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Knox: Reimagine Our Override


Earlier this year, the QCUSD Administration presented its desire and recommendation to maintain the override during a study session. They had also previously presented a very painful plan if an override is not passed. During the presentation, we learned about the significant impact of this extra 15% of our tax dollars on our community and how, in my opinion, the promises had not been met.

As a school board member, I firmly voiced what I believe to be the community's concerns. When the override was first implemented in 2015, our assessment scores were at a respectable 70% range. However, by the time it was renewed in 2019, these scores had started to decline. This raised a crucial question: ‘Should we continue to support an override that is not delivering on its promises?’ It was clear to me that we needed to rethink our approach to the override, and I made it known that I would not endorse it unless it was reimagined.

In our discussion, I expressed my concerns that too many students leave the 3rd grade without solid reading, writing and math skills. Many studies have shown evidence that students who are behind in the third grade often struggle throughout their education. If assessment scores are the method we have to measure success, then we need to focus on genuinely leaving no student behind. I expressed that I thought we needed the plan to decrease class size and allow a focused effort to ensure all students leaving the 3rd grade excelled in these areas and a focused, quick response plan to help students as soon as they show signs of sliding or being left behind.

I did not think we should ask the taxpayer to pay for additional coaches, data specialists, security people, 50% of advance placement costs and other items that would not benefit the entire student body and allow our declining assessment scores.

Then, I was happy to hear a voice of support, Patty Cambell, agree that perhaps we needed to reimagine how we use an override. I must say this is the first time I felt that any board member wanted to work together. Thank you, Patty!

The administration, in response to our concerns, presented a new direction for the override. This override is a commitment to the taxpayer to put quality education first! The administration shared the plan to put a teacher's aide in every class from K-3rd grade, effectively reducing the teaching ratio to 1:13. This would allow this classroom team to split up and focus on groups of students that need additional help and receive the focused attention sometimes desperately needed. They are also drafting a quick response plan, a crucial component, to identify and provide additional help for students falling behind. It will also include some summer classes and additional math classes to help students catch up or prepare for the year ahead.

Much of the fluff items I would not support have been dropped with the hope of booster clubs and parents helping their students in those areas. All this resulted in my excitement to see a change to focus on quality education and measurable improvements. The entire board voted to support this Override, which will be presented on the November ballot. It should be said it also provides a reduced portion of the override to support higher teacher pay.

Perhaps many are surprised I am supporting this override. For the reasons mentioned above, it will not increase your tax bill but a continuation and reprioritization of the tax dollars we currently pay. However, I am asking you, the taxpayer, not just to blindly vote for this but to read the petition carefully, ask questions, and if it passes, hold the district accountable to deliver on the promises.  I think parents should see measurable improvements in their children’s comprehension and success. It may be a slow improvement measured through assessment scores. Still, I believe if this plan is implemented, all parents should begin to see a measurable impact on their student's reading, writing and math understanding and comprehension.

I support this Override and ask the community to do the same. I ask them to keep a wary eye on how these dollars are used, hold the district accountable and ensure we are putting our students first.

James Knox
Current QCUSD Governing Board Member

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at AzOpinions@iniusa.org.