Abbie Hlavacek and Kathryn Mikronis have been constantly involved in their children’s education and schools in the Marana Unified School District.
They are vocal supporters for school safety, including gun free zones and appropriate Coronavirus protocols, for all stakeholders.
They advocate for teachers and staff to be better compensated and provided with strong benefits.
They want those left behind, like those in the rural parts of the district and children who have fallen through the educational cracks to be attended to.
They also want the Marana Unified School District Governing Board to have members that are actually parents of children in the district.
With one board member retiring after 37 years and another one running for reelection, both Hlavacek and Mikronis have decided to run for the two open seats on the Marana Board.
If elected, both will work to promote:
- Greater school safety.
- The closing of the learning and achievement gap.
- Better pay and benefits for teachers and staff.
- Full compliance with both IEP’s and 504 plans.
Mrs. Hlavacek and Ms. Mikronis graciously took the time to discuss their candidacies for the Marana School Board.
The questions and their responses are below.
- What are at least two reasons both of you would like to run for the Marana School District Governing Board?
Abbie: “The first reason is we have no parents serving on the school board that has children in the district. I’m a mother of three that’s in elementary school. And with the pandemic, I witnessed firsthand how a parent’s voices are essentially silenced when I know parents are appearing before that school board.
When I saw them implement policies that negatively impacted our children and educators, I felt that, as a parent, I would have bought a different perspective, often with empathy, and compassion, towards crafting these policies.
My second reason is I am a champion for parent involvement. I am active in all three of my children’s education in Marana, and I serve on the PTO as Treasurer. I interact and partner with our educators and the staff at the school because I want children to receive the best education, and I want them to succeed, and I like that for all 13,000 children in the district.
I am a person with a disability, and I know that there are a number of students, especially in the more rural parts of Marana, where they have a high percentage of students that receive accommodations. I want to be the representative that someone on that board has a disability and is aware of the adversities that the children can go through after they leave high school.”
Kathryn: “I decided to run for the Marana Unified School Board because I want to represent different groups, including parents, autism families, and special needs families in our community that historically have been underrepresented on our school board. I want to work collaboratively to create stronger bonds between the school board and our stakeholders in the community, especially coming out of a worldwide pandemic where nobody really knows the longer-term effects of that. We do know right now that we need to be working on recapturing some literacy rates. We need to work on some social, emotional deficits that we’re seeing with kids because they were remote and getting adapted to wearing masks for the extended period of time and they’re re relearning social cues. I think we all just need to work together.
Another reason why I decided to run for the school board is approximately 97% of students attend public schools. And with that in mind, your neighborhood school should be providing the best possible education we can.
We’re talking about 97% of the kids attend public schools. They should be getting the best education there.”
- Please tell the reader, what are at least two qualifications you have to serve on the Marana School Board?
Abbie: “My first qualification is that I am a woman in STEM. I have over a decade of experience in the software development industry, catering to health plans of various sizes. I have been fortunate to work in all phases of software development throughout my career, from project management to quality assurance to writing detailed requirements and now software development. Like education, health plans are governed mainly by policies and standards set by the government.
I’ve acquired a skill set that evaluates these standards but with a different lens. I’ve accommodated a variety of different stakeholders. Also, as a small business owner, I completely understand the need to operate within a budget.
With my technical background and analytical approach to problem-solving, I feel that I will be able to serve the board by breaking each challenge that needs to be overcome into logical parts and solving them.
The second qualification I have is that I am profoundly deaf and wear cochlear implants. Public schools are what set me up for success by providing accommodations and tools so I could advocate for myself. There isn’t a day that I do not have to advocate for equal access to your communication. Whether that looks like ensuring I have access to live transcripts during virtual meetings or I need to request an ASL interpreter.
Also, as a former charter school mom, I realized that charter schools do not meet the needs of every child, especially when I had to advocate for my child to receive accommodations because he learns differently. It’s essential to have people with disabilities represented, especially at the school board level, especially knowing that children with disabilities have a higher rate of slipping through the system. As a parent who’s experienced many adversities due to my disability, I’m prepared to take my advocacy to the next level.”
Kathryn: “I feel that my qualifications for being on the school board is that I have served as a ten-year board member of the Autism Society of the Southern Arizona. I was trained as a parent advocate to work with parents on their special needs child’s IEP and/or their 504 and to ensure that those students receive the free and appropriate education mandated under IDEA, which is the federal law.
I also served at my children’s elementary schools on the parent teacher friend organization. I was the vice president for five years as such, I was responsible for the adherence and the revisions to our bylaws, and I participated in all fundraising. This experience illustrated to me, the budget shortfalls, that teachers experience and having the resources needed to teach and enrich the curriculum that’s been approved.
So, for those reasons, I felt that I was qualified to serve as a school board member.”
- If elected, what are these two education-related issues you would champion as a member of the Marana Governing Board?
