Believing “now more than ever we need to prepare our children for the future they face,” educator Stephanie Simacek is running for a seat on the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board to promote the advancement of children and improvement of work and living conditions for educators and staff.

Holding that “every child deserves the right to equal access to public education no matter their race, ethnic background, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, or citizenship,” Ms. Simacek pledges, if elected to the school board, to be a local community member that will positively address the immediate and long term needs of the Deer Valley Unified School District.

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Ms. Simacek graciously took the time to respond to questions about her candidacy for the Deer Valley School Board.

The questions and her responses are below.

  • What are at least two reasons you would like to run for the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board?

“One reason I am running for DVUSD is that there are both immediate and long-term issues that need to be addressed right now. Most of them really do go hand in hand. For example, teacher retention with small class size.  I will go into more of that later

Second, we need to elect leaders that represent the best interests of all of our students, teachers, staff and our families. I believe there are current board members that have an alternative agenda and it does not involve supporting public education.

  • Please tell the readers what are at least two qualifications you have to serve on the school board?

First, “I am a DVUSD parent, I have one child in second grade and one child in high school. Having children in both elementary and high schools allows me to see what might be going on for any grade.

Second, I am also a previous teacher for DVUSD, and I am a current volunteer and substitute for the district. I am very involved in our school communities. I was recently named a public-school proud candidate for Arizona Save our Schools. I believe that our teachers, our staff, and our students are what make this district one of the best that we have here in Arizona and that we have a responsibility as a community to come together to make those changes so that our students and our staff can flourish in their learning environments.”

  • If elected, what are at least two education related issues you would champion as a member of the Deer Valley Unified Governing Board?

The are many education related issues that I am very concerned about. First, I would advocate for smaller class sizes and teacher retention. Currently, our kindergarten classes need 27 plus one in order to qualify for another teacher. That’s one teacher for 28 students. It ranges by grade fourth grade needs 33 to get a second classroom added. They claim high school and middle school numbers range between 28 and 29 students. But I’ve seen firsthand that that’s simply not true. There’s definitely way more student to teacher ratio in there. And we’re talking with no teacher assistant at all.  I believe that not only do our students do better academically in smaller learning environments, but our teachers thrive as well. Teachers actually get to teach and they get to focus on students. They get to learn their learning styles. They get to build a relationship with their students. I believe that this then leads to higher teacher retention. Teachers that are happy and doing what they do, which is to teach are more likely to stay instead of getting burned out.

Just as important, we need to retain our teachers. I believe we need to increase our teacher pay as well as provide lower cost benefits. Teachers can’t be spending half of their paycheck in order to cover their health insurance. They just simply don’t get paid enough to do so. We need to provide them with a livable wage. I believe by doing all of this, we are showing respect for our teachers and for their families. This helps keep our teacher retention. It really just helps our students and our families. It all kind of goes together.

In addition, we need to work on parent communication. Our children spend more time in school than with us. Parents put their trust in the schools to teach their children, keep them safe, and make decisions that are in their best interest. But we need to communicate this better. Over the last several years the district has been in the process of changing the grading system. I have heard from many parents that they don’t understand and so they don’t like the idea. You don’t know what you don’t know and that is so frustrating. However, communication would have helped solve this problem. The meeting last Tuesday helped me as a parent understand, but how nice it would have been to have that information before the implementation began? That information also needs to be easily accessed. Information was available in a document but it was hard to find, extremely lengthy and not necessarily written in layman’s terms.

  • Please describe your views on the legislature’s attempts to ban certain types of books, mandate a distorted version of history education, discrimination against children in the LGBTQ community and change the funding formula for public schools.

“I’ll talk first about the legislative attempts to ban certain types of books. I believe that our children must have access to a variety of books for which they can learn from different perspectives. A great way for teachers to teach lessons and lead class discussion is through novel studies. I also support a parent’s choice in regards to their child’s reading. I don’t believe a parent’s choice in regards to their child’s reading should be dictated by our legislation. If a parent chooses to remove their child from a particular book study that they feel uncomfortable about, that is their choice, but I don’t feel like that should be taken away from the other students’ learning experience.

