The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce held a forum for candidates from both Gilbert Public Schools and Higley Unified School District on June 5th. The format of the forum was that each candidate had two minutes to answer each question and provide a final statement. The order in which candidates answered questions changed from question to question.
The questions for GPS candidates were approximately;
- What knowledge of the issues and special skills will you bring to the job, and how will you use them?
- What is the District’s greatest financial need and how will you address it? And for the GPS candidates only, do you support the proposed override?
- How would you build consensus and cooperation with the community, and how would you rate the current level of consensus on a scale of 1 to 10?
- What is your opinion of the current educational standards and rigor
- Final statement
GPS Candidate Charles Santa Cruz
Charles is a professional educator with teaching and administration experience. He played a role in creating common core and in setting up charter schools. He wrote his doctoral thesis on how teachers and administrators can best collaborate.
GPS’s greatest financial need is that employees are behind on raises and that GPS is becoming less competitive because of poor pay. A big piece of the problem is that the State Legislature is not adequately funding education. He supports the 10% M&O override and the capital bond override.
On consensus with the community Charles believes the current Board is failing to put the students first and he rates the current Board as a 3.
Regarding standards he supports common core and advocates more rigor in class work to increase the number of students graduating with Advanced Placement (AP) credits.
In the wrap up he reiterated that education must be better funded and feels that the State Legislature and community have failed to see education as an economic driver.
GPS Candidate Jill Humpherys
Jill is a mom with several children that have gone through or are in GPS. She regularly attended GPS Board meetings for 5 years before running for the Board and was involved in bringing all day kindergarten and gifted music programs to GPS. She is currently on the Board and has been for 1.5 years.
She puts current employee salaries at the top of GPS financial needs. The failure of previous overrides to be voted in and a loss of students have made the current financial situation critical. She would not say whether she would vote for proposed overrides because of Open Meeting Laws.
Regarding consensus she pointed out the recent Zero Based Budgeting committee and math textbook committee as examples of recent actions to build consensus and did not give a numerical grade on consensus.
Jill fully supports Common Core and is looking forward to the integration of science and social studies. She believes Arizona should not have dropped out of the PARCC testing program because it would give us a way to compare our schools to other states.
Her vision is to see GPS move forward and provide a world class education with measurable goals.
GPS Candidate Reed Carr
Reed has a long history of volunteering in the schools in various capacities. Professionally he is a Chief Financial Officer and has held that position both with a for profit business and with a non-profit organization, so he understands the differences.
The most immediate financial problems are teacher salaries and class sizes. GPS will lose teachers if the salary issue isn’t addressed. He supports the 10% M&O override, but not the capital bond override. His objection to the capital bond is that it is a bond. He believes capital spending should be pay as you go, not a bond.
Reed rates the current consensus at a 3. He believes this can be overcome by connecting Board actions back to the existing GPS strategic plan to see how actions advance the plan, and by making more use of public forums and site committees to get the public more involved.
He feels that standards are a State issue, not a District issue. Arizona has chosen a standard and GPS needs to find the best way forward in terms of curriculum and execution. Standardized testing is important, but is not enough to provide the whole picture on student achievement
In summary he wants to work to get families more involved in the education process, and to emphasize the industry partnerships going on now and expand them.
GPS Candidate Ron Bellus
Ron has a history of public involvement in Gilbert. He served on the anti-gang task force, the human relations commission, and in the Justice Courts. He has ten years experience in state government with the State Legislature and the Corporation Commission. He also worked as a substitute teacher for several years.
On finances he emphasized finding long term sustainable incomes sources and pointed out the current override proposal amounts to a 3.5% change in the overall GPS budget. It shouldn’t be a disaster. He said the current Board would vote on the proposed override on June 10th and he predicted it would fail; therefore his own opinion was moot.
On standards he liked some of Reed Carr’s comments and proposed getting the kids involved as scholars, not students. They should see school as an opportunity, not a required task. He likes the AP classes that lets students graduate with an associates degree and a high school diploma at the same time, but also emphasized programs like EVIT. Every kid is not college bound.
In summary he said Gilbert is a great community that has accomplished big things. He would like to serve on the school Board to facilitate big things at GPS.