Abbie: “The first issue that is a priority to me is the priority of safety for our students and staff. What I saw with decisions that impacted the safety of medically fragile children and their inability to go into a safe school hurt me, and these were children just being left out.
The second thing would be around safety with gun violence as an issue.
We’ve already had a mass shooting here in Tucson, so I think at the forefront of every parent’s mind and the teacher’s mind is evaluating these plans and seeing if there are any loopholes and is working to engage the community. The community itself is responsible for ensuring that our schools are also safe. And it’s going to require this effort.
The second goal is to shorten the achievement gap with students. One of the ways we need to make sure we hire and retain high-quality teachers. We need to make these positions attractive with benefits, resources, and support in place. They have an appropriate work-life balance, are not working all hours, and have appropriate planning time.”
Kathryn: “I would be a champion for improving our district’s policies and procedures regarding implementation of IEP and 504 goals and accommodations. These accommodations level the playing field, allowing those students with approved accommodations, the opportunities to be successful.
I would also be a strong ally for our staff. I will go to our legislature to advocate for fully funding, public education, to ensure that our staff is paid accordingly and that we have the resources in place that they needed to do their jobs.”
- Please describe your legislature, the, your views on the legislators attempts to ban certain types of books, promote distorted versions of history education, discriminate against children in the LGBTQ community and change the funding formula for public schools?
Abbie: “The legislature needs to leave teaching to teachers. I want accurate and actual US history and events to be taught without whitewashing it. The classroom cultural war that these legislators are doing to silence and demonize our teachers. Whether it is trying to ban books or censor teachers or censor what children are learning is a massive disservice to the public. The Legislature is trying to eradicate certain books that challenge or question the American society status quo under the guise of critical race theory. They’re not interested in teaching children how to think critically or explore opposing viewpoints. They want to mandate a particular version of history that excludes those that do not fit within a specific narrative.
This is especially true with our trans kids, who are being singled out and demonized because legislators do not know how gender-affirming care or hormone therapy works.
Now we live in an information retrieval age, where everything is literally at the fingertips, or they can just speak it out. They can ask Alexa or go to the public library and get a book, and they will learn that the lack of information presented to them is incomplete.
Also, these bills impact our students beyond high school. Those looking to get college credits through AP classes may not have access to it.
The College Board could strip certification from public schools, and charter schools have their AP certifications. If they’re not covering specific material, Arizona kids are already at a disadvantage. Compared to other states, we are literally at the bottom in terms of ranking regarding teachers and public education funding.
We have a month just under a month left, and we are sitting on $5.3 billion surplus that could be allocated to raising teachers’ salaries and providing additional support and resources to meet students where they’re at versus following the standards dictated by the state. It’s mind-boggling to me. We could do so much to invest in our kids, and they are our future, and it doesn’t seem to be a priority to the current legislation.”
Kathryn: “I’m against banning any books. I don’t believe that’s a school board responsibility. I believe that’s a parent’s responsibility.
As far as history goes, history education should be presented with the historical facts and evidence. That’s a disservice to present the students, a distorted version of history.
To touch on what Abbie said, Arizona high school students are facing the uncertainty created by the Arizona Legislature for their de-certification of Arizona’s AP courses. College Board ultimately is not going to offer those Advanced Placement classes and testing if the ID certification is not enforced. That sets our students to be behind the eight ball, because they won’t be as competitive when applying for college admissions and they’ve lost the opportunity to earn college credit concurrently while attending high school. That seems a little foolish on our legislator’s part.
I’m against discrimination of any student. It should not be tolerated. I would obviously advocate for a supportive, safe environment for students to learn with no fear of discrimination for any reason, including race, religion, gender, sexuality, or disabilities.
And then last but not least, public education needs to be fully funded. I am against vouchers that take money away from public education. I’m against charter schools receiving more money per student than public schools receive.
School board members need to advocate with our elected legislators to encourage increased funding for public education.”
- Is there anything that covered in the first four questions that you’d like to raise to know about you and your candidacy for the Marana School Board?
Abbie: “My ultimate goal is to unite parents and teachers, and the community by recognizing the clear role that each must perform: To elevate each student. Teachers need planning, support, funding, and job safety. Our parents need to know that their voices and values are being respected and that decisions being made at a district level will benefit neighborhood schools, not statewide political interests.”
Kathryn: “I think Marana Unified School District is an amazing school district, but there’s always advantages to having new perspectives that can improve or enhance the educational experience for all our stakeholders.
Teachers are highly qualified professionals and we need to treat them as such. We must offer competitive salaries and a supportive, safe working environment for all staff and students.
Students need clear expectations and opportunities.
Parents need open and transparent communication.
For all those reasons, I feel I can be a good advocate for all of our stakeholders.”
Please click on the below website for more information on Mrs. Hlavacek and Ms. Mikronis’s campaigns.