Mesa Unified School District
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1. Are you a precinct committeeman? If yes, for how long?
Yes, 1 year
2. Tell us a bit about yourself. What made you run for school board?
I'm tired of watching our country being destroyed from within and doing nothing about it. This is why I became a precinct committeeman over a year ago. But I wanted to do more. I realized that I probably won't fix the problems of the country or even the state, but I can apply the skills and experience I've gained over a lifetime to address the problems in my local community so school board is a natural choice. I'm an engineer so I have a good head for solving complex problems. There are many complex problems plaguing Mesa schools. I owned and operated a successful manufacturing business for over 13 years. I was successful in my career in the manufacturing industry and as a business owner because I insist on strong leadership and accountability. I will bring these sorely missing aspects to the Mesa school board.
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 am absolutely against the sexualization of our children under the guise of "sex education". What is being presented as sex ed goes far beyond what is age appropriate and is intentionally sowing confusion in students as well as causing division between parent and child. I believe sex ed should be limited to the biological and health aspects of sex, not the social aspects of it. Any sex ed class should include the message that how and when to have sex is a moral decision that should be discussed with parents. Sex ed should not be introduced before age 11 or 12 and parents should have the ability to op-out, I would prefer an opt-in choice.
4. Do you support the idea of parents being the sole stakeholders in their children’s lives.
Yes. Schools are also stakeholders in education but only to the degree the parents consent. State statute ARS 1-602 codifies this in law and I will always advocate for parental rights.
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?
CRT, SEL gender and equity issues are supplanting the proper role of public education and all need to be removed from the classroom. Most of these are coming in under the heading of creating a safe and affirming environment. But the question is safe and affirming for who? The recent Support Plan for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students allows biological boys to use the facilities, including showers, of the "gender they identify as". How is this creating a safe space for everyone? It is not. That's the problem. Mesa has doubled the number of school counselors over the last 4 years. If you go to the American School Counselors Association website you will find training videos that are encouraging school counselors to "engage teachers and staff" with the intent of changing the culture in schools, basically become social justice warriors. That is NOT the responsibility of school counselors. I have a very limited knowledge of Bloom365 but from what I have read it's one more website that, among other things, encourages children to interact online anonymously with adults about their social and emotional issues. This violates parental control over the upbringing of their children. Any time a website that engages minors has a "quick escape" key my alarm bells go off. I'm not familiar with Corwin.
6. Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?
The superintendent answers to the board, not the other way around. I will push to reclaim the powers and duties that have been ceded to the superintendent of the past few years. I will be the parent's voice on the board. We need to focus on academic achievement which has been ignored for far too long. Return the curriculum back to the basics. Learning to read at grade level proficiency by 3rd grade is one of the greatest predictors of future success and greater focus and resources will be committed to this goal. Teacher recruitment and retention will play a key role to restoring a quality education in the district. Teachers have been overburdened by a continual onslaught of new programs and duties. In addition, many teachers are increasingly frustrated by a lack of support by the district. Better discipline policies must be developed. As a former business owner and fiscal conservative, I will keep a close eye on the budget and ensure that taxpayers' money is used effectively.
7. What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona?
Consistently poor academic performance for years is the biggest issue. This is a symptom of the real problem which is weak leadership and a lack of accountability.
8. How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers?
I was glad to see many bills passed in the most recent legislative session including strengthening parental rights. I was disappointed that the curriculum transparency bill failed. I would like to see this resurrected next session and passed. Education has become complicated and parents have a hard enough time understanding what is going on with their children's education. The state should make that easier. I would like to see the state partner with universities to encourage and promote the teaching profession and create a sustainable pipeline for qualified teaching professionals. I support expanded school vouchers. Competition drives improvement. Parents should not be forced into failing schools with no option for the children.
9. Do you have a plan to fund renovations of schools in your area that are run down?
Mesa has received over $230M in Covid relief money some of which is being used for building renovation. With enrollment down the district needs to implement a plan to close facilities to reduce M&O costs. Prioritization of spending needs to be improved. For example, if there are buildings that are "run down" then money should be allocated there prior to spending nearly $4M to renovate two school football fields with artificial turf.
10. Do you have a plan to address the shortage of teachers?
Mesa is implementing a program which was developed in partnership with ASU called Next Education Workforce. The purpose of this program is to reinvent the teacher model from one teacher and 20-30 students to a team teaching model. The jury is still out on the efficacy of this program, but the district should implement objective metrics to evaluate. Also, the district needs to relieve some the administrative burden that is currently placed on teachers. A recent study found that teachers need to maintain 172 competencies. Many of those competencies are unrelated to teaching. Additionally, I'm hearing from teachers that the lack of effective discipline policies is affecting their ability to maintain effective control over their classrooms and disrupting their ability to teach. Teachers need to feel unwavering support from the district leadership on these matters. District leadership needs to create an attractive working environment for teachers to want to be a part of. When teachers see failing academics, overly burdensome administrative duties and lack of classroom discipline that exists currently, quality teacher will look elsewhere.
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?
Yes. School resource officers provide several benefits not just for deterrent of and response to mass shootings but providing internal security to help maintain the orderly operation on campus. They also provide an opportunity to build relationships with students who otherwise might feel threatened or afraid of law enforcement.
12. Please feel free to add any additional information you would like voters to know about your candidacy.
I am a retired empty-nester with lots of time and few distractions to keep from focusing on solving the district's problems. I have a unique and valuable perspective, skill set and experience to bring to the school board to help identify deficiencies and develop meaningful solutions. Coming from an engineering and business background I will insist that the board reclaim their rightful powers and duties as well as set clear, measurable, time bound expectations for the district superintendent and then hold them accountable. Please visit my website: www.edsteeleformesa.com to learn more. I humbly ask for your support and your vote.