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 Mr. Hobbs here.
Career and education: 30-plus years in human resources management, financial services sales and sales training. Bachelor’s degree in communication/public relations, University of Northern Iowa. Twenty years of community volunteering. Ten years of coaching and mentoring Peoria youth sports leagues.
Years as an Arizona resident: 23 years
Family: Married for 17 years with three sons in PUSD schools.
What do you think is the most important thing to consider regarding instruction during the pandemic?
How quickly can we safely return students and teachers to the classrooms; how many students will not re-enroll; how far have some students fallen behind; and what do we do if there’s a resurgence of the virus?
I feel educational remediation is the most important challenge for the upcoming school year. The process of getting students caught up in their studies is going to require a commitment of all stakeholders. Of particular importance will be the commitment of parents. To that end, the district will need a comprehensive parental engagement strategy. In some ways, we will need parents as our consultant, the eyes and ears to how students are responding to our new systems.
What ideas do you have to support PUSD schools in maintaining programs during a budget-strapped pandemic?
Thankfully, the county, state and federal government are already helping our district manage their budgets for PPE and readying classrooms to protect students and teachers.
On July 29th, the county announced they are providing schools with PPE kits, and they will be purchasing an additional 750,000 cloth masks to provide to schools, as well as 505 1-gallon jugs of disinfectant and 25,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for emergency disinfection needs.
Our district will also be receiving $2 million dollars a year for the next two years through CARES/Arizona Education Stabilization Fund. These funds can be used for PPE, facilities, in-person instruction and online instruction costs. These programs will also offer relief from some of the state and federal reporting. This should also save us time and money to be put toward student academic remediation caused by the shutdown.
Our district is also realizing some cost saving from the spring 2020 shutdown that if managed skillfully could be available to support district people and programs.
How will you identify and advocate for the resources needed to ensure healthy and safe schools during the pandemic?
Our new district superintendent, Dr. Reynolds, had the insight to formulate our own medical advisory committee that is helping to guide a safe reopening. It’s my understanding our district is one of the earliest adopters of this kind of medical advisory committee, and it is affording us additional resources for a safe school reopening.
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?
Prior to the pandemic, the overcrowding of some of our elementary schools and a few of our high schools was a major issue. We are now faced with enrollment dropping as much as 40% in some schools and 20-25% in most schools. I believe we will need to wait until January 2021 to get a realistic idea of future enrollment numbers. At that time, we will more likely have a bigger issue with underutilized schools.
Either way enrollment goes, the district is in dire need of an effective facilities utilization plan. With proper utilization, we should be able to alleviate overcrowding issues, experience tremendous cost savings as a result of more uniform enrollment in each school, and realized opportunities to develop STEM and traditional instruction. I envision repurposing schools for STEM and traditional instruction having a positive impact on student achievement and attracting families we’ve lost in the past to charter schools.
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?
As the father of three students of color, equity in education, and increase student achievement is personal for me. The best school districts have to demonstrate flexibility to meet the many needs of the families they serve. That has never been truer than right now. Schools have to meet the needs of high achievers and at the same time provide resources to lift up the achievement of students who are struggling.
I believe a traditional learning environment offers a “back to basics” instructional environment that all families and students can benefit from, especially low-income families. The uniformity and discipline of traditional schools offer equity, can influence positive habits and properly prepare students for future more rigorous studies. PUSD currently has just one traditional school. If elected, I will explore repurposing a few of the southern schools into traditional or STEM schools.
With the pandemic affecting the social and emotional well-being of students, how do you plan to support wrap-around services for children?
The pressures, uncertainties and the isolation of the pandemic shutdown can further exacerbate problems for students with mental health challenges, or tip a once well-adjusted student into a crisis.
PUSD has a social/emotional team that is prepared to help students and families address challenges related to the uncertainty, fear and confusion students are experiencing as we attempt to transition back into the classroom, and to get them on track to healthy development. The sooner we get students safely back into schools, the better the chance we have to address the mental health challenges of our students.
What ideas do you have for addressing teacher retention in the district?
The proper identification of a problem is most critical to its resolution. If elected, I will work to identify why we might have a teacher retention problem, and work to address the issue in a fair and equable way.
I believe our district’s teacher retention challenges are related to the same issues we have with losing students to charter schools. In the same way, families and students want choice in education, I believe some teachers are more attracted to STEM and traditional instruction. Expanding these choices in PUSD could be a winning option for students, families, teachers, and the district.