FUSD Governing Board Candidate Questionnaire

To help you cast your vote for school board in Flagstaff, NAICL posted a series of questions to each of the candidates, focusing on the issues that matter most to our members. Here are their answers:

FUSD Governing Board Candidate Questionnaire 2012


Why are you running for the FUSD Governing Board?

I am running for the Board because I feel that the Board has lost touch with the community and they need an influx of new blood from people that represent many facets of the Flagstaff community. I, as a retired teacher, parent of children and grandchildren, tax payer, and longtime resident of Flagstaff have been a part of many of the changes of the past and can help FUSD to plot a better future.

What experiences do you bring to the Governing Board? How will they guide your decisions?

I listed some of my experiences in the above question. In addition to these I have been on many state and district committees that have contributed to policies for both FUSD and state teachers. I feel that these experiences have taught me a great deal about the way things are done in the political arena.

What do you see as FUSD’S greatest recent achievements?

I think that the adding of special programs for advanced students is going to be a great help in attracting students back to the district.

What are the greatest challenges facing the district? How would you meet each?

The greatest challenges facing the district today are the loss of students, lack of faith in public education, top heavy supervisors center, and class sizes. There are many more but we don’t have the time or space to examine more than these.

For a number of years many people including myself have seen the growth of Charter schools. FUSD has put in place new programs this year to make the district competitive with the Charters. Where were these programs 5 years ago when the rest of us saw this coming? FUSD’s lack of vision has contributed to the problems they have today.

While out collecting signatures so I could run for the Board, people asked why they didn’t have more say regarding the districts policies. When I asked around about the state mandated Site Councils (15-351),  I was told that they were not very active due to school related budget cuts. I was also told the councils don’t have much else to do. I looked up the law however and  I found that these councils have 6 other functions in addition to the budgets for their schools. They are there to help with curriculum, staffing, professional development, public relations, school improvements, and to establish quality measure to evaluate programs by promoting shared decision making. We already have a state mandated tool in place to help parents and the community in having a say in their schools. We need to use make better use of it.

With the closing of 4 schools and the loss of hundreds of teachers, not to mention the loss of 1500 students, I don’t see the need for a superintendent, 2 assistant superintendents, and a person for human resources and a district public relations coordinator. I would like to see the money put into more classroom teachers, which covers my last challenge. As a former teacher I know how much smaller classroom size is to student growth.

How will you address the challenges of teacher retention-both new teachers and master teachers?

Do you support the FUSD bond? Proposition 204? Why or why not?

It has been years since the district’s teachers have had an across the board raise. This hurts the older teachers who are on the top of their pay scales. This question I need to include with the questions about the FUSD bond and Prop. 204. As we all know Arizona is at or near the bottom of money spent on our children. Our Government whether it be local or county or state does as little as it can in this direction. It is up to us to see the children don’t get left behind. I don’t want my taxes to go up any more than anyone else does but we have to stand up for what is right and so reluctantly I  support both issues. I would have rather seen the bond and over ride for additional teachers pay. I think the current Board of FUSD is too interested in structures rather than personnel.

How will you support access to early childhood programs?

I will support early childhood programs in any way I can. As the husband of a kindergarten teacher and having taught for many years in second and third grades as well as substituted in kindergarten, I have a good deal of understanding of children’s need. I supported full day kindergartens and would encourage early learning centers in all of the schools.


1. Why are you running for the FUSD Governing Board?

I am a committed public school advocate.  I choose to volunteer my time in this role because I believe strongly that communities have an obligation in the education of all of their youth, regardless of zip code, skin color, strengths, challenges or means.  The district education system is structured to do this for all children.

