Dr. Wanda Kolomyjec has been a dedicated educator for close to 20 years.
An Ahwatukee resident with her family for almost 26 years, Dr. Kolomyjec has been a high school science instructor, a university professor of Justice Studies and Professional Development, and a site-based council member at her children’s schools in the Kyrene School District.
A believer in public service and moving things forward, she would like to take her experience and skills as both an educator and a chief operating officer of her family’s business to the Kyrene School Board in January 2021.
Believing that “excellent schools, available to all children in all zip codes, is the key to a healthy democracy,” she feels her presence on the board will have a positive forward influence on the community.
If elected to the board, Dr. Kolomyjec will “advocate for public schools and fight for them.”
As a board member, she will fight for more funding for schools and quality educational programs that all children will benefit from.
Dr. Kolomyjec graciously took the time to discuss her candidacy for the Kyrene School Board.
The questions and her responses are below.
- What are your qualifications to serve on the board?
- Former high school teacher (Biology and General Science)
- Current ASU professor (Justice Studies and Professional Development)
- Former Kyrene parent (three children at Kyrene and Tempe Union)
- Former Site Council Member (Colina and Mountain Pointe HS)
- Business experience (small business owner 25+ years Comic Books and Toys Entertainment)
- Social justice advocate (PhD Justice Studies)
- Education Researcher (Transformative Education)
- Community Organizer (Grassroots political organizer)
- Volunteer (coaching, education, animal rescue)
- Please tell us three reasons you are running for the school board?
- “I believe that education is a crucial pillar of democracy and every child deserves an excellent education.”
- “More than ever, teachers deserve our support and admiration. I believe that teaching is a noble profession that should be revered in our society. However, there is a negative and minority vocal movement who is trying to undermine that support. I hope that my voice can help lift support for public appreciation of teachers and support staff.”
- “I want to give back. Our family has flourished in the community, and that is partly due to the excellent start provided to our children by the Kyrene School District. We are very thankful for that start and I hope to use my experience in education, business, and diversity training to help continue the tradition of excellence in Kyrene. I also hope to use my experience and education to help the district navigate new challenges that have arisen in the years since our children last attended Kyrene schools.”
- How would you rate the current school board you are running to stay part of and please explain why?
“I am impressed by the quality of the members who currently reside on the board. I have attended school board meetings in-person and I have observed a few meetings on-line. I believe that they model how citizens with varying viewpoints and political backgrounds are able to discuss important topics respectfully despite their differences in ideology. They keep in the forefront of the conversation the goal that each of them is tasked with: How to create excellent schools for Kyrene families. Each may have a different vision of how to get there, however, they seem to artfully meld their distinctive visions towards a common goal. This is a lost art in many of our institutions and personal relationships today and they demonstrate the possibility of respectful deliberation.”
- In your opinion, what are the three most important education issues schools and all stakeholders in the district face?
“It has been eight years since my last child attended Kyrene schools. My first task has been to speak with parents, administrators, district staff, and teachers about education issues that they are concerned about. It is important for me to hear from different perspectives on the issues, especially since I have been somewhat removed from the daily interaction with district people. My efforts to connect have been somewhat curtailed due to the pandemic. I understand that most district people are stretched very thin right now, either as a parent who has suddenly been thrust into the role of home educator, as an educator who must master the art of online teaching or as an administrator or district staff member who is faced with a myriad of challenges that the pandemic has created.”
“Therefore, I believe the most predominant challenge is navigating the proper course of action during a pandemic that seems difficult to predict. Of course, everyone wishes to return to normal. However, it will be imperative for the district to weigh carefully the benefits of returning to school versus the potentially devastating health consequences our community may suffer if we move too quickly. This issue, I believe, will eclipse all other issues facing the Kyrene community.”
“However, before the pandemic hit when I spoke with stakeholders, the other major issues that were on people’s minds was proper funding of education, out of boundary students, and the efficacy of “Choice” programs in the district. Interestingly, I believe that all three issues are bound together.”
“Arizona poorly funds public education. That is an objectively true statement when we compare our funding to other states in the country (and our country to other democratic countries). It is also objectively true when you compare it to the cost of private education. To say that money doesn’t matter in producing quality education is simply disingenuous when you consider the two examples I just offered.”
“Public schools are trying very hard to compete with private and charter schools to retain and attract students. In my perfect world, public schools would be funded to the level that would permit them to deliver on the contract that democracy promises: an excellent education for each child in the country at every neighborhood school. Currently, our democracy fails on this promise. Public schools are forced to compete with deep-pocketed private schools, and also with charter schools that may creatively design barriers for many students to ensure a “good fit” with their program. Public schools do not have this luxury and must attempt to deliver on democracy’s promise of providing an excellent education on a shoestring budget all the while attempting to reinvent itself to be competitive. The educating of our country’s promising young people should not be a competition, in my opinion. It should be a collaboration.”
“Therefore, the three most important education issues are: dealing safely and effectively with the effects of the pandemic, school funding (which is really a federal and state issue), and balancing the incongruous goals of maintaining great neighborhood schools with the reality of attracting and retaining students in the school district.”
- What are your views on the implementation of the district reopening in the fall? Or for summer?
“I have an undergraduate degree in biology. Therefore, I look at the return to “normal” through a biological lens. Following the recommendations of health experts and keeping a watchful eye on other countries who are a month or two ahead of the United States for guidance on dealing with the pandemic will provide us with needed guidance on reopening schools.”
- To what extent should your school district ensure all students have access to high broadband and a laptop/tablet for virtual learning should the fall opening be delayed?
“To the absolute fullest extent. To demand that students learn remotely but not have access to broadband and a computer is akin to demanding a surgeon perform brain surgery without surgical instruments. “
- In your opinion, please advise at least one way your school district should make up for any of the lost learning time of this last academic quarter?
“My advice would be to trust teachers and to keep the mental and physical health of the children as the foremost important consideration. Teachers have demonstrated their incredible skills and adaptability in a very challenging environment. We should turn to them for guidance on how to move forward and then support them fully in their plans. I also think that we should bear in mind that the pandemic has opened up new possibilities in the way that we think, and what our priorities are. As horrible as the outbreak has been, we have also seen some amazing innovations and new ways of thinking about what is important. I am hoping that we don’t simply go back to “normal”. Rather, I hope we remember and embrace some of those innovations when we return to everyday life and incorporate that spirit going forward. Extending the school year may be an option to consider.”
- Is there anything not covered in the first seven questions that you would like the reader to know.
“Young people hold the promise for our future and teachers are tasked with nurturing it. Every person in society should cherish both.”
For more information on Wanda Kolomyjec and her candidacy for the Kyrene School Board, please click on her website here, her interview with Maricopa County School Superintendent Candidate Jeanne Casteen here, and her Facebook Page here.
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