Lara BrunerRobert RiceThis November, there will be an election to fill two vacant CUSD Governing Board seats. Although there are many excellent candidates, and we look forward to partnering with any of them to meet the challenges our district faces, our CEA PAC has decided to recommend two candidates who we believe rise above the others. The CEA PAC is proud to recommend Lara Bruner and Robert Rice for CUSD Governing Board. If you live within CUSD boundaries, be sure to make an informed vote in this important election!

CEA sent every Governing Board candidate a questionnaire regarding their thoughts on education priorities, spending, working with CEA, and other topics. Click on the candidate below to read their responses to the questionnaire. All responses are posted as submitted by the candidates, with minor formatting changes made only when needed.

Joshua Askey
Lara Bruner
Noemy Esparza-Isaacson
Lindsay Love
Robert Rice
Jim Robinson

Also, the Chandler Chamber of Commerce sponsored a CUSD Governing Board Candidate Forum on Thursday, September 27. You can watch this forum in its entirety by playing the video below or viewing it on YouTube.

Joshua AskeyPrintJoshua Askey

How long have you lived in Chandler USD boundaries?
22 years

Education Summary
B.S. in Accounting & Business Administration

Current Employment
Coaction Group

Civic Engagement
For 10 years I was the contact for school nurses for the Helping Hands Caring Heart Project that organized newly donated clothes for those students in need. I currently serve as the Chairman of the Museum Advisory Board, having been a member since 2013. I have served as a Judge in the Chuck Wagon Cook-off, and have been a Soccer Coach for both Recreational and Club for several years.

Questions

1. What unique qualifications do you bring to the Chandler USD Governing Board?
I have a B.S. degree in both Accounting and Business Administration and have worked in the accounting profession since 1996. Most of my career has been in the construction industry and the largest project I was responsible for was a $176 million project. I am currently a Controller and deal with budgets on a daily basis. My financial background will help me decipher the current budget and see where the money comes from, where it is going, and what inefficiencies can be eliminated.

2. In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing our school district, and how would you address it as a board member?
The greatest challenge is how to address facility disrepair in a timely manner so that teachers and students have a safe, enjoyable and inviting place to work and learn.

3. What role do you feel CEA should have in the district? How would you engage with CEA in your role as a board member?
I would segregate political policy from the classroom and identify educational policy that will attract more parents and businesses to choose CUSD. CEA members will have the same access to me as any member of the CUSD family.

4. Describe your decision-making process and how you would utilize it as a board member regarding district policies such as contracts, working conditions, evaluations, etc.
I tend to gather as much of the facts as possible by interviewing relevant parties and researching authorizing documents, and then understanding how those facts interact with each other. This allows me to reach a conclusion that is based on the constraints given.

5. As a board member, how would you help the district attract and retain talented education professionals?
I would begin by implementing a work/life balance philosophy, one that is financially enticing for all employees. I would also take an active interest in how well the facilities are being maintained so as to ensure a safe and inviting work environment.

6. As a board member, how would you prioritize funding in the face of severe budget cuts (e.g., loss of federal funds, legislative cuts, reduction in student population/per-pupil funding, etc.)?
In the event of a funding crisis, expenses will need to be cut, and inefficiencies will need to be eliminated.

7. What is your position regarding due process rights for school employees? Explain.
As Arizona is a right-to-work state, I am for due process for the employees as long as the rights of the employer are not infringed upon.

8. What is your position on Proposition 305, and will you sign the invest in ed pledge as a candidate and/or a voter? Explain.
I will be voting no on Prop 305. We elect our representatives to address the laws that effect our state – the voucher system in our state needs to be reworked, and I believe the proper place for that is in the Legislature, not at the ballot box. I will not sign the Invest in Ed pledge as it is not the place of the Governing Board to vote on Legislative funding issues. The role of the Governing Board is to primarily oversee the budget of the District – as CUSD is ranked near the top of teacher pay in the state, I will work to ensure that we continue to provide top pay for all teachers and employees, and to fully fund the classrooms in every school and every classroom within the District. Ultimately, our students must remain the Board’s top financial priority of the District, while respecting and valuing our citizen taxpayers.

