J.E. (Jennifer) Hilsbos is running for a seat on the Florence Unified School District Governing Board because she wants to level the education field for students in the Florence Unified School District.
An executive director for non-profits, an education activist, and a mother of a child that attends the district, she wants to accomplish this by ensuring college and non college track children receive the same well-funded, high quality, transparent, thorough and equitable education through all of Florence’s neighborhood traditional public schools.
Calling neighborhood schools “the backbone of the community,” Ms. Hilsbos wants them and the communities that feed into them strengthened.
Ms. Hilsbos graciously took the time to respond to questions about her candidacy for the Florence School Board.
The questions and her responses are below.
- What are at least two reasons you would like to run for the Florence Unified School District Governing Board?
“I think the biggest reason number one is I am quite distressed by the direction education in our state has taken. And I know you can’t fight a lot of it at the school board level, but you certainly have a large impact on ensuring adequate and accurate curricula are being used in the school and that each student is getting the appropriate education for them and what they want to do with the rest of their life. So, I think that ensuring that we have the best curriculum available is probably my biggest reason.
There’s a story around why I decided to jump into this race and it does revolve around the sex ed curriculum review out here in Florence that’s happening right now.
The second reason is and I’ll probably touch on this a little bit later too, is that I’ve served on governing boards for nonprofits and I’ve served as ED’s (Executive Directors) for nonprofits. I’ve even served in both the capacity as a chair and an Executive Director for political action committee. And I think one of the biggest frustrations I have is that I don’t see our school boards doing anything to promote the neighborhood school. They’re basically just sitting back and not pushing back against the rhetoric that the private schools are better, or the charter schools are better. Charter schools are great and they do serve a purpose in Arizona. But the fact of matter is that 97 percent of Arizona students attend a public neighborhood school within their school.
So the focus should absolutely be on making sure that those are the absolute best schools that they can be.
Also, I still have a son in school. He is finishing up fifth grade and going into sixth grade at Magma ranch, a K-8 school which is in the Florence Unified District. I want to ensure that he gets the best education possible.”
- Please tell the reader, what are at least two qualifications you have to serve on the school board?
“Number one is my work history. I have worked in both construction and. aerospace. I was a flight line returned to service engineer with a company that contracted with America West back when America West was out here.
After they kind of got folded into Southwest, I continued working for them.
The second qualification is I’ve worked in the construction industry and that’s another fairly well-regulated industry. So, I have had experience working with consumers and pushing back when they’re asking for something that doesn’t stand up to either the regulations or best practices.
I feel like our school boards really need someone who is willing to push back a little bit against some of the rhetoric that’s out there.
The political environment, especially around schools right now is highly charged and coming from a background where I have to step in and say, yes, you’re the one paying, but I have to follow the law, or I have to follow the best practice is something that needs to be happening and I don’t see that in our school boards right now.
Another thing is what I had touched on a little bit ago. I’ve served on governing boards for charities I’ve served and governing boards for PAC’s (Political Action Committees) and I have experienced advocating for those types of organizations and I see the schoolwork position in a little bit, the same way. It’s a school governing board, but it also needs to be involved in the advocacy of the school and what the school is doing to the community.”
- If elected, what are at least two education related issues you would champion as a member of the Florence Unified School District Governing Board.
“Getting back to curriculum, there was a situation that happened earlier this year in Florence that led to the potential for not having any sex ed curriculum at all taught in Florence high schools. And we’re looking at a bigger world right now.
A Public school is a public service. It is a public good, the same as police forces and fire departments. Their job is to turn out educated, qualified students that can enter the workforce or enter the universities. A child that cannot even make the most basic decisions about their sexual health, because they weren’t taught that in school is not an educated child that is ready to go out into the world and start making decisions about employment and finances.
The other thing which is intensely personal to me is not every student is on a college track. I want to make sure that our students that are either interested in being on a college track or aren’t necessarily prepared to go straight from high school to a four-year university aren’t being hampered by red tape that is designed to get them straight into university. This is a conversation that I’ve had even with legislators about some of the graduation requirements in Arizona.”
- The legislature has been attempting to ban certain types of books. They mandate a certain version of history, discriminate children in the LGBT community. Change the funding form of public schools. Do you want to comment on what many of the legislature are trying to do?
“It is not the legislator’s responsibility to regulate what a child can or can’t read and what a child can and can’t be taught. That is the job of the parents.”
“Arizona has very robust school choice. It is the public-school system’s job to offer as many varied perspectives as possible to a child. And if a parent isn’t happy with what they are seeing, then they are more than welcome to take their child to a charter school who is only going to teach a certain version of history or even homeschool them if the if the version of U.S. history that’s being taught, isn’t the one that they weren’t taught.
Our high schools, juniors and seniors right now are facing potential backlash created by the Arizona Legislature from their AP division in the form of decertification of Arizona, AP courses because the AP (College Board) is not going to offer those advanced placement classes. They’re not going to certify those tests if we ban certain materials or we decide that we’re going to an entire state is going to only teach a whitewashed version of history.
It is not fair to put our high school students at a competitive disadvantage, trying to get into four year universities by losing their opportunities to gain those AP credits and history and other classes that are being affected by what the legislature is doing.
The legislature is hamstringing our youth and that’s just not acceptable.”
- Is there anything that covered in the first four questions that you would like to raise to know about you and your candidacy for the Florence Unified School Board? Please explain.
“I am a fervent advocate for Arizona public schools, Arizona neighborhoods, schools.
I firmly believe that the neighborhood school is the backbone of our community. I have been advocating and volunteering with SOS Arizona in order to ensure adequate public funding for schools, basically since their inception in 2017. I have gone around and given presentations and I was a trainer when they go around and talk about how Arizona laws are not equitable in the funding of public schools.
And again, charters. Arizona has a very robust school choice system. We have charter schools that operate within the bounds of that system. That system isn’t equitable right now, though. Those charter schools are given an advantage over the neighborhood public schools, which is very disheartening when you follow the numbers and see that 97 percent of Arizona’s school children are taught in public schools.
That is extremely prevalent and apparent out in the rural areas in rural districts like Florence, where charter schools don’t want to come out here. There’s not enough students for them to justify the expense of putting out a charter school and that inequity is really having a significant impact on rural districts, such as Florence.”
Please click on the below websites for more information on Jennifer Hilsbos and her candidacy for the Florence Unified School District Governing Board.