Steve Watson is the current Maricopa County School Superintendent.
He is running for reelection this year.
If someone looks at the County School Superintendent website, there is a glaring omission on the home page and teacher resource pages.
There is no guidance whatsoever on how educators or families should address COVID 19 in schools.
As a question at the end of the home page asks. “Where’s Watson.”
Where is his leadership on COVID 19 for his schools?
Does he not believe in the science behind COVID 19 mitigation measures or is he too beholden to the science-denying fringe reactionary right?
Maricopa County Residents would not have to ask these questions about County School Superintendent Democratic Nominee Jeanne Casteen.
A member and President of the Creighton School Board and a veteran instructor, Ms. Casteen would bring a wealth of experience, a dedication to facts, and a desire to pursue an inclusive-bipartisan community-based agenda as the next Maricopa County School Superintendent.
She is committed to:
- Helping schools and all stakeholders get safely through COVID.
- Fill school board vacancies with pro-public education board members.
- Helping retain qualified teachers in the classroom.
- Assist schools in getting more funding.
- Helping children in poverty overcome food and social-emotional insecurity.
Ms. Casteen graciously took the time to discuss her candidacy for the November election.
The questions and her responses are below.
1) Please tell the voters three reasons they should pick you over Mr. Watson.
“Voters should choose me over Mr. Watson as I’m an experienced school board member and president of the board, so I’m knowledgeable and experienced in this area of school governance. I understand the challenges and the celebrations of this type of service and one of the duties of the Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools is school board appointments and support. Mr. Watson has used partisan politics and ignored local, community input to select replacement school board members for openings and, I feel, that qualifications and support for the schools, the community, the teachers, students, and staff of school districts should not be bound by partisan politics, but focused on what is best and good for all of those stakeholders. Furthermore, I am an experienced classroom teacher and my entire career in education has been spent serving in Title 1 (lower socio-economic schools). The members of these communities typically don’t have a voice in their school systems due to possible language barriers, working multiple jobs to support their families which leads to a lack of time to participate, and an unfamiliarity of how schools are organized. I will ensure that these community members have a voice in how their school districts operate and that will be provided through school board appointments who believe in these elements.”
2) Please tell the voters at least three ways your opponent has failed as School Superintendent.
“The three ways my opponent has failed as School Superintendent includes:”
- “Closure of schools and discontinuance of services directly related to supporting seriously at-risk students. For example, closure of county-wide transition school sites for students who are not able to enroll in public or charter schools due to timing in the school year, and continued education efforts for youth released from juvenile detention centers.”
- “Reduction of relevant and best-practices in teacher professional development opportunities designed to ensure professional educators are prepared for the ongoing challenges of their classrooms, communities, and meet stated student achievement outcomes.”
- “Failure to provide a vision and mission for the Maricopa County Superintendent’s office to meet the ongoing and challenging needs of schools in this county. This failure extends to including failure to provide support for teachers and schools in Maricopa County, in partnership with local districts, related to COVID-19, and pursuit of innovative services and relevant funding streams to support public school and charter school efforts to reduce teacher turnover.”
- “Appointment of school board members in open positions that are based on partisan politics and not based on appointed board member qualifications and service to their communities.”
3) Please tell the voters at least three issues you feel are important to pursue if you are elected to the Maricopa County School Superintendent? There are many issues that affect our public schools every day:
- “The biggest issue our schools face is poor funding. Arizona has made more cuts to its education budget than any other state in the union. As County Superintendent, I would add programming, partnerships, and whenever possible, products for schools to use and share as a way of filling in the gaps left by these cuts. Additionally, I would work with legislators and state leaders to advocate for more funding and resources for schools.”
- “Since Arizona has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty, we have many students in our schools whose families are living paycheck-to-paycheck. We have many children in foster care, and even homeless youth. Those children, as well as children from more affluent families, need wraparound services. Oftentimes, schools are the first line of defense when working with children’s and families’ most basic needs, like food, transportation, healthcare, and mental health needs. I would bring back the trauma-informed curriculum and work on building partnerships with local companies, non-profits, government agencies, etc. to ensure schools have adequate resources to take care of the WHOLE child.”
- “Teacher retention has been a huge issue in Arizona for well over a decade. The average experience of Arizona teachers is reduced every year, and we have record-low numbers of student-teachers graduating from our teaching colleges. As county superintendent, I would partner with our local universities and districts to form creative partnerships and promote the profession of teaching. I would also advocate for alternative pathways to certification for our classified staff, and work to connect potential educators to scholarships and grants to assist their undergraduate studies.”
4) Please tell the voters, if elected, what are at least two actions or recommendations would you take/make to keep children and educators in the county safe as possible from COVID 19?
- “First, I would advocate for following best practices from real epidemiologists, and promote the voices of those medical professionals whenever possible. I would use the office as a platform to allow healthcare leaders to share science and resources.”
- “I would also create a clearinghouse of resources so schools, districts, and teachers can share best practices for online learning. Additionally, I would connect districts with public health resources so they can point families in the right direction to access testing and resources such as PPE.”
- “Unfortunately, the current superintendent has given little guidance for school boards regarding COVID-19, at a time when we need it the most. School board members have advocated for their students, families, and teachers throughout the pandemic. We have written letters to the governor, held press conferences, partnered with medical professionals and social workers to advocate for public safety, and through it all, Mr. Watson has been noticeably absent.”
Please click here at a link Ms. Casteen provided to illustrate what should be done in schools and the reality of COVID with children.
5) Is there anything you would like the voter to know about you or your candidacy that has not been asked in the first four questions.
“I have a proven track record of leadership in Arizona Education. I have received the recognition of various professional organizations including the Arizona Schools Public Relations Association’s Award of Excellence in Advocacy and Political Contributions, the ASBA All-Board Award, and the All-Arizona School Board Member Award. In the district where I serve, we started a supper program, opened a family resource center, and opened a bilingual preschool that serves families living far below the poverty line. I have a deep understanding of school boards and good boardsmanship and would be committed to finding forward-thinking, pro-public education people to sit on the 58 school boards across Maricopa County.”
“Arizona has cut education funding more than any other state over the past several years while simultaneously diverting taxpayer dollars to private schools through multiple voucher expansions. A strong public education system is foundational to the future of our state and country. GOP leadership in this state claims to be fiscally conservative, but this divestment in our education system ends up costing taxpayers more in the long run.”
“While it’s important to reach out to independent and swing voters, we must also engage disenfranchised voters who are affected most by this unequal educational system. I am eager to discuss these issues with Steve Watson, and I look forward to the opportunity to debate.”
For more information on Jeanne Casteen and her candidacy, please click on her:
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