Lara BrunerPrintLara Bruner

How long have you lived in Chandler USD boundaries?
9 years

Education Summary
I was awarded a full scholarship to Rutgers University, earning a BA in Special Education and Psychology with college honors. My MA is from ASU (4.0 GPA), and I have 70 credits beyond my Masters for a Gifted Education Endorsement, Structured English Immersion Endorsement, and Career and Technical Education Certificate.

Current Employment
This is my 27th year teaching. I have been at Desert Vista High School in Tempe Union High School District since 2004.

Civic Engagement
My primary service to the community is, of course, as a teacher to my students. In addition, I have served multiple district committees including: certified evaluation, teacher incentive plan, administrator hiring, community relations, business advisory, budget, and interest-based decision-making committees. I am part of a team that increases mental health, wellness, and substance use awareness at my campus. I served as the president of Tempe Secondary Education Association and am the Arizona Educators United Liaison for Desert Vista High School.

Statewide, I am the founder and director of The Arizona Teaching of Psychology (ATOP) Conference. Additionally, I serve on the Special Education Advisory Panel and on the Accommodations Task Force for the state of Arizona.

Questions

1. What unique qualifications do you bring to the Chandler USD Governing Board?
My experience in the classroom and as a teacher leader (see civic engagement above) give me a unique perspective that no other candidate possesses.

2. In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing our school district, and how would you address it as a board member?
In my opinion, the greatest challenge that faces CUSD specifically is the projected enrollment numbers and a shift in the student population, which means decreased ADM and smaller economies of scale. Larger class sizes, reduced staff health care benefits, and less resources for students may result. By exploring programs from across the nation, surveying families, communicating with businesses, and listening to educators, we can find creative solutions together. Magnet programs that draw outside enrollment, repurposing of buildings for the district and/or community, and opportunities for teachers to create inventive, effective curriculum all work to prevent and even reverse declining enrollment.

A second issue that will affect all districts is the looming teacher crisis. There is a dearth of new teachers entering our profession. We must step up our advocacy for increased teacher pay, better working conditions, more autonomy, and greater opportunities for professional development at the local and state level.

3. What role do you feel CEA should have in the district? How would you engage with CEA in your role as a board member?
CEA should be the go-to organization for decisions that affect certified staff. I believe it is most advantageous to meet with administration individually (with ESPoC meeting with administration individually as well) in an interest-based decision-making process guided by a working conditions document. CEA should also be picking all certified employee representation on committees as they are the recognized representatives of certified staff. As a board member, I would like to meet on a regular basis with CEA to get direct input from teachers. I also believe it is vital to have CEA run an in-depth staff satisfaction survey every year to gather feedback on site and district issues.

4. Describe your decision-making process and how you would utilize it as a board member regarding district policies such as contracts, working conditions, evaluations, etc.
In addition to pulling from my extensive experience with all these issues, I would seek the input of certified and classified staff, administrative and legal input, then go to statewide resources such as ASBA and the AEA/NEA to explore options in making decisions on these policies. All decisions should be based on evidence-based practices that increase student achievement and employee engagement, job satisfaction, and input. I have explored this area in depth while serving on negotiations, recruit/retain committee, and the certified evaluation committee for my district.

5. As a board member, how would you help the district attract and retain talented education professionals?
Money and culture. Research tells us that if you pay someone enough to meet their needs and create a culture of support, purpose, and respect, educators will come and stay. One of the greatest frustrations that my colleagues and I have discussed is not feeling valued. Beyond the lack of funding for salaries by our state representatives, the increase in top-down directives from state and district administration can make us feel like we have no say in what we are doing. Creating a culture of bottom-up, teacher-driven decision making can make a huge impact on the turn-over rate in a district. This brings us back to the concept of interest-based decision-making for certified staff driven by a working conditions document.