2. What experiences do you bring to the Governing Board? How will they guide your decisions?

When my husband Aaron and I moved to Flagstaff in 2003 we recognized this was a special community and an excellent place to raise our children. At that time, we made a commitment to invest in our community through volunteerism. As our children grew, my volunteer roles changed to meet their needs and the needs of their peers. I joined a “museum without walls” organization formed to provide accessible arts and science based enrichment opportunities for all children. I volunteered at the classroom and school levels. Through these experiences I learned first hand the diverse educational needs that exist in Flagstaff.  As I learned about Arizona’s education issues and the needs of district families, I was inspired to make a serious commitment to the long-term wellbeing of our local schools. To that end, I applied for a mid-term FUSD Governing Board vacancy in August of 2010, and was appointed to serve. I spend a lot of time speaking with parent groups, staff and local businesses in order to develop an understanding of community concerns and hopes for our local schools.  I take these voices with me into the boardroom in order to do my part to shape the direction of the district. It has been a wonderful learning experience, and I have sincerely enjoyed this opportunity to serve the families of FUSD as a governing board member.

3. What do you see as FUSD’s greatest recent achievement?

I believe that our increase in overall district grade and reversal in the downward trend in enrollment has been the result of a better connection with our community.   I’ve been pleased to see that as our district has made a concerted effort to reach out and be connected, local groups are helping to shore up that connection and offering their expertise and help in a very solutions-oriented way.  As that greatly contributes to the overall health of the district, strengthening that sort of support network for kids feels like great progress to me.

4. What are greatest challenges facing the District? How would you meet each?

 The greatest challenge continues to be the lack of support at the State level for district education.  Budget cuts and recent legislative actions make it clear that district education is not a priority for the majority of our legislators.  Continuing to provide a good educational support structure for all kids if difficult in the face of that.  The solution is community awareness and activism.  Two-way communication with our stakeholders has been a main focus for the current FUSD board, and while we still have improvements to make, I feel the information efforts are making a difference.  I’ll continue to work hard in that arena.  I also believe the governing board members play an important role in communicating with legislators the needs of their districts in and effort to promote better support and outcomes for public schools.  I am happy to work with legislators who’s actions support public ed., I’m also comfortable standing in opposition to those actions which create barriers for kids in their process toward career and college readiness.

5. How will you address the challenges of teacher retention–both new teachers and master teachers?

Recruitment and retention of excellent qualified teachers has been identified as a top priority for the current board and administration.  We know that salary schedule and the lack of movement there will be a big factor in addressing that issue.  Given the potential budgetary impacts of the bond and Prop 204 elections, we’ll know more in November about what our options for doing that will be.  Availability of elected funds will of course provide more flexibility to address compensation while maintaining the balanced budget.  The prioritization will still exist if the elected funds don’t pass, the conversation will change, though, to prioritization within current funding.

6. What is FUSD’s responsibility to all children, including students of color, English language learners, low-income children, and children with special needs?

 Article XI of the Arizona Constitution requires the legislature to enact laws that provide for a general and uniform public school system.  It also provides constitutional requirement for the legislative maintenance, development and improvement of our schools through budget.  Nowhere are the attributes you’ve mentioned in this question a condition or consideration of this constitutional requirement.  FUSD’s role in that general and uniform system is, through taxation authority, to establish and maintain those educational opportunities for all children. The philosophy of the leadership in our district reflects not only adherence to this requirement, but the conviction that it is the right thing to do.  One of the reasons I am so happy to give me volunteer time to the district is because we accept and accommodate every child who enters our schools.


7. Do you support the FUSD bond? Proposition 204? Why or why not? 

I voted YES for the FUSD capital bond measure. The state of Arizona no longer funds district schools for basic building maintenance or excess utilities, and has drastically reduced funding for capital expenses such as transportation, technology and furniture.  Voter-approved bond funds can cover the necessary expenses of maintaining taxpayer assets, and assure school districts are not required to divert much-needed funding from classrooms in order to cover those expenses.  The bond will help FUSD maintain the standard of education and facilities that the Flagstaff community expects.

I voted YES on Prop 204. Arizona voters demonstrated that education was NOT a partisan issue in 2010 by approving the temporary one cent sales tax increase. The intent of that proposition was to provide tax revenue for K-12 education, health and human services, and public safety. Subsequent legislative budget processes did not reflect the intent of the voters.   The response to that disconnect has been this new citizens’ initiative that renews the one cent sales tax providing dedicated, long-term, and stable funding for education.  I view 204 as an opportunity for education advocates to reverse the trend of declining support for education in AZ.

