Kevin Walsh has had four years of experience on the Kyrene Elementary School Board. He has been the Board President for the last two.
In that time, he has continually visited all the schools in the district and participated in celebrating child and school achievements while also listening to community concerns and suggestions for improvement.
A soon-to-be father of three, he is running for another four-year term on the Kyrene Board “because it’s so important to keep strong public schools in our Kyrene community, and I believe that my experience and proven leadership make me uniquely qualified to ensure that our Kyrene students are given the best opportunities to learn, develop and thrive.”
If re-elected to another term, Mr. Walsh will continue to work on:
- Recruiting the best teachers and well compensating them.
- Offering “robust” programs in areas like music and art.
- Expanding counseling positions to attend to the mental, social, and academic health of the children.
Mr. Walsh graciously took the time to respond to questions about his reelection campaign to the Kyrene School Board.
The questions and his responses are below.
- Please tell the voters, at least three reasons they should elect you again to serve on the Kyrene School Board.
“One key reason is that as an existing board member, I have the experience and the proven leadership. I currently serve on the board. I was elected for a four-year term in 2018, and I’ve served as President of the Board for the last two years. Serving on the board has been by far one of the biggest honors of my life.”
“But, these have also been some of the most disruptive and divisive years for many school districts throughout the country, and I believe that during that time, I’ve led the board with a steady hand. I know how important it is to serve without ego and to listen to all sides and to try to find a resolution that works best for all of our students.”
“A second reason voters should support me for reelection is that I’ll continue to work hard to support what’s best for all of our students. I firmly believe that every student deserves access to quality education, and in particular, I’m proud of the work that I’ve done while I served on the board regarding equity. Over the last few months, our board has adopted a brand-new policy on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a non-discrimination policy for a very long time, but our new board policy goes well beyond simply a statement that we don’t permit discrimination. It embraces the values of our diverse community and it addresses topics like culture, curriculum, and instruction. We know that there are gaps in Kyrene for student access and achievement. We know where those gaps are and we know that in many cases, they are tied to socioeconomic status and race. Over the last few years, we, as a district have been purposeful in allocating resources to where they’re needed most. As a result, we’ve seen huge academic growth in many of our school communities. I can tell you that if I’m reelected, I will continue supporting the work of the district to make sure that all of our students have equitable access to quality instruction.”
“A third reason for supporting me for reelection is I believe I do have the knowledge necessary to succeed. Over the last four years, I have toured and met with students, parents, and staff at every single one of our 26 schools. I’m very involved in our Kyrene community. As a result, I think I’m intimately familiar with the needs of our schools.”
- Please advise what are at least three main issues in the Kyrene School Board Race. Please explain.
“One issue I think the board and the district need to address is the mass exodus of teachers that we’re seeing in Arizona, because Kyrene, just like every public school district, is feeling the impact. I know that our Kyrene teachers are amazing, but if we’re not keeping the best and the brightest in the classroom, then our students aren’t going to be able to reach their full potential. Now Arizona has tried to address the teacher exodus by lowering teacher standards. They’re taking action that I think devalues the profession of teaching, and I believe that that is not what’s best for students. I think that we, as a district, need to have a board that supports providing competitive salaries for our educators. While I’ve served on the board in the last five months, we’ve increased staff salary by $10.5 million. We’ve managed to do that all while continuing to be among the best districts in Arizona at keeping dollars in the classroom. So, I think we need to have a board that also respects and values our educators as professionals if we want to retain our teachers in Kyrene.
Another issue that I think our district and board need to address is declining enrollment. In Kyrene, we have experienced declining enrollment attributable to our community’s aging demographics. Basically, people have moved into Kyrene because of our wonderful schools, their children graduate from Kyrene and become grown adults, but those families stay. So, we have fewer kindergartners coming in every year than we do eighth graders promoting, and unfortunately in Arizona, which already has an insufficient funding formula for schools, any decline in enrollment results in further slashes to our budget. So we need to think about how we stabilize enrollment. I think the most important way is to continue to provide the best educational opportunity in our community. What that looks like in addition to keeping fantastic teachers is remaining committed to having robust programs in the music and the arts. I think we also must have learning environments and programs that are meeting the diverse needs of our families.
The third issue that I think our board needs to address in this upcoming year is the increasing strain on the mental and social health of our students. As a parent, I know that the pandemic was extremely disruptive to our student’s social and emotional development. They missed out on lots of opportunities for basic interaction with one another. As a result, we saw in the last year a dramatic increase in behaviors and students acting out. As a board, we need to figure out how to support our students and our schools. I think part of that work is continuing to fund counselors in all of our schools. When I joined the board four years ago, we had no counselors in our elementary schools. I supported funding to get counselors in every single one of our schools. Now, we have at least part-time counselors in all schools. In the years to come, I’d like to fund a full-time counselor in every single one of those schools. I think it’s also important that the board adopts a policy that establishes the importance of social, emotional, and mental health for our students.”
- Please describe your campaign strategy to reach voters, including Independents and disaffected Republicans.
“Congress, our state legislators, and some candidates have tried to politicize education for their own personal gain. We’ve seen it with alarmist campaign signs raising the specter of critical race theory. Many critics don’t even know what it means, let alone where it’s taught. Regardless of your opinions on critical race theory, it is clear that it’s not being taught in any district in Arizona, and those politicians know it. So, you really are seeing this politicization and weaponization of public education, and I think that has gained some traction in certain parts of our country and certain parts of our state. But I firmly believe that in this community, most people sincerely want what’s best for students. So, when we talk about how we engage with Independents and disaffected Republicans, I think you have to keep students at the center of all your conversations, and that brings people together. I think that honoring parental rights and supporting educators are both important. They’re not mutually exclusive. ”
“When we talk to Independents and Republicans about the work we’re doing, we have to be telling a compelling case for why this work matters. We can talk about how the data in our own schools and communities show that some of our students aren’t reaching their full potential and that we have the power as a school district to allocate resources in a way that’s going to uplift and support all of those students.
- Is there anything not covered in the first three questions that you would like the voters to know about you or your candidacy for reelection to the Kyrene Elementary School Board?
“I think I’ll close by saying that I’m running for reelection because I believe that it’s so important to have strong public schools in our community. My children are thriving in Kyrene, and I want to ensure that every child receives a quality education. Kyrene is at the heart of my family. My kids come from a family of educators. Their grandma is in her 24th year teaching in Kyrene. Their grandpa has taught for nearly three decades in the Tempe Union High School District. We know that strong public schools are essential for not just the strength of our community, but I think for the future of our country and our Democracy. I’ll say that I’m proud of the work that we’ve accomplished during my term on the board. And I know there’s always more that we can do to support students. And I hope to have the opportunity to continue advocating for our students and for our educators and for our community during a second term on the Kyrene Elementary School Board.”
Please click on the below social media sites for more information on Kevin Walsh on his reelection campaign for a seat on the Kyrene Elementary School Board.