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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1.    How would you improve academics?

2.    What is your position on teaching Critical Race Theory, The 1619 Project, or similar programs in our schools?

3.    What is your position on requiring students to wear masks and/or to be vaccinated in response to COVID 19?

4.    What experience do you have with Special Education students?

5.    What schools did your son attend?

6.    What do you say to people who say that you’ve never had a child in SUSD?

 

1.    How would you improve academics?

Very simple---as a Governing Board member I will prioritize academic achievement as the primary objective of SUSD and hold the Superintendent accountable for achieving the desired academic results as specified.

A friend once said “I am not an expert in pedagogy; my specialty is management.”  That’s true of a Governing Board member as well.  Our job is not to run the academic operations on a day-to-day basis; that is the job of the Superintendent and his/her staff.  Our job is not to tell them how  to increase academic achievement (after all, they’re the ones with the Masters and PhD degrees in Education). Rather, working in partnership with them, we should identify the 4-5 key markers from PreK-12th grade that ensure high school graduates are proficient (for example, speaking English, reading by 3rd grade, on grade level in 8th grade math,  etc.), and set forth specific, aggressive, and measurable academic targets and timelines to be achieved for each of these metrics. Then provide the needed support to accomplish those objectives; and ultimately hold personnel accountable for their performance.  

The primary tool the Board has for doing this is the Superintendent’s evaluation rubric and its accompanying pay plan. I would specify “Improving Academic Achievement” as one of his/her major job responsibilities, and weight that responsibility significantly more  than others to reflect its top priority. Specific, aggressive, measurable goals should also be included in these plans.

Improving academics will also require prioritizing spending on teaching core subjects before other things.  With a $480 MIL budget we have the money to do lots of things, but we must weight our spending toward our first priority---academic achievement.

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2.    What is your position on teaching Critical Race Theory, The 1619 Project, or similar programs in our schools?
  • I absolutely support teaching American History completely and accurately, covering both the good and the bad aspects of our nation’s journey.  We should do so in a straightforward, factual manner, and in age-appropriate ways for all students. I believe we should emphasize the tremendous progress we have made in correcting many of our flaws within relatively short timeframes across our nearly 250-year history, as well openly discuss the needed improvements we should all continue to strive for.  There are always things we can do better; “continuous improvement” is my motto in all things.  

  • I do not support any curriculum that pits any group of people against another. That divides based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political viewpoints, or anything else. Students should never be taught that some people are “good” and some are “bad” based on their differing characteristics.  Rather students should be taught to respect and appreciate the overwhelmingly unifying characteristics we all share based on our common humanity.
  • I oppose any political indoctrination in the curriculum or relayed by teachers at any grade level. Schools/teachers should not passively or directly disseminate a particular political viewpoint; a student should never be able to detect what political ideology any teacher or administrator personally holds.  Students should be taught to function independently; learning how to think, not what to think.  

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3.    What is your position on requiring students to wear masks and/or to be vaccinated in response to COVID 19?

 More than anything I’m hoping this issue is a moot point by the time I take office in January of 2023!  However, as a Governing Board member my primary responsibility is to do everything possible to maintain in-school learning, as we know this is far more preferable and more successful for most students than online learning.  Therefore:

  1. First and foremost we must follow any laws
  2. We must set policies that conform with the most up-to-date, reputable, data-driven, generally-accepted scientific knowledge about optimal mitigation strategies, both in general and for any variant that might be prolific at the time. Currently the science does not appear to support the effectiveness of masks for most youth. 
  3. As we do with other medical issues, I believe we should allow exemptions for medical and/or religious reasons.

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4.    What experience do you have with Special Education students?

Having a granddaughter with special needs (autism) I have a very “up close and personal” experience with Special Ed.  As any parent of a special needs child knows, the journey is a long and tumultuous road.  

In her case (as so many others’) there was not one single cause, nor one single solution.  Every time we thought we had identified “the” issue, and worked on it, we found it was only one piece of the puzzle and there were many other issues to address. Make no mistake about it, it took a tremendous amount of advocacy on the part of her parents; numerous IEPs; special services (tutors, occupational therapists, psychologists, etc.); a willingness to change course, sometimes often; and a “never give up” attitude to help her develop and achieve.

Over 20 years we’ve gone from literally not knowing whether she would ever learn to read to watching her graduate with a 3-year degree from a community college, and seeing her now enrolled in a 4-year program at Elmhurst University just west of Chicago.  Her journey is why I firmly believe that EVERY child can maximize their potential!

Watching her, and how subtle her symptoms were in the early years, has also made me wonder how many children are sitting in classrooms with some type of learning disability which has never been properly diagnosed.  This is something I would like to explore more.