6. As a board member, how would you prioritize funding in the face of severe budget cuts (e.g., loss of federal funds, legislative cuts, reduction in student population/per-pupil funding, etc.)?
There should always be a 2-pronged approach: find ways to increase revenue then cut the least vital areas as a last resort. Some areas to consider are looking at Title 1 funding for one or more high schools, creating inventive, teacher-driven programs that draw in open enrollment, and continuing to make in-class spending the priority. We need to communicate the needs to the community and ensure that they see the ramifications of low funding from the state. Rather than being reactive, I believe educators and the community are beginning to see that they need to be proactive.

7. What is your position regarding due process rights for school employees? Explain.
As someone who has served as an advocate for both probationary and continuing status certified staff, I have served to support due process for teachers, counselors and others. There should be very specific processes in place that include CEA representation at any meetings regarding members, teacher and evaluator input in the evaluation, and clear, measurable objectives to any improvement plans. Evaluation instruments can only function when they operate on a growth model. We do not want to retain educators who are unwilling or unable to meet the needs of students, but we also must make sure we follow a fair and equitable procedure that gives time and supports to help certified staff reach effective and highly effective status.

8. What is your position on Proposition 305, and will you sign the invest in ed pledge as a candidate and/or a voter? Explain.
I have a “No on 305” sticker on my car and my husband’s car. I have distributed literature to friends and canvassed to spread the word on this issue. It disgusts me that the pro-voucher movement has decided to steal the Red for Ed branding on their posters to make it look like teachers support 305. It is beyond disingenuous; it is outright deceptive.

Though board members have no power to create most of what is listed in the pledge (except a certified salary structure), I fully support and have signed the Invest in Ed pledge. But I don’t think it goes far enough. We must look beyond 2008 levels of funding and move towards the median level of per pupil spending in the nation. Additionally, we need to consider more than what people say, but look at what they have done. I have canvassed in this election and in previous ones for pro-education candidates, ballot measures, and bonds/overrides. I was the keynote speaker at the Ahwatukee/Tempe/West Chandler rally for March 4 Schools and the first AEU liaison for Tempe Union. I am a long-time member of the AEA and served as president of my local association. We must put pro-education candidates of action on local boards, in the legislature, and in the governor’s office.

Noemy Esparza-IsaacsonPrintNoemy Esparza-Isaacson

How long have you lived in Chandler USD boundaries?
20 years

Education Summary
I graduated #8 in my class from Mayfield High School in Las Cruces, NM.
After high school graduation in 1988, I attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM.
I graduated from NMSU in 1992 with a Bachelor of Business Administration, emphasis on Management Information Systems and a minor in Music.
I currently attend Arizona State University as non-degree intermedia student.

Current Employment
I currently work as a ceramic arts instructor, Spanish teacher and intermedia artist. When opportunities arise, I accept consulting contracts as a programmer analyst. I am also a full-time parent of 4 amazing human beings.

Civic Engagement
My family and I volunteer with local charities such as Feed My Starving Children.
I also volunteer at my children’s schools with the PTO and Booster organizations and I serve on the Art Masterpiece Board at Knox Gifted Academy.

Additional Information
2017-2018 CUSD Parent Advisory Council

Questions

1. What unique qualifications do you bring to the Chandler USD Governing Board?
There were many deciding factors that helped define my path to school governing board member candidacy. My passion for education, my commitment to the arts and the concept of a STEAM based education, the honor of parenting four CUSD children, my volunteer efforts in Arizona and a deep commitment to our community families and their educational goals are just a few. As a member of the Parent Advisory Council I felt a calling to pursue a higher level of involvement. In addition, my background as a parent, community leader, educator and three decades of experience in Information Technology and the Arts makes me the ideal candidate for this position. My first and foremost reason however, is my desire to give back to my community and be the voice for all CUSD families.

2. In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing our school district, and how would you address it as a board member?

