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Mitra Khazai

Madison Elementary School District

EZAZ.org provides voter education and does not endorse candidates.

1. Are you a precinct committeeman? If yes, for how long? 


No 


2. Tell us a bit about yourself. What made you run for school board? 


I have lived in the Madison School District since 1996 with my husband, Greg and my three sons. I have deep and wide experiences in the district as a parent, volunteer, taxpayer and governing board member that have informed my views on public education. I graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Northwestern University and have worked in state government policy, environmental and economic development fields in three states. In Arizona, I worked at the Arizona Department of Commerce in business development under three different governors, ran the Southwest Public Recycling Association and was a founder of Family Promise - Greater Phoenix, which provides emergency shelter to homeless families while moving them to self-sufficiency. I currently serve as the Executive Director of the Phoenix Boys Choir. My children have attended Madison neighborhood public schools, a charter school and an out-of-district public district school that requires a waiver. I have navigated the world of special education with Section 504 Plans and an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Two of my children attend Arizona public universities and I have experienced how our public school system has prepared them for the rigors of college. I ran for school board because I believed that my powerful first-hand education into the challenges parents face as they navigate a rather complicated educational system would be an asset on the board. I believe public schools play an important role in achieving and reflecting American ideals. I serve on the governing board because I believe how students are educated today will substantially determine the kind of society we all live in tomorrow. I’ve worked in economic development, and know that employers invest in communities that have a well educated workforce. Our society profits from better informed citizens and a highly skilled workforce. I would very much appreciate the opportunity to continue my productive and seasoned work on the Madison Governing Board for another four years. 


3. Do you support sexual education of children in the classroom? At what age do you believe this is appropriate, and do you believe that a parent should have the opportunity to opt out? 


I was recently retaking my Boy Scouts of America Youth Protection Training, required of all adult leaders and volunteers. During the training, a sexual abuse survivor shared her story about being a victim as a Kindergartener. She shared that she remembers feeling that what was happening was wrong, but she had never been given the words to express herself to a safe adult. So the abuse continued. We do a great job of teaching our kids about stranger danger. But when we fail to teach children about good touch, bad touch, we give child sex abusers more power. Not every kid is going to learn about that at home. Every child deserves to be given the words to help them stop sexual abuse. The conversation we all should be having is not whether we support sex education in the classroom, but what do children need to know to help keep them safe from abuse. I will always support keeping parents informed and giving them options to opt out. 


4. Do you support the idea of parents being the sole stakeholders in their children’s lives? 


I am a parent of three boys and while clearly parents play the most important role in guiding their kids throughout childhood, I saw my kid’s teachers, principals, doctors, coaches and scout leaders as partners in the process. I could not have succeeded without the key roles they played along the way. It makes me sad that we are creating storylines where teachers are the problem. It is usually the other way around, when a parent is not supporting their kid and teachers are asking for help and getting no response. As a parent, I knew it was my role to understand what my kids were learning in the classroom and ensure they were getting their work done or provide additional support if needed. In fact, I was in the classroom a great deal to support my kids and their teachers. Every parent who is able should do that, it is so very helpful. My kids' teachers were/are great in keeping me informed on what they were reading/covering in the classroom. 


5. What is your position on critical race theory, social-emotional learning, LGBTQ inclusion, and equity issues in the classroom? What do you know of Bloom365 and Corwin Press and what are your opinions? 


Anyone who works with children knows that students need to develop the “soft skills” before they can learn the “hard skills” of spelling, math and reading comprehension. We know reaching social-emotional milestones are critical for success in kindergarten and beyond. They include sharing, taking turns, accepting no, listening and following directions, following rules, stating needs, transitioning activities successfully and being flexible. How these basic social-emotional learning skills became politicized is a head scratcher. American minister and author Robert Fulghum was able to lay down some of the very beginning social and emotional learning required for a successful academic career in Kindergarten and beyond back in 1990 with his "All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten." The social emotional learning tenets he outlined, including: playing fair, don’t hit people and say you're sorry when you hurt somebody seem like important soft skills we should be teaching and reinforcing in public school classrooms today more than ever. In regards to critical race theory, Madison ESD is a K-8 school, as a result we do not teach critical race theory. Our current strategic plan is focused on future-focused learning for all students, specifically, meeting where they are at. That is how we work to ensure all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential. 


6. Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform? 