8. How will you support access to early childhood programs?

It would be difficult to be a public school advocate without recognizing the crucial role that early childhood ed plays in the short and long term success of students. As a school board member, I will continue to support early-ed programs through parent education, and partnerships with United Way, Kindercamp, First things first, Head Start, and any other effort with a similar mission for accessible student preparedness.


1. Why are you running for the FUSD Governing Board?

There are several reasons behind my decision to become a candidate for the FUSD1 School Board.  However, I believe the most compelling reason for my candidacy is because I have five daughters who are/will be attending our schools and I want to ensure that they receive the highest quality education possible.  Our children are our future and I have a vested interest in ensuring that our future is a bright one.

2. What experiences do you bring to the Governing Board? How will they guide your decisions?

I am a founding partner of the law firm of Decker Holland, PLLC.  My practice as an attorney includes negotiation and litigation in a very wide range of matters.  I believe that collaborative reasoning and open communication is the preferred method for making informed decisions.  Yet, as a professional advocate, I speak out when necessary to ensure that appropriate decisions are made.  As one of the administrators of the law firm, I have experience in accounting, budgets, prioritization, acquisition, personnel management and a plethora of other administrative tasks.  I was also an adjunct professor of business law in the W. A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University.  I have first-hand experience with the struggles of teachers have.  I know that different teaching styles and methodologies must be utilized to maximize learning in classrooms.  Thus, I have an understanding of what it takes to be a successful and effective teacher.

These experiences will be invaluable in guiding my decisions as a school board member.  Not only do I have an understanding of the administration’s needs, I also have an understanding of the needs inside classrooms.  A weighing of these needs will be of utmost importance in the next four years as we struggle through these economically trying times.

3, What do you see as FUSD’s greatest recent achievement?

I believe FUSD’s greatest recent achievement includes the creation of an Advanced Placement Academy at Flagstaff High School with a Pre-AP Academy at Mount Elden Middle School.  These academies are not only drawing greater enrollment to the district but also preparing students to attend institutions of higher learning and find success at those institutions.  It is opportunities such as those that can be had in these academies which will heighten our children’s ability to find success in their educational pursuits.

4, What are greatest challenges facing the District? How would you meet each?

I believe the greatest challenges facing the District include proper funding, student enrollment and helping struggling schools to progress academically.  With regard to the funding issue, I believe that there needs to be a balance between the competing extreme views in our community.   Some say that no additional funding is necessary to fund our schools and facilities need to be sold instead.  Others say that increased taxes are necessary to properly fund our schools.  I believe the answer is that there will likely need to be some additional sums available for specific capital improvements.  However, fiscally responsible spending is absolutely crucial.  With families struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, it would not be prudent to create any unnecessary tax burdens.

With regard to student enrollment, I believe that the largest reason for the student enrollment is/has been the economy and a corresponding decline in the number of families with small children remaining in the community.  As the economy improves, enrollment should also improve.  A secondary factor contributing to falling enrollment has been competition between the public schools and charter schools.  To combat these secondary factors, it is absolutely crucial that we find and retain excellent teachers. (As discussed below).

Helping struggling schools to progress academically requires some evaluation by the administration and the teachers in the classrooms.  It is necessary to evaluate the curriculum and teaching methodologies in classes where the highest number of students are struggling, collaboratively discuss what our teachers and students need to be successful and implement changes to address those needs.  It is also important to encourage, follow up and recognize successes.

5. How will you address the challenges of teacher retention–both new teachers and master teachers?

Finding and retaining good teachers is a struggle for nearly all schools.  As a business owner I have learned that the best way to retain good employees is to pay them an honest and fair wage and help them feel appreciated.  Unfortunately, the amount of their wage depends on the amount of available funding.  However, it costs very little monetarily to help teachers know that they are appreciated.  Like everyone else, a pleasant work environment and friendly co-workers help to engender loyalty.  A “thank you” and personal recognition also go a long way.  When I taught as a professor, I did so because I love to teach.  The pay I received was far less that I could have earned at other employment based on the time I committed to teaching but I was happy because I loved to teach and felt appreciated.