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5.    What schools did your son attend?

Kindergarten through 3rd grade he was in the public school system in Glenview, IL, some of the finest public schools in the country.   For 17 years we lived in far north Scottsdale and thus were in the Cave Creek Unified School District.  He attended grades 4-8 at Black Mountain Elementary and Desert Arroyo Middle School.  20 years ago, when he was ready for high school, there were very few options for gifted students (for example, there was no IB program at Cactus Shadows H.S.) so we made the decision to send him to high school at Brophy College Prep.

When he was in college (in 2014) we moved closer in toward the city and have now lived in the Scottsdale Unified School District for 9 years.

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6.    What do you say to people who say that you’ve never had a child in SUSD?

A.    I believe all parents, regardless of demographics, geographic locale, etc., have the same hopes and dreams for their children---that they are safe and healthy, they maximize their potential, get a good job, and are happy in their life.  I don’t see my goals and expectations for public school education as being any different than any other parent's/grandparent's just because our children attended schools in different Districts.  

B.  Both of my stepchildren and all of my grandchildren went to 12 years of public schools (excepting our special-needs granddaughter who went to a private middle school).  My son went to public schools for 8 of his 12 years.  

Frankly, these schools were much better-performing public schools than we’ve had in Scottsdale over the last decade. So I know what good public schools look like; what’s possible for public schools to achieve. And that’s exactly why I’m running for the Governing Board. My desire is to raise the level of Scottsdale’s public schools for all Scottsdale children to what I know is possible for them to be.

C. I would humbly proffer that other than those who have been full-time school employees, I have had more experience with all kinds of schools and all kinds of students than the vast majority of people have.  For nearly 30 years I’ve worked in the best public and private schools, in charter schools, and in poor-performing public and private schools.  I’ve worked with all demographics, from homeless children to the most affluent.  I’ve worked with some of the best and the brightest students, those with special needs, and all those in between.  I’ve taught, coached, and mentored Hispanic, African-American and White students from kindergarteners to high-school Seniors. (Learn More)

D.    Approximately 85% of Scottsdale’s 115,400 households have no K-12 children.  That’s ~98,000 households who are paying to support SUSD. These residents deserve a voice in the oversight of the District, of which they are the major funders. As taxpayers, they also deserve a good return on their investment.  

E.  Strong teams are made up of people of differing backgrounds, expertise, and perspectives; not all from the same mold.  I anticipate that most, if not all, of the other Board members will have children in the District so they will be able to provide current parents' perspectives on any District-specific issues.  As with any skill set that might be different than mine, I would rely on the perspectives of others on the team who bring different insights to the discussions.

F.    I believe that often the most innovative ideas come from OUTSIDE  an organization. Whenever I was moved to manage a different consumer brand I always felt that I did my best work in the first six months on the job, as I was looking at things from the perspective of the ultimate consumer.  I wasn’t constrained by existing ways of thinking in the organization.  

Any student of organizational change knows that truly innovative change generally comes to an established industry from the outside in.  I believe SUSD could likely benefit from some innovative ideas proven successful in other Districts and even other industries.

G.   The basic principles of running any large-scale enterprise (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) are the same.  With nearly 30 years experience in start-ups to Fortune 500 businesses, I’m certainly not worried about getting a handle on the operations and key issues of SUSD. (Learn More)

From October 2021 when I announced my candidacy to January 2023 when I hope to be installed on the Board will be almost 14 months.  I have spent, and will continue to spend, a substantial amount of time digging deep into what I and others see as the major issues to be addressed within SUSD. I have had regular meetings with the current Superintendent.  I have talked to current and former parents/grandparents, business leaders, current/former  Board members, administrators, and teachers and asked them what they see as the strengths of the District and what they feel needs to be improved.  I have attended Board meetings and listened to all stakeholders voice their issues, concerns, goals, and plans.   I’ve read social media posts from a variety of local groups to see what the “hot button issues” are. I have made MANY public records requests and closely examined the data on major indicators (demographics, enrollment, academic performance, budgets, etc.).

I'm pretty confident that SUSD is not singularly unique in its strengths and challenges. And I’m pretty confident that after a year+ I will know the major issues facing the District.  But if I’m not, I am a fast learner and trust that I will quickly get up to speed on anything I don’t understand.

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I want to answer any questions you might have of me, and I’m interested in hearing your thoughts, concerns, ideas for improvement, etc.

 

I realize some of you may want to remain anonymous (perhaps current students, parents, employees of SUSD) so there’s a way for you to participate as well.   

EITHER WAY, PLEASE REACH OUT HERE: Contact Me 


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