  1. Teacher salaries: Our district is outperforming most districts in our state. I’m proud to be a CUSD parent because I know that the board and superintendent are doing everything in their power to maintain a high standard of academic excellence for our students and simultaneously doing everything in their power to meet the needs of our teachers. Ultimately, they are responsible for determining district budget allocation and teacher salaries. This is a challenge the board and superintendent face every year. The budget, ultimately, is determined at the legislature level but they must make all the puzzle pieces fit precisely. Thankfully, bond measures also provide additional monies for the construction of new schools, school transportation, etc. I know we can find a common-sense approach to ensure that teacher salaries are not only fair but equitable. Also, teachers should not be burdened with paying for classroom supplies out of pocket.
  2. Students that have a consistent support system from their parents, teachers and family and a healthy emotional foundation will usually perform well and excel academically. One of my biggest concerns is reaching students that need emotional and educational support most. Determining how do we get closer to a 0% drop out rate will be an issue that I hope to champion. Helping to empower students to take the reins of their education when certain pillars of support are not present is critical in adolescence.
  3. I also believe that fully reintegrating the arts into our schools will have exponential benefits. The arts foster leadership skills, autonomy, emotional stability, abstract thinking and more importantly provides a cohesive platform for all disciplines. One of the most advantageous benefits to exposing our children to the arts at an early age is their improved self-directed learning experiences. Entrepreneurship is directly linked these skills.

3. What role do you feel CEA should have in the district? How would you engage with CEA in your role as a board member?
CEA is integral to the success of our district because it provides a cohesive voice for its teachers and a valuable platform to voice their needs. United, this collective front invokes change when it matters most.

4. Describe your decision-making process and how you would utilize it as a board member regarding district policies such as contracts, working conditions, evaluations, etc.
I am an analytical thinker and I love to crunch the numbers. Numbers speak volumes. But, when it comes to decisions, I listen first, I study the issues, I analyze, I revisit previous decisions and I talk to people to gather feedback. As a board member the latter strategy is the most important. I hope to be a sounding board for the community. As a board member, if elected, I will be their voice of our community and echo and support the values and needs of our district’s parents and students. In summary, my decision making is a collective conclusion of not only technical data but also social and emotional data.

5. As a board member, how would you help the district attract and retain talented education professionals?
Attracting and retaining professionals in any field is challenging. Offering competitive salaries is key to attracting teachers to our district. Teachers also need to feel supported in their teaching environment.

6. As a board member, how would you prioritize funding in the face of severe budget cuts (e.g., loss of federal funds, legislative cuts, reduction in student population/per-pupil funding, etc.)?
As a school board member, my contribution to funding discussion and decisions will always put the students and teachers first. They are the most important factors in the education equation.

7. What is your position regarding due process rights for school employees? Explain.
All citizens, including school employees, have an inherent right to due process. Due process protects teachers from unjustified dismissal, discriminatory treatment, protects their academic freedom and provides a forum to openly dispute claims. This includes the right to receive notice of termination and a right to a hearing.

8. What is your position on Proposition 305, and will you sign the invest in ed pledge as a candidate and/or a voter? Explain.
The original intent of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) was to allow parents of qualified students to seek a range of alternative educational services such as private school, homebased education or to tailor an individualized plan that was the best fit for their child. Qualified recipients include preschool and K-12 students with disabilities, children of active duty military, legally blind, deaf or hard of hearing students, students within a D/F rated school, students residing on an Indian reservation, siblings of existing applicants, or wards of the court. I am a supporter of the ESA program. As we look out decades into the future however, excessive expansion of the program could weaken our public schools, where 95% of Arizona children are educated. We have quality educational choices within CUSD and I believe ESAs are one of the important choices for students which meet the eligibility criteria. Because of this reasoning, I am not in favor of Proposition 305 and I would commit to signing the invest in ed pledge as a candidate. I am eager to be a part of a continuing dialogue regarding ESAs and Proposition 305.

I want to reassure voters however that I understand both sides of this issue. It is complex. As a board member I would be a part of the conversation and ensure that I was taking all points of view into consideration. The education of our district students requires our utmost respect and attention. We all need to see the big picture as well as understand its moving parts.

