Mary Gaudio has spent much of her adult life volunteering to help children and their families in the Plano and Allen Independent School Districts of North Texas and as a community leader in her hometown of Phoenix.
Having overcome poverty as a child, Ms. Gaudio’s 25 year devotion to helping children in schools stems from her early life’s adverse experiences and her mother’s beliefs that academic success led to greater life and career opportunities after graduation.
Experienced in serving in volunteer positions like PTA President at Beverly Elementary in Allen Texas and a mentor for New Pathways for Youth in Phoenix, Ms. Gaudio has decided to apply those experiences and beliefs in everyone receiving a quality education as a candidate for the Scottsdale Unified Governing School Board.
Saying on her campaign website that “when I see a community in need, I rise to help,” Ms. Gaudio, if elected this November, pledges to work for:
- Securing increased funding for Scottsdale Schools.
- Bringing Title One schools in an equitable position with the more affluent Scottsdale schools.
- Ensuring all Scottsdale students receive the same educational opportunities across the school district.
Ms. Gaudio graciously took the time to discuss her candidacy for the Scottsdale School Board.
The questions and her responses are below.
- What are at least two reasons you would like to run for the Scottsdale School District Governing Board?
“The number one reason I entered the race is that I am a firm believer in public education. It has the power to lift and build communities and provide support and resources for families in need, and offers students the widest variety of programs to explore their interests and develop their character.
Public education also brings together students of different cultures, races, belief systems, and socioeconomic levels. It creates an environment in which we all can learn from each other and foster relationships that are based on mutual respect. It’s no secret that public education is currently caught in the crossfire of politics and culture and I feel a need to step up. There’s no time like the present to stand in support of and promote and strengthen our public schools.
I was born and raised in Phoenix. I grew up in poverty and was raised by a single parent when my father died when I was eight. I was the youngest of four kids and she, my mom, was disabled. Public education helped bring us all out of poverty. Our mother believed in us, pushed us, and set high expectations.
So, when I was exploring the possibility of entering the race, I was doing research on the district and it shocked me, honestly, that 10 of the 30 schools in the district are Title One Schools. In Scottsdale, one in four kids qualify for free and reduced lunch. So that led me to question: where’s the education equity? The reality is that there are fewer programs offered to children in the southern part of our district than those to the north. Without additional resources and learning opportunities, students in our lower-income communities suffer academically.
I am a big believer in education equity and I really feel the need to step up and make sure that our most vulnerable marginalized communities are getting the same access to education as students everywhere else.”
- What are at least two qualifications you have to serve on the school board?
“I have spent nearly the last 25 years in service to the communities in which I’ve lived. I’ve been a classroom volunteer, homeroom parent PTA leader, a booster club leader, substitute teacher, a mentor, and an advocate and served on boards and councils of nonprofits that strive to improve the lives of children.
Leadership roles like those, whether they earn a paycheck or not, require solid management and organizational and communication skills.
I serve with the intent of building community and helping others. In my mind, that’s the number one qualification we should be looking for in a candidate for our governing board.
I also have a degree and career experience in advertising and marketing and that should prove helpful as we work to regain and retain student enrollment through messaging, creative programs and promotions.
Most of all, I’ve been through the K through 12 experience with my own kids and I have a passion for public education and a sincere belief in the potential of all children.”
- If elected, what are at least two education related issues you would champion as a member of the Scottsdale Governing Board?
“I will continue doing what I’ve been doing for the last six years, and that is continue to advocate for the adequate funding of our district public schools including pre-K, full day kindergarten, and programs that lift communities up.
There have been many op-eds and public comments made at school board meetings this year, raising alarms regarding our students’ lack of proficiency on standardized achievement tests. It’s true. There is definitely room for concern. I’ve spent some time on the Department of Education website, comparing other district schools to S U S D. It was like a smack in the face. It is a systemic problem throughout our states’ district schools. It’s directly correlated to the lack of adequate funding, the teacher shortage and a growing economic divide.
The lower income communities are the hardest hit. Nearly a quarter of our students in Scottsdale Unified qualify for free and reduced lunch. These students have great potential, but they experience far too many barriers to learning. That is unfortunate and it is something that has to be said even before addressing any of the education related issues. We have to all come together and realize that the funding our district schools are receiving is just not adequate.
There’s very little chance of improving those proficiency scores without more qualified teachers and retaining the experienced teachers we do have. Mentoring our less experienced teachers is also one of the keys to improving our students’ academic proficiency. Teachers deserve our respect and they need more support and resources to achieve any high expectations that we set and we should set.
The COVID related ESSER funding has allowed us to bring in innovative programs such as Prisms of Reality virtual math, mobile STEM labs, and calming stations to help students reset their focus. The preliminary data is apparently looking very hopeful. I’m anxious to learn how effective these tools are. Once the aggregate data comes in, these are the kinds of investments I think that we need to be making in order to really address the gaps in learning and further student progress.”
- Please describe your views on the legislature’s attempts to ban certain types of books, mandate is distorted version of history education, and discriminate against children in the LGBTQ community.
“Well, I am, first of all, not shocked but I am dismayed and appalled by a majority of the bills that have been introduced and passed during this legislative session, especially those that are designed to intimidate, threaten and discriminate against our teachers and our LGBTQ community and students. Public schools should be a place where all students and staff feel safe and secure.
It’s not right. I have made calls and emailed the governor’s office and members of our legislature as well, to no avail. It’s just so disheartening. I think all we can do within the community is really protect those kids as best as we can and shield them from that hate as much as we can. So that’s how I feel on that.
With regards to mandating a distorted version of history education – America is like any other country in that we have, you know, some wonderful accomplishments and some horrific offenses in our history. Teaching a full and accurate account of that is our moral obligation.
I’m a mentor and one of the first things that we teach in the mentoring program to our youth is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Some parts of our history should make us all cringe. The sweet spot for growth and change is in that discomfort zone. I agree with Winston Churchill and his famous quote, “those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
It’s just unfortunate that certain members of our legislature want to gloss over or push it (the dark parts of our history) under the rug. Nothing good ever happens with that. It will always resurface somehow, even in possibly a worse way. So, we have to be truthful and honest with ourselves.
With regards to book bans, my view is that public schools are not a place where parents or the state legislature have the right to restrict what books students have access to. Parents can do that in their own homes. If a parent or guardian does not wish their child to read certain books, there are policies in place in which they can request alternative books for assigned reading.
- Is there anything that covered in the first four questions that you would like to raise to know about you and your candidacy for the Scottsdale School Board?
“I’m a pretty open book. I’ve overcome a lot of adversity. Those life experiences are what drive my desire to help others. I do not come into this seeking a position of power or authority. I’m just running to make a difference in the lives of students and their families.
That’s what I’ve spent the last 25 years doing and what I hope to continue doing.”
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