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. Hill here.
Career and education: Former marketing director for assisted living communities in the Phoenix area; homeschool parent educator for past 6 years; bachelor of science from Northern Arizona University in public relations
Years as an Arizona resident: 47
Family: Married for 26 years; daughter involved in Peoria Unified athletics program
What do you think is the most important thing to consider regarding instruction during the pandemic?
During this pandemic, it is crucial that we retain a very high level of academics for our children — whether it is online, in-person or a combination of both. In-person courses serve as the best way to facilitate academic excellence with a hands-on curriculum. I fully realize the obstacles that need to be overcome for our children to be able to safely attend school in-person, but I truly believe we need to focus our attention on a workable solution for students, teachers and parents. Parents, in particular, should have a voice and ability to choose what form of education will best suit their child and their household. We all want to keep our kids and teachers safe, but it is also our responsibility to give our children the very best education to secure their futures.
What ideas do you have to support PUSD schools in maintaining programs during a budget-strapped pandemic?
Currently, monies have been actively saved due to limited facility operations during the pandemic. Utilities such as electricity, air conditioning and water have not been used for an extended period of time. Bus services (gas and maintenance cost), and purchasing supplies have also been reduced. It is my prerogative to ensure that these funds are reallocated to areas such as technology for online platforms, to sponsor virtual art and music programs and to also restart the sports programs in our schools. It is also worthwhile to note that the CARES Act has provided fast and direct economic relief to the school systems in the wake of this coronavirus pandemic, and Gov. Ducey has pledged that schools will still receive 98% of their fiscal funding, thus ensuring a stable financial year ahead.
How will you identify and advocate for the resources needed to ensure healthy and safe schools during the pandemic?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has partnered with schools across America to provide personal protective equipment and health guidelines to allow schools to reopen safely. First and foremost, we must do all we can with these resources to ensure the safety of students, teachers and families as we devise a plan of action to reopen schools. This could include putting students in small groups of five or six, which would allow more students in classrooms, foster student interaction, while also maintaining social distancing with other groups.
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?
At the moment, the pandemic is alleviating this problem for the school system as some parents are now opting to place their children in homeschool, online (in lieu of in-person) and private or charter schools that are currently open. A viable option for overcrowding may be to redistribute students from overcrowded schools to schools that have low capacity due to dropping enrollments. Since the reopening of schools is a fluid situation, it would be best to address this issue once school functions return to a more normal state, and we can then assess the number of students who will be re-enrolling.
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 a governing board member, I will seek to identify if and where these barriers exist and remove them as necessary. I believe children of all backgrounds and ethnicities should have an equal opportunity at a quality education. Our schools should provide access to tutoring, after-school programs, and mentoring from teachers and school counselors to help every child achieve his/her potential.
With the pandemic affecting the social and emotional well-being of students, how do you plan to support wrap-around services for children?
It is imperative that we maintain the integrity of the wrap-around services for our children. We need to ensure that even though all academics are currently online in a virtual environment, we are still able to identify weaknesses and amend these specific needs so as not to have kids falling through the cracks.
What ideas do you have for addressing teacher retention in the district?
I think it is very important to retain teachers in the school district that have a passion and a heart for teaching our next generation. Retention can be achieved by empowering teachers with decision-making opportunities regarding curriculum and assessment materials. Reward programs could be put in place to acknowledge top teachers in the district and provide opportunities for educational development.
Healthcare benefits could also be improved through premium reductions and better coverage to ensure teacher satisfaction.