Lindsay LovePrintLindsay Love

How long have you lived in Chandler USD boundaries?
19 years

Education Summary
Arizona State University (2008) BA English Literature/Sociology Minor
University of Southern California (2013) Masters of Social Work

Current Employment
Clinical Manager for a Community Behavioral Health Agency in Phoenix
Private Practice Therapist at Wholistic Counseling and Wellness Alternatives

Civic Engagement
Volunteer for Domestic Violence Agency
Emerge Arizona (April 2018 Cohort)
Student Teacher with the eXzone Project through ASU
Compiled food boxes for St. Mary’s
Facilitated presentations on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention to incoming Freshman at the ASU TRIOS Program
Facilitated presentation of Toxic Masculinity and its Impact on Black Women and Girls for the Black Communities Conference
Community Social Worker

Questions

1. What unique qualifications do you bring to the Chandler USD Governing Board?
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked with children and their families (ages 5-17) and have supported teachers in understanding the unique needs of their students to promote successful outcome in the classroom. I also understand how classrooms, families and communities work from my nonprofit background. I have worked in leadership roles and have managed teams and worked collaboratively with different team members.

2. In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing our school district, and how would you address it as a board member?
I think the board has an uphill battle ahead of them in tackling their diversity and inclusion issues and helping our students of color feel safe on campus. The board is on the right track with bringing in Dr. Sallu. However, I would like to see the board review problematic and culturally insensitive curriculum and policies (Native American Jewelry Making exercises, VISA Rewards Program, use of racial slurs in the classroom, etc.). I would also like to see more qualified and diverse teachers and the adoption of a trauma informed approach that helps teachers evaluate student responses and behaviors in a different way so that they less apt to punish and utilize different interventions. I would like the board to provide supportive environments to support our teachers in meeting the students where they are in their social/emotional process. Along those lines, providing trainings on implicit bias for teachers so that they feel comfortable navigating challenging situations. This is imperative in keeping students in classroom to learn as well as keeping students enrolled which will have positive impacts on the budget. It will also help us to create a more welcoming environment where companies will want to move in to our communities with their employees and their families.

3. What role do you feel CEA should have in the district? How would you engage with CEA in your role as a board member?
I think CEA does its best to make sure the teachers voice is always at the forefront as the only recognized union that supports teachers. I would turn to the CEA for that voice so that I can advocate for their concerns on the board as well as leaving myself open for membership and to develop relationships with leadership so that the teacher’s voice remains present on the board. I would be open to sitting down with the leadership to understand the consensus and how the board can best protect that.

4. Describe your decision-making process and how you would utilize it as a board member regarding district policies such as contracts, working conditions, evaluations, etc.
I use more of a collaborative decision making process where I would turn to community members, which includes teachers, parents and other stakeholders within the community, to inform practice and policies. I would always want to include those voices to determine the impact a policy, contract, working conditions and evaluations may have on teachers, parents and students. I would also turn to the school board association to keep me aligned on all ethical implications regarding district policies and work with the board to make sure those suggestions from the association apply to our district. I would also work collaboratively with CEA, as they are a vital part as representatives of teachers, to make sure the district runs smoothly and operates within the best interest of the teachers and students.

5. As a board member, how would you help the district attract and retain talented education professionals?
CUSD needs to be a place where not only teachers want to work, but they need to be able to see the potential for growth and continued success. I would want to ensure that teachers are getting a salary that enables them to take care of themselves and their families. I would also want to make sure that teachers have the resources to complete every function of their jobs by increasing the amount of money we spend on instruction. I recognize that teachers are passionate and work hard to be competent and qualified professionals. I would work to maintain that standard within the district to make sure that we continue that standard among Chandler teachers. I also recognize that teachers are under extreme pressure, having to compete with each other at times when they themselves are being judged on their ability to meet district standards/test score outcomes. I would like to see teachers working more collaboratively so that they feel supported by each other and can better support Chandler students. Success needs to be broadened because teachers work with students with differing needs and have to meet each student where they are in the learning process. I believe that when people feel supported in their positions and feel they can grow, they will stay with the district.

6. As a board member, how would you prioritize funding in the face of severe budget cuts (e.g., loss of federal funds, legislative cuts, reduction in student population/per-pupil funding, etc.)?
Students must always be first, so I would prioritize instruction and teacher pay because we would have to retain top professionals in order to serve the students and maintain top quality education.

