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 Indpenenedent will feature each candidate leading up to the election.
Get to know Ms. Franklin here.
Career and education: Sales coordinator for Lincoln Financial Group. Studied education at Arizona State University.
Years as an Arizona resident: 29.
Family: Married with three children in PUSD schools. Resident of Peoria since 2012.
What do you think is the most important thing to consider regarding instruction during the pandemic?
Student safety and success must come first. We have a difficult balancing act ahead of us. We need to ensure we are fulfilling both our responsibilities to educate and our responsibilities to provide a safe place to learn. There is no single solution that will apply for all families. I am, and always have been, an advocate for greater choice in our public education institutions. That is needed now more than ever.
On-site support is critical to the development of those students. There are plenty of students and families who will need on-site support, and I fully understand and appreciate that need.
There are also families who are finding online education to be the best fit for them during the pandemic. After some initial hiccups, my children have had great successes online and feel it’s best. We have made a personal decision based on our needs.
Deeply personal choices will be needed by families determining where they are comfortable. I will advocate for the district to listen to all family needs and provide choices for families to maximize the safety and educational needs of their children.
What ideas do you have to support PUSD schools in maintaining programs during a budget-strapped pandemic?
The bottom line here is not that there is a magical, happy answer that allows us to pull funding from sources that don’t exist and save each and every one of our programs.
The simple reality of changes in finance means that we can’t fund everything, and choosing what may need to be temporarily or permanently changed is incredibly difficult and always ends with someone disappointed and hurt. In our current environment, we’re unfortunately understaffed, under resourced and over stretched. Just like a family budget, we unfortunately have to prioritize by necessity.
Our first responsibility is to ensure we’re meeting students’ rights to services. Secondly, we need to focus on our core academics. And we have a responsibility to keep cuts as far away from impacting our students as possible.
How will you identify and advocate for the resources needed to ensure healthy and safe schools during the pandemic?
I am running for this position to serve all of the public. We have 37,000 children in the district, all with unique needs and concerns. I will work to ensure we have choices for all families that maximize safety and success.
We need to know that every school in our district is well set up for success. We cannot let any fall through the cracks. I pledge to personally meet with each of the schools and be available to the public to hear your needs and concerns and be your voice on the board. I understand families have unique needs and I want to ensure all voices are heard. My personal email is KacieforPUSD@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from the community!
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?
The short answer here is that we have a portion of our district that has seen incredible rates of growth, and no new schools in a very long time. With the growth we’ve seen, we simply have too many students in an area with too few schools, and we need to build.
Before we do anything, we need to ensure we’re maximizing what space we do have. We need to review what other educational opportunities exist within our boundaries that are currently lacking in the district. From there, I would seek recommendations from the community and district. Once we’ve fully utilized our square footage, then we may qualify for a small amount of additional funding from the state to assist in building a new school.
While that additional funding may be helpful, it would not be enough to build a new school in its entirety. As such, I’m a strong supporter of a bond to cover the rest of the cost of building a new school, as well as to meet other critical needs in our facilities.
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?
During the time I was out collecting signatures and meeting with community members, I encountered some upsetting stories about inequities and difficulties that many families faced in their educational journeys. I heard stories of students bullying others based on race and stories of variances in levels of education in different areas, based on the socioeconomic demographic of an area. This is deeply troubling to me and is a key factor in why I became involved in the world of education.
I want to ensure all students are properly served and have the opportunity to thrive, and hear from all parts of the community.
With the pandemic affecting the social and emotional well-being of students, how do you plan to support wrap-around services for children?
In our current environment, our students are facing family stress and economic burdens more than ever. We’re seeing high rates of both food and housing insecurity. PUSD should be partnering with both neighborhood outreach groups and family support organizations to provide resources for all our families.
Students are also facing their own emotional difficulties during the pandemic. We need sound, professional advice on how to handle these situations. Now is a perfect time to invest in our counselors and social workers.
What ideas do you have for addressing teacher retention in the district?
The elephant in the room for teacher retention in our district is that we have a significant disparity in pay as compared with peer districts. Couple that with the ever-rising cost of benefits, and we’re sunk before we start. The obvious first step is to address teacher pay, but funding is lacking there. I’ve worked in insurance for many years now, and I feel as though I could truly assist in a deep review of benefits to ensure that what we’re receiving is not only quality, but also fairly priced.
Secondly, many studies have been completed around employee retention, stating that employees leave jobs not because they dislike their job, but because they have issues with their boss. I strongly believe that we need to add in additional professional development opportunities and leadership development opportunities for administrators to make sure we’re setting all our schools up to have the most successful leaders possible.