With regards to teaching the distorted version of history: So as the saying goes: those who do not learn from history and those who do cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. And I want to address two things. One, I do not support the rewriting of history. Saying that something did not happen or did not exist, does not make it, not exist anymore. Changing the name of something that happened in history doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. We can’t change what happened in the past, but we can learn from the past and that’s how we grow. We have to have that for our students

I do want to touch on CRT because it is a big discussion right now. And I think that there is a little bit of confusion because I think that that acronym gets thrown around a lot. As a way of thinking that teachers or administration are trying to teach CRT in our schools. And I will say that. CRT: critical race theory is a collegiate level course. It is not something that is being taught in Deer Valley. It’s not something that’s planned to be taught in Deer Valley. There is a difference between teaching history and teaching CRT and CRT is a collegiate level course.

I want to also add that we can’t be naive and we can’t think that kids won’t bring up topics that might be viewed as inappropriate. That’s just life. That’s how kids are. And currently teachers don’t have a responsibility to bring up those topics, but if they are approached by a student and they do arise, an educator needs to be able to foster a discussion that’s appropriate in an appropriate way for the age level, something that is age appropriate. What might be discussed in high school may not be appropriate for a first grader, second grader. Without weighing in, on their personal beliefs and then Title IX protects most of these types of discussions. So, in an effort to argue against it, it could actually result in lawsuits for our district which would then end up costing us millions of dollars. So, we need to be respectful of that as well. Similar to the books, I believe if a parent does not want their child to participate in a particular lesson or discussion or curriculum that they might feel is controversial or against their family’s values, then they have the right to remove their child from that.

With regards to discrimination against our LGBTQ, community of students, I truly believe that every child deserves the right to equal access to public education no matter their race, their ethnic background, their religion, their gender, their socioeconomic status or citizen status. I do not tolerate and I will not tolerate discrimination against our LGBTQ community. It’s very simple for me there.

As far as change in funding, I’d like to talk about the most recent bill that was passed for an increase of school vouchers.

I’m for public education. I always have been. The ESA voucher expansion bill that recently did pass, could have been used for public education. But in 2018, our Arizona voters already voted against the expansion of vouchers and yet this bill went through, which was completely disrespectful of the voters and what people had voted against for that matter. Vouchers already divert about $350 million from our public schools every year. So, to expand to a net billion dollars on vouchers is just taking money away from our public education. Those private schools that receive vouchers, don’t allow us as taxpayers to see where those dollars are being used. Our public schools have to prove what and how they spend taxpayer dollars. Public schools allow every child to attend as they should. They have to show standardized testing performance, constant student and teacher improvement, school improvement plans, planning groups in order to keep our funding or to ask for more funding.

It just doesn’t seem very fair. There’s no financial or academic accountability for those private schools that do receive vouchers. As a state, Arizona spends the least per child in the entire nation already which is just wrong. It’s heartbreaking for our students. We already are in a bad place. We had $5.3 billion sitting on the table for education and to take a huge chunk of that and put it towards more voucher expansion is just a slap in the face for public education. It is not the time to divert funding from desperately needed programs that we need in our public schools. Lawmakers need to focus onmaking investments in our public education, especially special education for the 96 percent of special education students who attend our public schools. We must continue to fight voucher expansion and focus on our public schools.”

  • Is there anything that is not covered in the first four questions that you would like readersto know about you and your candidacy for the Deer Valley School Board?

“I really feel like success within our district can only be accomplished by someone who has the desire to work closely and effectively with our families, our students, and our teachers. I don’t have any alternative agendas. I just care about our community. I believe that we cannot take for granted the future that we have here with our students in our community. So I’m asking for the support of the DVUSD community so that we can work together and solve these problems and come up with more solutions.”

Please click on the below social media sites to find out more about Stephanie Simacek and her candidacy for a seat on the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board.

Website: https://stephaniefordvusd.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephaniefordvusd

Campaign Donations: https://stephaniefordvusd.com/donate/

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