7. What is your position regarding due process rights for school employees? Explain.
As a strongly pro-union candidate, I support due process. As a board member, I would collaborate with other board members and would not make up my mind until an executive session where I could hear all the facts. Then my decision making process would center around the best outcome for the student. We all make mistakes and the ability for the teacher to be open to growth and learning opportunities if needed is important to preserve quality teachers. I would like to hear the teacher out and make sure teachers get a fair chance. Termination is the absolute last resort, unless a student’s safety is compromised.

8. What is your position on Proposition 305, and will you sign the invest in ed pledge as a candidate and/or a voter? Explain.
I am voting no on prop 305 because I stand with the many educators and families who are invested in more money going into public education instead of money being taken out of public schools. I have already signed the invest in ed pledge as a candidate.

Robert RicePrintRobert Rice

How long have you lived in Chandler USD boundaries?
38 years

Education Summary
BS Computer Science Ohio State University
MBA University of Arizona

Current Employment
Retired

Civic Engagement
Chandler Gilbert YMCA Board (32 years), Valley of the Sun YMCA Board (3 years), School Facilities Board (1 year), Chandler Census Committee, Chandler Rotary Club (16 years), Read On Chandler Treasurer (5 years), CUSD Board (16 years)

Questions

1. What unique qualifications do you bring to the Chandler USD Governing Board?
16 years of service on the CUSD board serving as president twice
Former president of the Arizona School Boards Association
23 years experience managing and leading world class organizations at Intel Corporation
Community service including president of Chandler Rotary, Board Chair at Chandler Gilbert YMCA,
Treasurer of Read On Chandler
39 years’ experience hiring, supervising and leading highly performing staff members

2. In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing our school district, and how would you address it as a board member?
CUSD’s greatest challenge is becoming the best school district in America. I will continue helping to set measurable district goals through Journey 2025, challenging, inspiring and working with fellow board members and the superintendent and providing the accountability to ensure the district makes continuous improvement toward the goals. I am not an education expert, I rely on administrators, teachers, and staff members to provide the expertise and advice in identifying and setting appropriate world class goals that define district success. I am an expert at accountability and using the tools of continuous improvement to produce world class results which benefit students, parents, teachers, staff members and the community.

3. What role do you feel CEA should have in the district? How would you engage with CEA in your role as a board member?
CEA should be a strong advocate and voice for the teachers, helping to communicate to the teachers and partner with the district administration and board to achieve our common goals for our students and community. I believe CEA has been a valued partner with the district in the past 16 years. While CEA leadership has supported teachers they also have understood the goals of the district and worked to support those goals as well as their own. I will engage with CEA leadership in any productive capacity. I will continue to be respectful and honest in my positions and beliefs, value the views of teachers and expect the same from CEA. While we may not always agree on tactics I believe we share common goals with respect to district performance and continuing to make CUSD a great place to work.

4. Describe your decision-making process and how you would utilize it as a board member regarding district policies such as contracts, working conditions, evaluations, etc.
I support the current district interest-based negotiation process as a way to achieve our common goals. I support providing open and honest discussion of available resources and determining policies, contracts, working conditions and evaluations based on the interests and needs of teachers, support staff, students, parents and community members.

5. As a board member, how would you help the district attract and retain talented education professionals?
I will continue to advocate for a positive work environment, using individual feedback, the annual survey and Journey 2025 indicators such as staff turnover to help set goals and move toward them. I believe an organization’s success is built around the staff members. Hiring the best staff members, providing them adequate resources to be successful is the only path to a world class organization and outcomes. Our staff must feel valued, challenged, adequately compensated and know that innovation is encouraged even when the results are not as expected. This is the only way an individual or organization can improve.

6. As a board member, how would you prioritize funding in the face of severe budget cuts (e.g., loss of federal funds, legislative cuts, reduction in student population/per-pupil funding, etc.)?
I have supported the district practice of maintaining a 24 to 1 student to teacher ratio. I also have supported providing our teachers with a total compensation package (including salary, healthcare and other benefits) that is in the top 20% in the state. I voted to allocate the full increase to teachers’ salaries that was recently adopted by the state. I also support use of the district contingency funds to provide a buffer for unexpected and deep cuts to funding.