6. What is FUSD’s responsibility to all children, including students of color, English language learners, low-income children, and children with special needs?

While socioeconomic backgrounds , disabilities and other factors certainly play a role in a child’s life, the education he or she receives does not have to reflect those factors.  It is FUSD’s legal and moral obligation to provide every child within the district with the best possible education.  Some students, such as those identified in this question, will require additional attention and individually tailored opportunities to realize that education.  It is incumbent on FUDS to ensure that all of our children receive the education they deserve.

7. Do you support the FUSD bond? Proposition 204? Why or why not? 

The initial one percent sales tax previously approved by Arizonans in 2010 was intended to be a temporary means to subsidize dramatically reduced funding during a recession.  Those desiring to transform the tax into a permanent funding source, regardless of prevailing economic circumstances, are not holding their elected officials responsible for proper management of tax dollars.  They are enabling politicians to use money that should already go to fund our children’s education elsewhere because a permanent sales tax will fund education.  Additionally, I believe that tax measures touting to benefit schools need to actually have the vast majority, if not all, of the funding make it into the classrooms.  The passage of Prop. 204 would fund highways, child health insurance, “family stability”, a “self sufficiency fund”, establish new bureaucratic governmental agencies, and provide one million dollars to administration.  We do not need more governmental agencies.  We need appropriate funding laws at appropriate times to get tax dollars into classrooms where they can benefit our children.

Unlike Prop. 204, the FUSD capital bond measure provides funding directly to schools in our district for capital improvements.  It is important to note that the passage of a bond measure does not mean that bonds will be issued.  The measure simply authorizes the governing board to issue the bonds if it deems capital improvements necessary.  As such, I am in favor of the bond measure to enable the district to have funding available, if required for necessary capital improvements and maintenance.  That being said, I have reviewed the district’s “facilities plan” for 2013-2019 and “technology plan” for 2013-2019.  I am concerned that bonds may be issued to fund unnecessary expenditures.  It is the governing board’s duty to act as wise stewards and fiduciaries when levying and/or spending tax dollars, especially during a recession.  While there is certain maintenance requiring larger initial funding which must take place, it is not necessary during a recession to remodel offices, install new windows or completely renovate auditoriums simply to make buildings aesthetically more appealing.  Consequently, I will not support the issuance of bonds, and corresponding tax increase, without clear evidence that bond money is necessary and essential to the education and safety of our children.

8. How will you support access to early childhood programs? 

It is clear to any parent who has volunteered in a kindergarten classroom that those children who have received some form of education or other help prior to starting school are remarkably further ahead than those children who have not had the same opportunities.  Early childhood programs play a crucial role in offering support services such as child health and development assessments, and early education and care.  It is absolutely necessary that these programs be maintained.  Thus, with a struggling economy, it becomes even more important that we hold our elected officials responsible for properly funding these programs without unnecessarily adding stress to families’ already-strained budgets.  This holds true for any FUSD sponsored programs currently in place and/or which may be created in the future.


1. Why are you running for the FUSD Governing Board?

I am, at heart, a mother and an educator.  I appreciate all the efforts of our teachers, administrators, staff, and volunteers and I am excited to have the opportunity to join such a team.  I want to work to help FUSD become the District I know we can become.  I want to cheer our success’ and help to get our District through all the challenges destined to come our way.

2. What experiences do you bring to the Governing Board? How will they guide your decisions?

Though I currently work in the corporate world, I do have 14 years of teaching experience and have 4 children of my own.  I have learned to listen and research before making a decision and believe I will bring a well rounded, competent voice to the Board.

3. What do you see as FUSD’s greatest recent achievement?

I can’t point to a single achievement but there are so many wonderful things happening in our schools.  I am encouraged by the increase in enrollment and all the possibilities just on the horizon.

4. What are greatest challenges facing the District? How would you meet each?

The single greatest challenge for the District at this time is something that really can’t be controlled by the District; the economy.  We are all faced with tough choices and we all have a lot to gain, or lose.  Teachers are underpaid and programs are underfunded.  It will take a lot of thought and cooperation to get our District through the next several years with as little pain and as much growth as possible.

