Arizona School Board Candidates React to the Delay in Reopening Schools

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Candidates for school boards in Arizona have offered their perspective on Governor Ducey’s decision, with the surge in COVID 19 cases, to postpone the beginning of in-person instruction until August 17.

All of the candidates who replied to a request for comment:

  • Share the same view that the safety of all education stakeholders (children, teachers, staff, and parents) is paramount.
  • Advocate using the time to better prepare for reopening with proper masking and social distancing guidelines.

Some of the candidates are calling for greater direction from the state and local leaders in the reopening process.

The comments from School Board Members and Candidates are below.

Berdetta Hodge, Governing Board President for Tempe Union High School District

 “While planning for Fall 2020, Tempe Union High School District has carefully considered the pandemic data available at any given time, in addition to information from Governor Ducey, Superintendent Hoffman, and public health agencies. We have listened to feedback from our community and planned for different options to meet the needs of our students, families, teachers, and staff while also focusing on safety and social distancing. The two-week delay presents challenges to what we had originally proposed, but we will continue to be flexible and look for unique ways to provide a quality education experience while minimizing interruption to the educational process.”

Heather Ayres, Creighton School Board Candidate

“Yesterday’s executive order by Governor Ducey was a small relief to thousands of teachers, support staff, school administrators, students, and parents.  Since the end of the 2019-2020 school year, districts have been looking for answers to what the new 2020-2021 school year will look like.  There have been broad guidelines, leaving each district to survey parents and staff to try to accommodate all parties involved.  This vacuum of leadership and clear guidance leaves school districts in limbo.  During this extremely difficult time, our state leadership needs to do better.”

Sarah James, Tempe Union High School Board Candidate

 “On June 29th, Governor Ducey stated we can start our school year remotely and “aspire” toward the opening on August 17th. The transition from this remote instruction to possibly having to offer 5 days a week in-person instruction by mid-August seems chaotic at best. Ducey needs to change the funding requirements to allow for full funding during remote instruction so we can phase into face-to-face learning based on case numbers and meeting gating criteria. Schools should not open in unsafe conditions because they face losing funding – the lives of our students, our educators, and their families must be a priority.”

Wanda Kolomyjec, Kyrene School Board Candidate

“Although I am deeply concerned about the mental health of our homebound students, we must keep our entire community in mind as we consider the next steps. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics urges return, it also suggests “school policies should be guided by supporting the overall health and well-being of all children, adolescents, their families, and their communities” and that strategies must be developed “depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community.” Our infection and mortality numbers in the community currently surpass the numbers in March when schools closed. We must move forward cautiously and therefore I support delaying the start of schools.”

 Lindsey McCaleb, Creighton School Board Candidate

 “As the EdTech Mentor for my district, I can tell you that this delay came as a huge relief to educators. While all of our teachers would, without a doubt, prefer to teach in-person, with the rising cases the last month, many are terrified for the health of themselves, their families, and of course their students and students’ families. Due to waiting so long for more guidance from the state, none of us were fully prepared for the multiple scenarios. This allows us more time to ensure equitable and quality education for all students.”

 Sophia Ramirez, Creighton School Board Candidate

“The delay in in-person classroom instruction is a consequence of the lack of leadership at the state level. For now, in-person instructions are not in the best interest of not only students but also teachers, staff, or the community. I worry teachers are overwhelmed with managing both online and in-person learning. I believe that the delay will allow districts to focus on online learning rather than dealing with multiple learning outcomes. I am proud of all the districts taking it upon themselves to do what is best for their students. Local leadership has excelled in these unknown times.”

Jeff Fortney, Cave Creek School Board Candidate

“In Cave Creek, where I’m running for school board, they are doing an excellent job trying to plan for the next school year. They have three task forces up and running: Academics, Logistics, and Well-Being. It’s a daunting task. Now, the scope of what they are dealing with is completely different from what it was in May. No one knows what August will look like. Education stakeholders cannot continue to be pawns in a rule-less game. Without clear direction from Arizona leaders, school reopening will continue to be a guessing game. Masks and Social distancing aren’t political. Our society needs to be taking care of itself. It’s not right now, and schools are paying the price.”

 Nik Martin, Phoenix Elementary School Board Candidate

“The announcement from Governor Ducey, yesterday, is a small step towards addressing the echoed concerns of educators. It is time that we face the sad reality that our schools may not open for a while. It is time that we shift our focus from various reopening models and put our energy into addressing the technology inequities our schools face”.

Armando Montero, Tempe Union High School Governing Board Candidate

“While I welcome the decision to delay the start of in-person classroom instruction until at least August 17th, much more must be done at the state and local level to keep our families and community safe. Our schools need the time to adequately prepare and implement safety procedures and online instruction options as well as continuing to heed the science and advice of local health experts. The COVID-19 situation will continue to change through the next months and school year, and our schools must be well equipped and prepared to adapt as well as involve teachers, students, parents, and staff in our deliberations and decisions.”

Hopefully, as all the candidates alluded to in their comments, this added time will be used wisely to plan for the safe reopening of schools across the state.

To that end, the Governor and State Legislature should convene a special legislative session in July to address the issues (funding and otherwise) with COVID 19 and provide up to date guidance (and additional monies to the $270 million the Governor allocated via Executive Order last week) on safely reopening the schools and ensuring there is as little health risk as possible for all education stakeholders.

 

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David Gordon
Living in Arizona since his family moved to Tempe from New York in 1982, David Gordon has three degrees from Arizona State University and the University of Phoenix in History, Political Science, and Secondary School Administration. A highly qualified Social Studies instructor and Certified School Principal, Mr. Gordon owned his own charter school, Grand Canyon College Preparatory Academy from 1997-2016. The school served students in grades 6-12 in the East Valley of Maricopa County. Many of the graduates of GCP earned college credit for free while still attending high school, some completing the first year of college before graduating. Among the speakers at the school's graduations were noted figures in Arizona Politics like Harry Mitchell, David Schweikert, Juan Mendes, Andrew Sherwood, and John Huppenthal. Mr. Gordon also participated in the revisions of the Arizona History and Social Studies standards. In January 2017, Mr. Gordon started the political blog Twenty-First Century Progressive Bull Moose. It has a global following and routinely comments on the political events of the day. Mr. Gordon also helps administer the Facebook page Living Blue in Arizona. He is also currently writing a series of Young Adult science fiction novels which incorporate the themes of time travel and its impact on history. Mr. Gordon is very happy to be asked to join the Blog for Arizona team and hopes to spread the progressive word to make Arizona a better place for everyone.