7. What is your position regarding due process rights for school employees? Explain.
I believe all school employees should have some form of due process rights whether in contract, statute or policy. Maintaining a fair and productive work environment and culture is critical to achieving a high performing and successful organization. Reasonable rights, protections and an appeal process should be the fundamental basis for a sound work environment.

8. What is your position on Proposition 305, and will you sign the invest in ed pledge as a candidate and/or a voter? Explain.
I oppose Prop 305. ESA’s reduce funding available for public schools. Studies have shown ESA’s are primarily subsidizing higher income parents and allowing private schools to charge even more based on the extra state funding. If ESA’s are open to all students we could see over $364 million drained from the Arizona budget since each of the 65,000 private school students will be eligible for the $5,600 subsidy. This will not save the state money because the vast majority of the private school parents are already paying the entire tuition for their students. It is extremely poor public policy.

I support the first portion of the Invest In Ed statement. There are three specific areas in the bullet points however that I have difficulty supporting. First, as a board member I have no control over the amount the legislature provides for schools. Pledging to immediately restore education funding to 2008 levels is making a pledge I cannot keep. I also am unable to pledge to no new tax cuts as I am not in the legislature. Finally, while the board does have the ability to create a district wide salary structure which includes annual raises, future district funding is not guaranteed. Severe external economic swings could force the district toward insolvency and these policy restrictions could take away the needed options from future boards, administrators and staff members to maintain a viable education system.

Jim RobinsonPrintJim Robinson

How long have you lived in Chandler USD boundaries?
17 years

Education Summary
Bachelors in Spanish from Hamilton College in NY
Masters in Business Administration from WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University

Current Employment
Small-business owner of a real-estate investment company; former Intel executive

Civic Engagement
Periodic volunteer work

Additional Information
Parent of 3 current CUSD students

Questions

1. What unique qualifications do you bring to the Chandler USD Governing Board?
The school board should be run like a business, and I have a strong track record of professional success that I seek to bring to this position. I earned my Masters in Business Administration from ASU’s WP Carey School of Business in 2001, and I am currently the owner of a small-business startup that has grown into a multi-million dollar company in a little over two years. I previously held various management and executive leadership positions at Intel Corporation in Chandler during my 15+ years there. Most notably, I was appointed General Manager of an over $1 billion business unit where I led an organization of 300+ employees. During this time, my business unit consistently met or exceeded all revenue targets while always operating within our quarterly budget targets.

Furthermore, and perhaps most important, as a parent of three teenagers who have been enrolled in CUSD their entire lives, I have had direct exposure to our wonderful schools, teachers, and administrators on a daily basis. I believe my perspective as a parent of current students in CUSD will be invaluable in shaping future policy while maintaining and building upon CUSD’s tremendous accomplishments over the last several years.

2. In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing our school district, and how would you address it as a board member?
While there is no shortage of challenges facing our school district today (the state’s educational funding shortage, for example), I believe the most pressing issue that the CUSD school board is actually empowered to most directly address and improve is our school safety and the emotional health of our students. Our students and teachers deserve to feel safe in our schools, and CUSD needs to be more proactive in identifying and engaging with students who may be struggling. While there are many contributing factors to the increase in school violence, youth suicide rates, and mental health issues across the nation, I believe that our smartphone-centric society is a primary root cause. As a parent of CUSD students, I have seen how the ever-increasing overuse of technology has drastically affected our children’s emotional/social development, which has hindered their ability to form substantive connections with others and to communicate professionally and effectively.

Many public-school districts around the country have given this topic significant focus, so rather than reinvent the wheel for CUSD, I would like to study and learn from that body of work so that we may quickly and efficiently implement common-sense initiatives for CUSD that have proven to be effective elsewhere. I would seek to engage with law enforcement, counselors, teachers, parents, and the community at large to augment CUSD’s Journey 2025 strategic plan.