The power of an Arizona school governing board member exists only in the decisions of the entire board and our role in comparison to that of the administration. My current and future focus is in on teacher and staff retention and recruitment, ensuring support to students and teachers as we navigate this fourth year of the pandemic, maintaining high academic standards and helping every student work towards reaching their full potential, providing a safe environment to learn that supports social and emotional development/health for both students and staff and providing consistent oversight so our taxpayer-provided financial resources are used efficiently. 


7. What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona? 


The pandemic continues to impact our K-8 students. If the pandemic and ensuing remote/hybrid/distance learning reminded us is that social-emotional skills are needed BEFORE we assess the academic hard skills like spelling, math and reading comprehension. I just heard from our Madison school leaders last week and it is clear to them that they need to focus this year on helping students achieve stronger self regulation skills, because they need to be strengthened to ensure successful academic achievement. Areas that we took for granted, such as students knowing how to establish friendships with other children their age, develop stronger speech and problem-solving skills, follow rules at school, concentrate and work through a challenge and have the confidence to try new things were all stymied. Students are still working through the learning loss, mental health issues and social, emotional and life skill development that were all impacted negatively during the height of the pandemic. As critical is the resulting loss of talented and new teachers who have left the field or retired as a result of the extraordinary challenges they faced during the pandemic. 


8. How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers? 


I believe public schools play an important role in achieving and reflecting American ideals. I serve on the governing board because I believe how students are educated today will substantially determine the kind of society we all live in tomorrow. I’ve worked in economic development, and employers invest in communities that have a well educated workforce. Our society profits from better informed citizens and a highly skilled workforce. In the Madison School District we reviewed how families were using Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA’s). They were generally leaving Madison to attend the most exclusive private schools that had much higher tuition levels than the value of the ESA. As a result, we saw that they were used by families with the means to subsidize a private school education that they could have already paid for themselves. In Madison, we were seeing essentially a new subsidy for the affluent. As a taxpayer, I am concerned that taxpayer dollars exceeding $7,000 per student will be given to institutions who have no obligation to demonstrate that they are properly educating students. Public schools, both public district and charter schools, have accountability requirements, rightly so, to ensure taxpayer money is well spent. I am also concerned that there are no maximum income requirements. As the parent of a child with special needs, I am concerned that students with disabilities on ESA’s will no longer have access to slots at schools that were most appropriate for them, especially in rural communities, with limited access. 


9. Do you have a plan to fund renovations of schools in your area that are run down? 


The Madison School District is blessed with voters who have been incredibly generous with their support of bond elections during my tenure that have funded Madison school rebuilds, upgrades, maintenance and the Madison Center for the Arts. As a result, Madison buildings are well maintained and provide an optimal student learning and teaching environment. The Madison Governing Board has approved a special election for a District Additional Assistance (DAA, previously known as Capital) Override, which supports soft capital, including building maintenance, in the November’s General Election. 


10. Do you have a plan to address the shortage of teachers? 


As a current school board member, I have worked with my fellow board members and our Madison administration to direct new funding to increasing salaries across the board at Madison. We have to be competitive to attract the best teachers to support student learning. We have already announced that we will use the new monies provided by the Arizona Legislature in the FY 2022-2023 budget for salary increases for teachers and the staff in our district who all work to support student learning. For this new fiscal year alone, we will provide a 7.1% increase for all staff members, both returning and new. Returning staff members who received a retention stipend last year in the amount of $600 will receive an additional $400, for a total of a $1000 retention stipend. In addition, we have set aside funding from the increase to address the problems created during the many years following the Great Depression of no salary increases that have caused decompression and parity issues. Since 2018, Madison teachers have received an approximate total increase of 31.1%. Classified staff have received an approximate total increase of 20.6%. We also work closely with ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to provide instructional and student teacher opportunities on our campuses, to help us train and prepare our new teachers while they are still in college. In fact, due to changes in the law, we are now able to conditionally hire teachers who are student teaching in our district. 


11. Do you support allowing retired military or police officers, who pass background checks, to work or volunteer in our schools to prevent mass shootings? 


I am not a believer in big government, I believe in local control. Generally, the elected officials closest to the voters are regularly informed by them what is desired by their community. Local officials are highly accessible and responsive. I know this, because I hear from voters when I am grocery shopping, at high school football games, at school board meetings and walking in my neighborhood. As a result, I believe this option (and I always support lots of options) should be left up to every school district to decide what is best for their community, based on input from their taxpayers and voters. Big government telling us what to do assumes one size fits all, which we all know, it does not. 


12. Please feel free to add any additional information you would like voters to know about your candidacy. 


Did not answer.