FUSD School Board Candidates Speak at FEA Forum | Education


The Flagstaff Education Association (FEA) held a Candidates’ Forum for the Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) Monday night as community members gathered in the auditorium at Flagstaff High School to hear from candidates for the board of directors. district administration talk about their vision for the district.

There are five candidates for the two four-year seats open to this election: Kristine Pavlik, Erik Sather, Holly Jones, Gretchen Slover and Mindy Thomas. All but Slover were present at Monday’s forum. Each contestant introduced themselves before answering questions, first from a moderator and then from members of the public.

Thomas said she was running “because I saw parents kicked out of a school board meeting, mandates that took away our right to choose for ourselves and our parental rights over our children.”

She has experience running a private school office and served as Boy Scouts Treasurer, managing nearly $100,000 in funds.

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“My overarching vision is to make the public understand the overarching policies and regulations that are being rewritten and implemented in our education system,” she said in her introduction. “…I want people to be the protectors of our freedom and then work to pass it on to our children in schools. I would like to see transparency in all areas of our district so the public can get all the information they ask for and be able to understand it so people can make decisions about how their money is spent and what their children are learning.

Pavlik is the mother of two current students in the district and grew up in FUSD schools. She described herself as “a passionate advocate for public education as well as family and child well-being.”

She has experience in nonprofit accounting and administration and said she has administered millions in grant funds through her work with local government. She also mentioned her background in early childhood education and past experience with foster parents.

“Public education is the foundation on which we build our democracy,” she said. “I think it’s more important than ever that we elect school board members who listen, learn, and make decisions that consider the needs of all students, who respect and honor educators, and who will fight for students’ rights to a safe and inclusive learning environment as well as their right to an accurate education that will truly prepare them to succeed in their future… I also think it is crucial to elect people who embrace, recognize and celebrate the diversity and understand that equity in education is based on taking into account the history, needs and cultures of everyone in our school community.

Jones is a former FUSD educator who spent 15 years working for the district and as a coach and mentor at Northern Arizona University. She also said she has experience on several nonprofit boards.

“My passion is to work with students, teachers, student-teachers, and so the reason I’m running is to get involved and support teachers, staff and students,” she said. declared. “…I’m going to use my forward-thinking, growth-oriented mindset and really focus on being a positive change for FUSD.”

She said she tries to bring transparency to the district, involve families and teachers in decision-making, and support teachers.

“As a teacher, looking at my fellow educators, I know they are putting in the time – the class time and the time after. They are there long before and after the administrators leave, the district building is closed; you can go to any primary school and you will see teachers there until 8 or 9 p.m., so I want to make sure that we support them.

Sather has been a Flagstaff resident since 2008 and has two children who attend schools in the district. He runs, he believes “in the power of education for all of us”.

He works in the NAU’s communications office and, if elected, hopes to be a community representative and a delegate to the FUSD board.

“I believe education is for the whole community,” he said. “Public schools build communities [and] strong communities support strong economies, healthy families and provide the ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world. I also believe that the values ​​of our schools reflect the values ​​of our community and vice versa.

Topics covered in the question and answer section included budget obligation and waiver measures also on the November ballot, strategies to attract and retain educators, critical race theory and social-emotional learning.

The positive points

When asked where FUSD shines, all of the candidates mentioned the efforts of the people in the district, be it administration, teachers, staff, or students.

Pavlik said FUSD excels in its ability to “successfully foster a sense of community and belonging, not just at the district level, but in each individual school” – which she saw as a parent in the district. .

“This comes from our district leadership providing school administrators with the tools they need to support teachers… [who] feel empowered to meet the needs of all our students, and then parents are also invited into the school community.

Jones, Thomas and Sather all mentioned extracurricular activities in the district. Jones said the district is able to offer students options in areas such as robotics, automotive and culinary arts, which other schools in Flagstaff are unable to offer at the same level. Thomas focused on sports, which “have been a great way to build community, enrich the character and physical health of the students who participate.”

Sather gave district math nights, the annual STEM night at the Walkup Skydome, and FUSD high school students’ efforts to start a writing workshop at NAU during COVID as examples of how district residents shine.

“I saw the dedication of faculty and staff to go above and beyond,” he said. “…The passion and dedication of students and teachers is far beyond inspiration.”

Jones also mentioned the district’s special education department.

“I know many special education teachers, and the time and dedication they give to students and treat those students as if they were their own, like other teachers,” she said. “I think it says a lot about our district that we are able to meet the needs of all of these students.

Thomas highlighted the “fundamental organized infrastructure” of FUSD, saying, “We have dedicated teachers who are ready to help our students navigate their educational choices, and I have spoken to many parents who have been very satisfied of their IEPs. [individualized education plans].”

Build trust

Transparency and restoring trust in the district were the most common things candidates said they would focus on improving if elected, with Sather, Jones and Thomas mentioning it specifically in their responses.

Jones said she will work to regain the trust of families, teachers and staff, ensuring the board is engaged, involved and transparent.

“When you look at what makes a board successful, the transparency usually shows up right away,” she said. “n… Even though things may not be going so well, they will know that we are all on the same page… . I always teach players and students that maybe we are all on the wrong page, but if we are together we will achieve more.

Sather said he would also focus on transparency and trust, explaining the issues the board is considering as well as the data it uses to make decisions.

“We also have to continue to be very flexible as school board members,” he said, giving the district’s response to this summer’s flooding on Highway 180 as an example of the board doing it. good.

While Thomas also mentioned transparency and accountability, his response focused on district finances. She said she believed FUSD’s “main challenge” was money management and that the district “had spent millions of dollars while still asking for more money and failing to meet academic needs.” students”.

She said she would analyze the budget to find better ways to spend that focus on students and teachers, and give families and taxpayers a better idea of ​​where district funds are going.

“This way we can help our children regain academic excellence and be able to fund it in the long term.”

Pavlik said his goal as a board member would be to listen to teachers, staff, students and families.

“I think the key to creating a neighborhood that engages families and the wider community is listening and making sure people feel heard,” she said. “I really think that’s the foundation for all the other issues that I hope to address as a school board member.”

Some of these issues were teacher retention, student mental health, and student performance.

stay engaged

One of the audience members was Rachael Jesus, a student from the district and one of her school’s Conservative Club presidents. She had come with her mother, at the suggestion of a teacher, to learn more about the electoral process.

She thought the event should have been better announced to the students, as she had only heard about it from her teacher.

“I realized it was a group of parents and teachers who knew – which seems counterproductive because our own students don’t know about these events, because they don’t care. not really the promotion in the schools,” she said.

Watching the forum, she said, taught her that “there are very conflicting thoughts about everything.”

She said she wanted to learn more about the candidates’ approaches to teaching the breed.

“I had a problem with how the three candidates up there who were defending the CRT [critical race theory] just said they trust the teachers to teach it properly, but that doesn’t really guarantee everything,” she said. “I wanted to know more about how they will take personal steps to ensure that teachers do not add their own personal opinion to the teaching of this story.

“I take a lot of AP courses and they’re right, CRT is specifically college-level history, not available in general history, and that’s because it’s a lot to deal with and it creates a lot of viewpoints and different opinions…. If it’s badly taught, it won’t benefit children, especially when they reach adulthood and go to college and they don’t know how to successfully have civil conversations among themselves in matters of politics.”

The next FUSD board members will be selected in the November ballot. You can find more information about the candidates on coconino.az.gov/2874/2022-Governing-Board-Candidates. A recording of this forum is on FEA Facebook page.


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