Jennifer Eckstrom has had an impressive career in public service. At one time the youngest elected official in Arizona (when she joined the South Tucson City Council at age 18,) Ms. Eckstrom has also served as:
- Mayor of South Tucson.
- Chair and Vice Chair of the Pima Association of Governments (PAG) Regional Council.
- Chair and Vice Chair of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Board.
- Chief of Staff to the Chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
Recognized for her service by organizations like the Hispanic Women’s Corporation and the League of Mexican American Women, Ms. Eckstrom would like to take that wealth of public service and leadership experience and bring it to the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board.
A parent of a young daughter in the district, Ms. Eckstrom, if elected would passionately work to:
- Improve the financial security of Tucson Unified’s teachers.
- Better coordinate school safety programs.
- Make all the schools equitable in offering the same all-around curriculum resources.
Ms. Eckstrom graciously took the time to respond to questions about her candidacy for the Tucson Unified School Board.
The questions and her responses are below.
- Please tell the voters at least three reasons they should let you to serve on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board.
“The first reason voters should elect me is that I have the experience of being a former elected official. I was elected at the age of 18 to the South Tucson City Council. I served there for 18 years, five of those as mayor. I have the experience of being an elected official. I know how to read and understand budgets. I know how to be a community collaborator. I know what it means to meet with the superintendent and get things done. I’ve done that my whole entire, political and professional life. I was also a chief of staff to a member of the Board of Supervisors. I can bring people together on a grassroots level.
“The second reason is that I am passionate about public education. My daughter attends a school in TUSD. I’ve also helped to save two south-side schools from closure. When school closures are up for debate, it’s really a time when the community is unsure about how these decisions are made. We need to work together as a community to see how the staff and Superintendent come up with these ideas to close schools. I am in not favor of closing schools. I am here to see how we can save the schools in our community.
“The third reason is that I’m passionate about my work, I will put in the time that we need to have meetings, and board preparations, go out to schools and learn about the ins and outs of each school. Each school is different. Each school community’s different, and I’m willing and ready to learn about that. I will support teachers. I know that in order to keep our teachers and staff we need to offer good wages. I am willing to put in the work it takes to make sure we give our staff and teachers the pay they deserve.
- Please advise we’re at least three issues in the Tucson School Board Race. Please explain.
“The first issue is staff and teacher retention. I believe that we need to make sure that we’re paying our teachers and staff a good wage. We need to be giving them good health benefits and with that comes how we’re going to get that done in the budget. We really need to put everything on the table during budget time. Right now, health benefits for our teachers or our staff are not the greatest. We have married couples and families who are not able to be on the same benefit plan. Our employees should not have to live that way. Families should be able to be on the same health benefits plan.”
“The second thing that I’d like to focus on is school safety. Right now, we don’t have a school safety plan that parents know about. I don’t know the school safety plan for my daughter’s school. On the first day of school, at my daughter’s school, kindergarten parents weren’t allowed to take their kids to the door of this classroom while at another school parents were allowed to be on campus. So, there’s a lack of communication on the part of TUSD in preparing parents for that school safety plan.
As far as school resource officers and police on campus are concerned, we need to really take a look at how these officers are being utilized. Police officers are not trained to deal with children or their behaviors. TUSD needs more counselors and social workers. I believe that schools see the red flags for students. They’re the first ones to see it, and we need to figure out a way to bridge those gaps because police aren’t equipped to deal with our children. I believe counselors and I believe social workers are equipped to do so. We need to pay them. We need to give them the tools that they need to succeed. I’m not talking about a situation where a social worker would try to talk down somebody who’s trying to harm a school. I’m talking about intervention with students that need it the most.”
“The third thing is bridging inequity gaps from school to school. TUSD is proud that they’re able to provide PE, art, and music to a lot of our schools, but a lot of our other schools on the west and south side are not receiving that instruction and that needs to change. Again, that requires the budget and teachers to provide this instruction. And I believe that with my experience, we can figure out a way to make sure that each and every school has PE, music, and art. All of these priorities require money and direction from the board.”
- Please describe your campaign strategy to reach voters, including Independents and Disaffected Republicans.
“Right now, we’re working on a grassroots campaign. We’re trying to hit as many doors as we can, and I do recognize that Republicans and Independents may feel like the school board is maybe not as important but it should be. I am focusing on my experience, what’s best for the students, and what’s best for staff and teachers. That shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It should be an issue that everyone in the community wants to focus on. It should be an issue that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents want for our students. They should want to have a great public education system because it goes right back to building community and turning out these students to be the best possible citizens that they can be and preparing them for the work and education force. I am focused on providing the best education for our students. That is not a partisan issue.
- Is there anything not covered in the first three questions that you would like to readers to know about you or your candidacy?
“I would just like to say I’m a native of Tucson. I was born and raised in South Tucson. I’m a parent to a public school student. My daughter attends TUSD and she loves it and I’m willing to get to work, right away on day one. I don’t feel like I’ll have a huge learning curve because of my experience and just that I’m honored to receive your vote. We need to elect someone who is willing to work for quality education and who will do right by our community. I’ve shown that I’ve done right by our community time and time again. That is really why I’m running.”
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