighborhoods for decades. I’d like to ensure that our families feel connected to our schools and trust us to provide their children with the best possible education. We are more than buildings and physical structures; we are people who care about the families that reside here and are a part of the agreement that says we will work with them in providing their children opportunities in attaining personal success. By providing various learning experiences in our schools, we must tout our programs and expertise in educating all learners. There really is no better place to learn than SUSD schools.

I hope to expand the recognition of the many excellent programs we have under the umbrella of SUSD and once again prove that we are the destination district for students and educators.