Bernadette shares her thoughts on the top three educational challenges she thinks she’ll face in the coming school year and explains her strategies to overcome those challenges:
A. The budget and possibility of additional cuts will be a challenge. It is critical to understand all aspects of school funding and resource allocation. We have an amazing community and we need to maximize our efforts in partnerships with local businesses, grant request and innovative strategies. In changing times, we need to be flexible to new ideas in additional funding. We need to expand on Kyrene’s already implemented green efforts with sustainable energy programs, while encouraging the practice to make purchases with other district/governmental entities to receive group discount rates. We need to uphold our commitment to communicate with our legislators to seek additional funding for our schools along with allocating our resources based on need.

B. The recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers is critical. The challenge is compounded by our struggling economy and limited funding. We need to compensate our teachers with a competitive salary. To have a teacher leave our district to one that pays more needs to be addressed. Studies have shown that one of the most important factors influencing the student learning is the teacher. A District can have the best curriculum; however, if you do not have well-paid trained teachers, the curriculum suffers. We need to provide professional development, training and mentoring opportunities. Again, this could also be supported by partnerships here locally. An effective measurable evaluation system that encourages leadership among our teachers needs to be at the forefront.

C. Communication is always a challenge. We need to focus on communication at all levels. Parents, teachers and the student need to continue to improve in the exchange of information. The District needs to increase awareness to students and families at individual schools about programs such as the Kyrene Resource center that can assist those in need. Increasing parent involvement should also be a focus along with the outreach to the community
What spending issues in your district’s budget do you challenge and what would you do instead?
Kyrene ranks at the top in the state for being one of the most fiscally efficient districts. The financial team does a superior job with a 9.4% higher state average of funds being spent in the classroom. Kyrene also spends considerably less on administration, plant operation and transportation. As a board member, I would always be committed to reviewing spending proposals carefully while overseeing public funds. I would continue to work on keeping our voters and community involved and educated on our district.

While school districts cannot advocate an override, what can Bernadette do to help market an override for districts that have had recent defeats?
Educate voters about school finance and how significant it is to have successful schools in their community, especially as stakeholders. People need to be well informed regarding where the funds will be utilized. Encouraging voters to attend board meetings or access the information online to assist them in fully understanding how schools are financed. Kyrene has all budget information on the website. Kyrene along with other districts need to be transparent in the budget process.

What is Bernadette’s judgment of AIMS and where would she like to see it go from here?
AIMS does not represent the entire snapshot of a student, however, it provides accountability and a form of measurement to evaluate that students and schools are meeting the standards set by the state. Unintended consequences of this test can lead to teachers, “teaching to the test” and this also is a detriment to a teacher’s creativity and freedom in the class. We need to find a way to incorporate and encourage leadership, music, physical education and the arts when accessing a student.

Bernadette’s thoughts on whether her district should consider requiring uniforms or more standardized dress:
I don’t support a district-wide mandate on uniforms. However, as new innovative programs are introduced in the Kyrene District (For example, Kyrene Preparatory Academy) it may be the time to address this option at individual schools. This should be discussed individually at each school and their community. Kyrene currently has and enforces a dress code.

Bernadette’s thoughts on what her district should do, if anything, to compete with charter schools, private schools and neighboring school districts?
Our focus should not be competing with charter and private schools, however to target where Kyrene excels and what needs improvement. Our goal should be on how we can get back the 4000 plus students that are in our district and choose other options. We need to focus on providing stellar teachers, high academic standards, innovative programs and dynamic sports and fine art opportunities to our children. Our priority should be to provide programs to accommodate all diverse educational needs in our community from college preparatory to prevention programs. To boost enrollment, Kyrene needs to highlight some of their outstanding teachers and the vast array of dynamic new programs.

Some of these new programs at specific schools are the Dual Language Academy, Kyrene Preparatory Academy and the C.A.S.A. Vida program that supports home-schooled students. We also need to be proactive to the needs of the students and community rather than reactive when developing new programs to retain students.

Are there any particular programs or programs in the curriculum that Bernadette would like to see changed?
I have been impressed with the addition to new programs from the Dual Language, Leadership academy, College Preparatory Academy. However, I would like to see an expansion in fitness and nutrition. The American Heart association has found a strong correlation between physical activity and increased academic performance. Providing increased time for physical activity can lead to better concentration, reduced disruptive behaviors and higher test scores in reading, math and writing. We need to be promoting healthy living in our schools and this could be done with local partnerships.

Is Bernadette satisfied with the technology available to teachers and students in the district?
Kyrene has been cutting edge in the area of technology. They currently have a stimulating and informative website. This site provides information to the community, online access to the board meetings and most important an amazing tool called the “Parent Experience” where parents can view their child’s grades progress online. Technology is constant and we always need to be thinking ahead.

How can Bernadette get the community more involved in schools?
Kyrene does a super job providing the necessary communication to the community. Kyrene frequently invites parents and community members to be involved with steering and development committees. Our challenge is to reach all families regardless of the diverse population. This could be done by teachers/staff identifying at risk children and reaching out to the families with phone calls and email.