Educator and mother Kerry Baker would bring much-needed experience, if elected, to the Paradise Valley Unified School District Governing Board.
She brings the experience and perspectives of an elementary and special education instructor.
She brings the experience of a mother of children who are in both elementary and secondary grades. Furthermore, she brings the vital understanding and necessary perspective of a parent with children who have special education needs and is a member of the LGBTQ community.
Such viewpoints are essential for school boards to have in order to have a modern and inclusive approach that develops forward-thinking education and student expectation policies.
If elected, Ms. Baker will advance policies that lift all students up, regardless of ability or demographics.
She will also work to provide a positive work environment for all teachers and staff, including higher salaries and smaller class sizes.
Ms. Baker graciously took the time to respond to questions about her candidacy for the Paradise Valley Unified School Board.
The questions and her responses are below.
- What are at least two reasons you would like to run for the Paradise Valley Unified School District Governing Board?
“I’m running for the Paradise Valley School District Governing Board because I am a mom of four kids in the school district. I like the Paradise Valley School District. I’ve always been really happy with the education my kids have received. I was happy with the choices they made during COVID. They were very difficult decisions and I was proud to be in our school district during that time.
I did not want other parents to come into the school district who maybe had different reasons besides doing what is best for our kids, our district, our teachers, and our parents. I didn’t want other people to be the ones making decisions or choices for my children.
I’m a former teacher. I’m a product of public education. I have lots of experience. I have lots of knowledge. I also have a daughter with autism. One of my children is part of the LGBTQ community and it’s very important to me to be able to be a voice for all of those kinds of students. That’s why I’m running.”
- Please tell the reader, at least two qualifications you have to serve on the school board.
“As I previously stated, I was a teacher. I taught in the Peoria School District for six years and I taught in the Dysart School District for one, I taught self-contained special ed, first grade, and self-contained autism. My degree is in special education and elementary education.
I’m also a parent in the school district. My youngest is in first grade and my oldest is going into his senior year.
So, I have a lot vested in our school district for years to come, because of the ages of my children. As a parent who’s stayed on top of the issues and as a former teacher, I feel I’m qualified to run for the governing board in the Paradise Valley School District.”
- If elected, what are at least two education-related issues you would champion as a member of the Paradise Valley Unified Governing Board?
“We really need to keep our teachers. We have amazing teachers in our school district and it is imperative that we retain them and that we pay them. And I will do everything in my power as a board member, within the scope, to make sure that we are paying our teachers.
We also need to support our teachers as best we can with class sizes. Because if teachers are just in a room that’s packed with kids, they’re not able to effectively do their job.
The other area I would champion is inclusion in our classroom. As a mom of a daughter with autism, it is important to me that we are helping our whole staff bring these students into the classroom with their peers so that they’re supported in the classroom and have the same access to education, to friends, to activities, to clubs as all the other children do. It is important to me that as a district, we do inclusion practices as best we can and give that training to our staff members.”
- Please describe your views on the legislature’s attempt to ban certain types of books, mandate a distorted version of history education discriminate against children in the LGBTQ community and change the funding formula for public schools.
“I have been a champion of not banning books since my first year in college. The first paper I wrote for college was against banning books. It is important as a society that we have access to as many ideas as we can. The more we know, the more we understand, the more we’re exposed to, and the better we are able to sympathize and empathize with others. If you take a book out about slavery and someone’s experience in that, how are students going to really understand what America was like at that time? If you take out a book about LGBTQ experience, you’re taking away a whole section of books that would resonate with students in our district who really need to be able to see other people’s experiences. I always say representation matters, and the media says that too. If we have books that kids identify with, it helps them also to stay engaged and feel seen and feel understood. I do not support any attempts at book banning. Parents can make a personal choice if they want to. If they’re against the book, I do think teachers should have another option but I don’t think you should take that option away from every student and every parent in the district.
With regards to a distorting history in education, in high school, my junior year of history, my history book was the People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It was an AP History Class. For me as a citizen of this country, it was eye-opening. Before that class, I had been taught a whitewashed version of history. When I read that book, I had a whole new understanding and appreciation for the experiences other people had in the United States. Europeans were brutal to cultures they felt were “lesser” than theirs. It really resonated with me. It didn’t make me feel the white guilt that you know, is being put out there. It gave me an understanding of what people went through and a deeper understanding of our history and how we as a society need to course correct and we’re met with resistance all the time, but it helped me understand what black people in our country went through, what native Americans went through. I mean, the truth about Christopher Columbus. That was really just an eye-opening experience for me as a 17-year-old. I do think as a society, we have an obligation to teach the truth about history, the real truth. Germany does it. They make sure their students understand the Holocaust, so it doesn’t repeat itself. If nothing else then to not let history repeat itself, we need to learn the whole history, but for so many other reasons as well.
With regards to the LGBTQ community, as a school district, we are obligated to support every single learner, regardless of religion, race background, and especially, if they’re an LGBTQ plus member. These are some of the most marginalized students, people, and children in our whole country. And if we want all students to be successful, we need to really support these learners as well. There’s this rhetoric that we’re teaching kids to be gay or transgender. I mean, that’s just absurd. But if those kids can see that they are supported in their classroom, they’re less likely to attempt suicide. They’re less likely to do drugs. They’re more likely to be engaged and they’re more likely to graduate. As a mom of an LGBTQ student in our school district, it is especially important that these students are supported. I have a student so I know firsthand what the experience is like for them. And our district has been so supportive of him. I want to champion that and carry on the tradition in our school district. I just think it is sad that our state is trying to cancel out these students when really we need to be supporting them in every way we can.
With regards to the funding formula for schools, it is shameful that our state underfunds its schools to the extent that it does. We are one of the lowest states in the nation, as far as budget, spending, and everything for our students. They’ve recently included more for public education in the budget,, but at the same time they voted in universal voucher expansion and so essentially what you’re doing is you’re giving more to education, but then you’re draining it at the same time. What we need to do as a state is fully fund our schools and not then take for private schools. That should be a different entity. Our public schools have to be funded as much as they possibly can, so our teachers are supported, our classroom sizes are smaller, and students are not in crumbling buildings with no air conditioner. And then the whole nonsense about the spending limit and how there have been lawmakers who are threatening to not raise that if we don’t continue to support the vouchers, I mean, I don’t know how you can give money to public schools and then not allow them to spend all that money. That needs to be raised. The school district needs to have all the money that’s available to them and we need to stop the voucher expansion. We need to keep our money in our schools and with our students.”
- Is there anything not covered in the first four questions that you would like the readers to know about you and your candidacy for the Paradise Valley School Board?
“I have been supported by Save Our Schools Arizona.
I am also a gun-sense candidate for Moms Demand Action. We believe in sensible gun laws. Kids being safe in school are extremely important to me. I have kids in school. I also have been involved in a shooting. I obviously wasn’t injured, but years ago I was in Las Vegas when a gunman fired into a casino. That trauma has been carried with me, and I just don’t want to have that in our schools and in our state even. So, bringing any sort of education I can into the schools to help with not taking away people’s guns, but just giving a good education to students so that they don’t think of guns as toys or something to be played with, I think is very important. And in fact, they do have a program that you can bring into the public schools from Moms Demand Action. And I would really like to bring that into the paradise valley school district.”
Please click on the below social media sites to find out more information on Kerry Baker and her candidacy for the Paradise Valley Governing School Board.
Facebook- Kerry Baker for PVUSD