3. What role do you feel CEA should have in the district? How would you engage with CEA in your role as a board member?
The stated mission of the CEA is to be involved in all aspects of the educational process and an advocate for its members and the issues that affect them. I welcome the opportunity to engage with the CEA in this mission. If elected, I want to serve and represent all teachers, administrators, parents and students, so I pledge to be open, transparent and accessible to all parties.

4. Describe your decision-making process and how you would utilize it as a board member regarding district policies such as contracts, working conditions, evaluations, etc.
I believe that good decision making for any organization begins with a strong vision of purpose coupled with a well-articulated, measurable set of long-term strategic goals. CUSD has done a fantastic job developing a clear, multi-year vision with Journey 2025, and all decisions over district policy need to align with it. Over the course of my professional career, I have developed a reputation as a highly collaborative leader that makes tough decisions based on the best available data. My decision-making approach is to begin by seeking input from all stakeholders. I then evaluate all possible options and look for areas of common ground. There are always tradeoffs associated with any decision, and it is crucial that these tradeoffs are well understood and accounted for in any decision-making process. Finally, once a decision has been made, it is critical to communicate it transparently to all stakeholders so that the logic and rationale for any decision is well understood, along with the metrics that will be used to monitor the impact and efficacy of that decision moving forward. Finally, the role of the decision maker does not end at that point. There must be ongoing, objective reviews of past decisions made to ensure the success and relevance of those decisions, and to adjust as needed.

5. As a board member, how would you help the district attract and retain talented education professionals?
While Arizona has struggled with teacher attraction and retention, CUSD is in a uniquely favorable position in this area. I believe Chandler has been among the most engaged and supportive communities across the state, with involved parents and a business community that contributes a tremendous amount of time, money, and energy into the success of public education. I pledge to build upon the success of CUSD by continuing to operate an A+ district with a responsible board and reputable administration, and by offering higher-than-average salaries across the state. However, we must not only provide the highest salaries in Arizona, we must also offer competitive pay compared to surrounding states. I am strongly committed to continuing to direct all additional CUSD funding from the state to our teachers and classrooms.

Coupled with competitive pay, we must also continue to provide solid training and development programs for our teachers to support their professional development and to retain our good students and families in our district.

6. As a board member, how would you prioritize funding in the face of severe budget cuts (e.g., loss of federal funds, legislative cuts, reduction in student population/per-pupil funding, etc.)?
Operating any successful organization requires the difficult task of making tough trade-off decisions when it comes to budget allocation. A healthy organization will always have competing uses for limited resources. While the CUSD school board has limited control over the state’s educational legislative agenda, or our student population/per-pupil funding, the board has full empowerment over how our limited dollars and resources are allocated. My priority would be to ensure we are focused first and foremost on our CUSD students and our teachers/administrators. This must always be at the heart of the governing board’s budget-allocation process.

7. What is your position regarding due process rights for school employees? Explain.
Based on our Constitution, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and everyone should always have the right to a fair hearing. I support teacher tenure and I would only consider punitive action when one of our teachers has been proven to have violated district policy.

8. What is your position on Proposition 305, and will you sign the invest in ed pledge as a candidate and/or a voter? Explain.
I am adamantly opposed to Proposition 305. While I do believe in school choice, I do not believe in allocating taxpayer money toward private education, and I fear that any expansion of the current ESA program would be a slippery slope that would open the door to future funds shifting away from our already depleted public-school budget. I support the government initiative that created the existing ESA program to serve the families of children with special needs that may benefit more from private services than public. However, lack of program oversight has already allowed for the inappropriate allocation of funds to private schools, and I fear that any expansion of the program would result in even more money being taken away from public schools. Arizona families already have so many options like open-enrollment within public-school districts or charters, so any expansion of the ESA program does not sit well with me.

Regarding the Invest in Ed pledge, the points included in the pledge do not pertain to me as a candidate for governing board. In this non-partisan position, I will not have the authority to legislate our state’s funding model or to set the state budget, and consequently, school board candidates have not been requested to sign the pledge. What I will pledge to do, however, is allocate whatever monies CUSD receives and work with the rest of the board to create a competitive salary structure for our teachers and support professionals, as well as direct dollars to the classrooms for our students.