5. How will you address the challenges of teacher retention–both new teachers and master teachers?

I am not able to address this concern specifically as I don’t have any information about the actual problem but having the best, most passionate teachers in the correct positions is one issue of great concern to me and I will do what I am able to ensure our students have the best educated teachers and best equipped classrooms.

6.  What is FUSD’s responsibility to all children, including students of color, English language learners, low-income children, and children with special needs?

I am, frankly, a little surprised at this question.  Students are students.  No two are the same regardless of background; neither are they so different.  Each has his or her unique challenges and needs.  It is our challenge as parents, teachers, administrators, and ultimately, Governing Board, to make sure all students have the choices and opportunities to succeed, whatever that success looks like for each child.

7. Do you support the FUSD bond? Proposition 204? Why or why not?  

I do support the FUSD bond.  I feel that the Board has thoughtfully created a budget and addressed some of the most urgent and forward thinking needs.  Unfortunately, I am not able to support Prop 204 in it’s current format.  Firstly, while infrastructure is important and needs to be addressed and funded, I feel that hidden on the coat tails of an education proposition is not how it should be addressed.  As for the actual language of the education portion of the proposition, I am concerned about the vagueness of the text.  As a teacher, I was always taught that all goals had to be objectively and concretely measurable.  I don’t see how “parental satisfaction” or “student engagement” is measurable.  I would absolutely support a permanent tax increase would support EDUCATION without any hidden agenda and an objective tool to measure the goals.

8. How will you support access to early childhood programs?

Early childhood programs are crucial to the success of every student; research supports this.  I will work to strengthen these programs, but, again, without understanding actual issues, I am not able to speak to specifics.



1. Why are you running for the FUSD Governing Board?

I am seeking a third term to help ensure that the financial efficiencies and innovative educational  programs that we are currently implementing and have implemented over the past eight years continue to receive appropriate support and adequate funding to produce positive results for our students. I was first elected to the FUSD Governing Board in 2004 and have been re-elected twice since then.  During the past eight years on the board, I was involved in making some key strategic decisions that resulted in: the restructuring of top district administration, including a new superintendent, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction and a new director of finance;  policy changes to the district’s early retirement program which is now saving FUSD about $800,000 per year; and the closure and re-purposing of 4 schools saving FUSD $2.7 million per year.  FUSD has also started the implementation of several exciting curricular programs aimed at attracting students back to the district. They include the Middle School Institute of Technology and Engineering at Sinagua Middle School to feed into the popular Coconino Institute of Technology program at Coconino High School; The Alpine Leadership Academy at Mount Elden Middle School; and The AP Academy at Flagstaff High School. This is in addition to the already popular magnet program at Marshal Elementary School, and the dual language Puente de Hozho, both of which have waiting lists which we are accommodating as quickly as possible.

2. What experiences do you bring to the Governing Board? How will they guide your decisions?

When re-elected, I will be the only governing board member who has the institutional memory of the times when the district was at the brink and how we recovered from it.  From that experience I have a thorough understanding of Federal, State and local issues that affect students in FUSD, as well as the complex process of education funding in Arizona.  Through my positions on the Alliance for the 2nd Century, the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, and the Fit Kids of Northern Arizona Advisory Board, I have built solid relationships with other leaders in and around Flagstaff and the state which will be instrumental to ensuring that FUSD has a seat at the table when it comes to community initiatives like STEM, workforce development, and the opportunities to advocate for rural education with our state legislature.

3, What do you see as FUSD’s greatest recent achievement?

Aside from the innovative additions to the educational programs for students, the Governing Board has recently adopted a process for multi-year budgeting tied to the long-range strategic plans and goals of the district.  This will enable teachers and administrators to better measure the effectiveness of the educational delivery to students and better enable the Governing Board in the future to determine optimal funding based on program efficacy.

4, What are greatest challenges facing the District? How would you meet each?

