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DVUSD board candidates discuss district issues and goals

10/12/16

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

ANTHEM – Six candidates are running for three available seats on the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board, and they met for a candidate forum in Anthem on Monday night. Canyon Springs PTSA, Highland Lakes PTSO, Terramar PTSA, and Deer Valley Votes 4 Kids organized the forum, which was attended by about 20 people.

Incumbents Michael (Greg) Gregoire and Ann Ordway attended the forum, as well as Darcy Tweedy, Jennie Paperman, Bob Stambach, and Jenny Frank. Candidates offering opening and closing statements and were given the opportunity to answer every question presented.

Gregoire spoke first, noting that this would be his third term and that he currently serves as president of the board.

“I think the last four years, we’ve really done a lot of great things in Deer Valley,” he said.

“I really believe it would be beneficial to have somebody on the governing board with a strong background in education,” said Tweedy, who is currently a first grade teacher and has worked in various branches of education, in her opening statement.

Ordway noted that both her children attended DVUSD schools throughout their entire education.

“Watching the district the last eight years, through the eyes of a Governing Board member, I have seen that we have strengths and weaknesses,” Ordway said, noting that through the budget cuts in past years, DVUSD remained an A-rated district.

Paperman spoke of the district high schools, saying she has two children in high school, and that at that level, “the curriculum is not reaching to all students.” Paperman, who has a background in education, said her goal is to “collaborate as a community, building relationships.”

Stambach referred to his granddaughter, who attends a DVUSD school. Stambach has become involved in the district, volunteering in areas from the Continuous Improvement Team to the cafeteria.

“I’ve been involved with the schools in this district for five years,” he said.

Frank said her three sons all graduated from DVUSD. She spoke of her experience in education, saying she has worked on committees and “developed policies that would be equitable and fair for all stakeholders.”

“I was a teacher in this district for 10 years,” Frank said.

Questions were submitted via email before the forum, as well as from those in attendance at the forum. Candidates were asked multiple budget-related questions, including budget priorities and teacher pay. Teacher retention, curriculum standards, better resources for gifted students and students with special needs, increasing community involvement, mandated testing, and board relations were also discussed.

Asked to name an area the district needs improvement, Ordway noted that many services have been reduced due to budget cuts in lean years, including classroom support and counselors.

“It’s the whole child that learns: not the hungry child, not the child who has problems at home and has no one to go to,” Ordway said. “I would really like to look at what we cut and see what can come back so we can better service the students and the staff.”

When speaking of budgeting priorities, Gregoire said there is no simple answer in budgeting.

“We’re all here to represent the public, the kids, to make sure the district is accountable for what it does,” he said. He referenced district athletic fees, which, in the past, he has gone on record as opposing, and he said the fees are “really hurting some of the population in the high schools.”

Candidates were asked their opinions on Common Core; they all expressed somewhat favorable opinions of it but also communicated that it isn’t up to the district to make the standards. Instead, DVUSD chooses a curriculum to meet those standards.

Paperman, who has lived in New York and taught school in Arizona, said she saw a big difference in the standards of the two states. She noted that more educator research to determine how the Common Core standards are working in Arizona would be helpful.

“I don’t think it matters what you call it,” she said of the standards. “I want my child to be challenged. I want to make sure if my child is going to go to an out of state university, they’re going to make it.”

When asked how to address the teacher shortage issue, Frank cited workload issues, working conditions, and fair compensation.

“This district needs to understand that the job market is such that teachers can go to another district, have a job in 48 hours, and make more money,” Frank said. “If we can’t pay them more, what can we do to reduce their workload? What can we do to improve working conditions?”

Candidates were asked positive ways to measure students’ learning, and each candidate agreed that more testing isn’t the answer. Many of the current assessments are required by the state, and candidates agreed that streamlining the state and district tests would be helpful.

“We test our children to death!” Stambach emphasized, saying that this level of testing “develops a culture that forces teachers to teach to the test.” Stambach advocated consolidating the state and district tests where possible.

Asked how to increase parent engagement, Tweedy said that the district needs to do a better job of inviting parents to join committees and could perhaps send out emails to parents. Tweedy noted that school events tend to be well attended.

“You really have to know your community,” Tweedy said, adding that making an increased effort to make PTSA members feel appreciated would be helpful.

Candidates were questioned about the discord of the current board and how they would address that. The common theme of the candidates’ answers was showing respect, working on building relationships, and keeping the focus where it belongs – on the students of DVUSD.

Early voting has begun, and voters will be choosing three of these six candidates for the Deer Valley Governing Board. For more information on how the DVUSD Governing Board operates, visit dvusd.org/governingboard.