Although he is only 19 years old, Armando Montero has been championing student causes for several years.
A champion for student suicide prevention, more resources for child social and emotional well-being programs, and the expansion of school counselor staffing, Mr. Montero, a graduate of Desert Vista High School, is currently a Legislative Analyst and Director of ASU Affairs for the Arizona Students’ Association.
In running for the Tempe Union High School Governing Board, Mr. Montero believes:
“That a board with more diverse perspectives that reflect all parts of our community is a stronger board….. I know the impact that the governing board has over the lives of every student in our community and am ready to ensure that every single one of them has access to a fair and equitable education and the resources available to thrive after graduation.”
If elected, Mr. Montero wants to continue to focus on student mental health and equity as well as:
- Teacher retention.
- Fully funding schools.
- Student representation.
- Transparency and community involvement.
Mr. Montero graciously took the time to discuss his campaign to join the Tempe Union High School Board.
The questions and his responses are below.
1) What are your qualifications to serve on the board?
“I have lived, gone to school, and worked in this district for many years. As a recent graduate of the district, I know firsthand what issues our students and teachers are facing and have a fresh perspective on how to solve them. Out of the candidates running, I would say I have the most valuable experience to bring to the board as someone who has experienced the classroom in recent years and has seen firsthand the impact the board has had on our students, teachers, and staff. I strongly believe a board with a more diverse perspective that reflects all parts of our Tempe Union community is a stronger board.”
“I have been involved at the district level for several years after writing and introducing a mental health resolution which was passed that allowed me to work with district leadership to create and chair a student advisory committee. This is what led to current board members, students, and teachers asking me to run this year.”
“I also currently work as the Director of ASU Affairs for the Arizona Students’ Association having previously worked for other organizations such as March for Our Lives AZ and the Arizona AFL-CIO which have taught me how to create broad coalitions of students, teachers, staff, and parents to work on the educational issues close to our hearts which is key to being a school board member.”
2) Please tell us three reasons you are running for the school board?
- “First, in many ways as a student of the district and part of the younger generation, I felt that our voices were not being heard on a board that directly makes decisions that affect students’ lives on a daily basis. My generation is going through a unique set of challenges that other board members who were in school many years ago may not understand. A school board is a team and in order to have a strong team we need to have everyone in our community represented.”
- “ Second, I first got involved as a mental health activist many years back. After going through my own struggles in high school and losing a close friend to suicide, I began to notice the lack of resources and attention being paid to the suicide crisis my generation is facing. This has been the main issue I have worked with the district and current board on and continue to make my top priority to reduce the stigma around mental health and bring some changes to the district on that end.”
- “I am a strong defender of public education it hurts to see our public schools come under attack year after year at both the state and national level. My public education has allowed me to be where I am today and feel a certain level of responsibility to give back and defend the district and community that has given me so much. That especially includes looking after our teachers and ensuring they are offered competitive compensation and benefits.”
3) How would you rate the current school board you are running to stay part of and please explain why?
“As a district, Tempe Union leads the way in many key areas but there is still a lot of work to be done. I have been able to see the impact that board’s decisions has had on our schools throughout the years I have attended a high school where there have been many positive aspects and many areas where there is room for improvement. In many ways, I think there is more of an issue of complacency where even though we may be a leader in one area, we don’t want to go any farther (this is especially true in mental health and suicide prevention). Beyond that, I admire the environment and collaboration that the district and board have created. They all work together and are not at odds with one another during board meetings, which I think is key to having a strong and healthy board.”
4) In your opinion, what are the three most important education issues schools and all stakeholders in the district face?
- “Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. While we have been able to create a state-wide conversation around this issue, there is much to be done to support the social/emotional needs of our students. One of the things that are rarely mentioned is the stigma surrounding mental health. We as a school board have a unique opportunity to reduce this stigma and foster open discussions around mental health while also bringing tangible change to help our suicide prevention efforts.”
- “School Equity. One of my other main focuses is around ensuring we offer equitable access to education for all of our students. The demographics of our district have changed drastically over recent years and we need to start paying attention to the achievement gap that has presented itself. Rather than submitting to one-size-fits-all solutions, we have the opportunity to look at our school on an individual basis to fit their needs best given that we have only 7 high schools in the district.”
- “Teacher Retention. Our teachers are the backbone of our district and deserve to have the appropriate compensation and benefits to back that up. We need to create strong incentive programs to ensure that we keep the hig- quality teachers that we are fortunate enough to have in our district right now. I will always stand up for our educators and advocate as a board member for fully funded public education.”
5) What are your views on the implementation of the district reopening in the fall?
“I think this is something that we have to take on a step-by-step basis. We have to continue to take the advice of public health experts on what is going to be the safest and most practical solution to re-opening our schools. I do not think and do not hope that our schools will go back to business as normal in the fall. I think there should be the development of some sort of protocol that takes into account social distancing measures, sanitization, etc. that keep all school personnel safe and healthy. This may include a hybrid system of both in-person and online classes for our larger schools, but we also have to keep in mind the social/emotional impact these closures have had on our students and be able to continue to offer the appropriate services and resources to our students.”
6) To what extent should your school district ensure all students have access to high broadband and a laptop/tablet for virtual learning should the fall opening be delayed?
“I think this is one of those issues that brings in the equity issue in our district. Previously, during the last semester, many students did not have access to high broadband or a device compatible with virtual learning. While the district offered to hand out laptops, it was only for one or two days for a limited time window that put many students and parents at risk while many were turned away. Even if we begin to re-open, we need to continue to ensure that students have access to these resources in an equitable fashion in case we end up doing part online and part in-person, but also to ensure that we are prepared if another situation presents itself to where we have to transition to online learning again. We need to invest in these technologies for our students to have fair access to their education.”
7) In your opinion, please advise at least one way your school district should make up for any of the lost learning time of this last academic quarter?
It’s going to be important that the school district start now to be developing a system to assess and respond to the level students will be at when we return. With many courses building on one another, we need to be able to have some way to assess the gap in knowledge that maybe there due to a loss of in-person classes. While many students may have been able to keep up, those that did not have access to adequate resources may be behind and we cannot leave those students behind. This means there is going to be a need for more individual or personalized instruction in the classroom. Given the stress that many students went and continue to go through we need to find the right balance between these assessments and/or curriculum adjustments and taking care to not overburden students with too much to catch up on at the beginning of the school year.
8) Is there anything not covered in the first seven questions that you would like the reader to know
“We have an opportunity to do something unique here in Tempe Union this election cycle. I want to ensure that we have a board that reflects all parts of our community and brings a fresh perspective to the board. I have been fortunate enough to work alongside the district in many aspects and I am excited to continue these efforts to ensure we best fit the needs of our students, teachers, and families.”
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