Public perception within the community is the greatest challenge for FUSD.  Perceptions take a long time to overcome, and FUSD has suffered from a negative perception that was generated over 15 years ago.  Today, that perception is no longer the truth.  The fact is that there are many innovative and rigorous educational opportunities for all children happening in FUSD classrooms daily. That story needs to be told.  In the past effort to move as many dollars to the classroom as possible, the governing board has under funded initiatives for greater community outreach and public relations.  I believe that now is the time to tell the FUSD success story to the larger community of Flagstaff and in fact the board has identified public relations as a key strategic goal for the future success of the district.  I have championed the need for greater support for this and will continue this effort in my next term.

5. How will you address the challenges of teacher retention–both new teachers and master teachers?

The first step in improving teacher retention involves restoring a professional culture for our teachers and staff through a professionally run and managed human resource department.  Recent improvements in staffing and structure of this vital department within FUSD has solidified the foundation from which our teachers and staff can benefit from increased opportunity for professional development, collaboration, and employment support.  Beyond that, the Governing Board has identified teacher and staff compensation as one of its immediate budget priorities.   We need to restore the status of being employed by FUSD within the community, the state and the region.   Success in this restoration includes providing a competitive compensation structure where the best teachers are recognized for their expertise and success in having a positive impact on the hardest to serve students.

6. What is FUSD’s responsibility to all children, including students of color, English language learners, low-income children, and children with special needs?

Several years ago, my colleagues and I on the Governing Board established the vision of “Excellence for All, by All” for FUSD.  In doing so, the board and administration recognized the diversity of our student population as one of our key assets in the educational environment created in all FUSD schools.  FUSD is required to accept any student who wishes to enroll into our education program.  The district has a long standing reputation of being willing and able to accept every student, and succeed in making appropriate educational progress with each and every one.   I intend for that established culture to continue into the future as fundamental to what FUSD is all about.

7. Do you support the FUSD bond? Proposition 204? Why or why not?

I will vote YES on the renewal of the FUSD capital bond.  Supporting this bond will not increase tax amounts on property owners, as this funds a new bond as the old bond passed in 2006 is retired.  The state has cut funding for capital improvements and repair which forces local school districts like FUSD to seek money for building maintenance, repairs and equipment from our local community.  As the state has cut its funding, it has passed the burden to small towns like Flagstaff to support their local schools.  I believe that this can be a good thing as the money collected locally stays locally with local accountability through your school board representation.  This bond also gives us funds to invest in solar power generation to not only offset our own utility usage, but to also generate additional power that we can sell back to APS to fund classroom programs into the future.  This is just one example of how FUSD is currently planning for a successful future for our children.

I will vote YES on Proposition 204, and renew the current one-cent state sales tax to support education.  Public education is under siege in Arizona and creating a dedicated funding source for education until the entire funding formula can be revised is key to ensuring the viability of our public schools.  When businesses looking to relocate or expand in any state or community, they first look to see how that state or community supports public education, because they know that’s where their workforce will come from and that’s where their own children will be educated.  Not funding education is a signal to the world that Arizona and our community is not interested in our own success.  Supporting Proposition 204 sends a message that we believe in our children and our future.

8. How will you support access to early childhood programs?

It is now an undisputed fact that the exposure to language and reading before Kindergarten is critical to the success of a child throughout their educational career.  The proven paradigm is that children must learn to read by 3rd grade so they can read to learn thereafter.  What happens for a child prior to them even stepping foot inside an FUSD classroom will determine how successful they will be in those first three years.  FUSD’s partnerships with pre-school programs housed within some FUSD elementary schools are vital to ensuring that the hardest to serve children can start Kindergarten with the same pre-school exposure to language and reading than other more fortunate children in our community, thereby closing the achievement gap that exists even before the first lesson is taught.  I will seek to ensure that these partnerships continue and are strengthened as we can in order to support the success of our next generation of students.  Additionally, I have championed full funding of all day Kindergarten within FUSD even after the state cut its funding and other members of the community proposed making some families pay.  I believe that if we truly believe that success in the early years of education is important, then we should be willing to put money where our mouth is and financially support it on principle.