In the November election there are nine candidates vying for three seats on the Peoria Unified School District governing board.
The three seats are currently held by Monica Ceja Martinez, Judy Doane and David Sandoval.
Mr. Sandoval is seeking re-election, while Ms. Ceja Martinez and Ms. Doane have chosen not to run.
The candidates are: Linda Busam, Kacie Franklin, Rebecca Hill, Kirk Hobbs, Mr. Sandoval, Davita Solter, William Sorensen, Devon Updegraff-Day and CJ Williams.
The Peoria Independent will feature each candidate leading up to the election.
Get to know Ms. Solter here.
Career and education: Northern Arizona University, bachelor’s degree in education 1980; master’s degree in educational leadership 1986; teacher/administrator, Peoria Unified School District 1981-2012; family service advocate/wellness program specialist, Glendale Elementary School District 2012-current
Years as an Arizona resident: 62
Family: Married, with Cactus High School Class of 2009 son
What do you think is the most important thing to consider regarding instruction during the pandemic?
Safety of all individuals is the most important aspect to consider as we move forward with instruction during this time period. Until it is determined by following the recommendations from the Arizona departments of Health Services and Public Instruction, we should not have in-person instruction for the majority of the students. High-risk individuals could be taught on campus when it is safe for them to return. This includes self-contained special education students who are in small groups, but we must have staff who are willing to risk their health during this time, too.
What ideas do you have to support PUSD schools in maintaining programs during a budget-strapped pandemic?
Again, all safety measures must be taken during this time. Schools need to provide safety measures for all staff, including masks, face shields and gloves. It is also important to have thermometers available for temperature checks. Continuing to have nurses at each site will assist with the safety precautions that will make it possible to maintain programs. Asking for community sponsorships of PPE can be one way to assist the budget.
How will you identify and advocate for the resources needed to ensure healthy and safe schools during the pandemic?
At all times as a school board member, it is important to listen to concerns and comments from the community and staff. Working with the district administration in identifying what is needed will be valuable during this critical time. Keeping abreast of medical guidelines will ensure a healthy and safe return to in-person school.
What will you do to see that schools do not become overcrowded and how will you try to alleviate those schools that are already at capacity?
Every board member needs to support the bond and override elections, with the hopes of purchasing land and building new schools in the areas where schools are at capacity. It’s important to create all PUSD schools as desirable and vibrant to all learners, so that schools with capacity are attractive, no matter where their location. Providing transportation to other sites could be a solution to overcrowding at some of the northern schools, if parents and students are willing to attend some of the other fine campuses in the district.
How will you deal with inequities and other systemic barriers that keep low-income students and students of color from thriving? How will you strive for equity in the school system?
The school district works hard to create opportunities for all students to be successful. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation of the digital divide, but the district has provided technology and internet capacity to provide an education and online learning to all its students. Making sure that the state Legislature and the governor continue to provide funding for districts that need assistance in this area is important. Each governing board member has a responsibility to advocate for funding.
With the pandemic affecting the social and emotional well-being of students, how do you plan to support wrap-around services for children?
Using the social media outlets utilized by the school district, services can be provided to all students and their parents. The social and emotional well-being of each child is not just a school’s job, as the home is the first and foremost area of support. Educating the parents by webinars and virtual meetings is a way to provide support for the student. Intervention specialists, behavior coaches and counselors can check in virtually or by phone on those students that teachers are concerned about.
What ideas do you have for addressing teacher retention in the district?
By providing a competitive salary and benefits, the school district will work in the right direction of retention. PUSD used to have the highest-paid employees in the West Valley. Many have left PUSD because they can make more money in neighboring school districts. It is also important to provide support in the areas of wellness, stress management and safety.