Thursday, November 3, 2016

I am only voting for two candidates: Cam Juarez and Kristel Ann Foster (Part Two)

TUSD -- Part Two
by Ann-Eve Pedersen

I sent this message today to people who received an email from TUSD board candidate Mark Stegeman, challenging me to a debate based on my prior Facebook post.

Mark Stegeman, in an email to many of you, referenced a message that I posted on my personal Facebook page indicating why I will not be voting for him for the TUSD board. In his email to you, Mark Stegeman said he would like to challenge me to a debate. Although he did not send this request to me, many of you forwarded it on to me. If Mark Stegeman would like to help me share a much more optimistic perspective of TUSD than he holds, in a public setting before the election, I would be happy to do so.

I am a TUSD parent, a former TUSD student and a volunteer public education advocate who cares deeply about the quality of our community’s largest school district. As a TUSD parent, I have noticed improvements in our schools under the current board majority: Cam Juarez, Kristel Foster and Adelita Grijalva and under the current superintendent, H.T. Sanchez.

I have seen enrollment in the district pull out of a free fall and start to rise. I have seen the end to rampant school closures, with the repurposing of some schools into early-education centers. I have seen much, much improved communication with parents, both at the district level and the school level. I have seen teachers move from other districts to take jobs within TUSD. On a daily basis, I see highly dedicated teachers, principals, counselors, librarians, coaches, support staff and district-level employees working very hard to provide a quality-level education for our children.

Is there room for improvement? Of course. There always will be in a large institution with an elected board. But in a state that so dismally funds its public schools — failing its children and their teachers — TUSD, like all districts, faces problems endemic to lack of adequate funding, such as teacher shortages and crumbling infrastructure. Arizona faces the worst teacher shortage in the nation and the Governor and state Legislature have seen fit to defund basic school repairs.

In times like these — when we have a Governor and a state Legislature intent on dismantling public education by dramatically defunding it and then claiming it is inextricably broken — we dot not have the luxury of keeping dysfunctional board members in a role where they either wittingly or unwittingly do the state Legislature’s bidding for them. A watchdog is different than an attack dog.

We live in an era where some, including elected officials, work diligently to tear down public institutions, often with misinformation and misleading information. That is unfortunate, especially when tearing down those public institutions, such as school districts, actually harms children, who do not have the power to vote.

All of you are community leaders. Your opinions matter, as does where you receive your information. Sometimes when all you hear is that something is completely broken, it’s easy to believe that is the case. That’s one reason I decided to respond, rather than let Mark Stegeman’s comments continue to go unanswered.

As a TUSD parent and a statewide public education advocate who has observed not only TUSD but other school districts at a close level for more than eight years, I can tell you that Mark Stegeman’s doom-and-gloom constant narrative about TUSD is not true. (Nor is his statement that he has only interacted with me only two or three times over the past eight years. That statement is false. I’m not sure why he would say something misleading about such a small matter.)

Again, I would be happy to share my perspective in a public forum before the election organized by a neutral organization with no ties to any TUSD board candidate.

Ann-Eve Pedersen

TUSD parent and volunteer public education advocate

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