Andrea M. Keck
Scottsdale Unified School District
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1. Are you a precinct committeeman? If yes, for how long?
Yes. Since Spring 2022
2. Tell us a bit about yourself. What made you run for school board?
My reason for running is simple---to see every young person maximize their potential, and graduate with the academic and life skills needed to succeed in their next chapter. This is what I’m passionate about; what has been my raison d’etre for the last 25 years. I’m concerned about the sub-par academic performance of SUSD and believe we can---and must---do better for our youth. I am the most qualified candidate in this race, with top-tier academic credentials and over 30 years experience in BOTH business AND education. I understand both sides of the coin. No one else has the broad skill set required to manage ALL the issues—both business and educational--- a Governing Board member must deal with.
• Both of my parents were teachers, so I’m clearly an advocate for teachers!
• Graduated from Indiana University School of Business in Top 1% at age 20. Have an MBA with majors in Finance and Marketing from the University of Chicago, the top graduate business school in the country.
• Married for 38 years; have 6 children/grandchildren with a combined 65- years of public-school education
• Scottsdale resident for 25 years
• Proven community leader---was a founding member of the core leadership team for Prop 420 preventing development in the Sonoran Preserve
• Spent the bulk of my corporate career as a brand manager for Kraft Foods and NutraSweet, managing $100-$300MIL businesses like Parkay Margarine and Celestial Seasonings Tea.
• Founded my own education company 11 years ago: have written curriculum for, taught, and coached over 1000 7th -12th grade students
• Gifted and Special Ed experience
• 8 years at Pappas Schools, entire enrollment homeless children
• 7 years on Board of BoysHopeGirlsHope of Arizona
• Established numerous community partnerships supporting public schools.
• Mentored more at-risk students than I can count!
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 believe we should offer a basic, factual sex education course, most appropriately to middle-school students (say 6th grade). I believe this should be the only time that sexual acts/behavior should be discussed in detail in school; when other questions come up students should be directed to talk to their parents about their concerns. I believe parents should have the ability to opt their child out if so desired. The primary job of our schools is to teach reading, math, science, civics, government, etc. Too much time is being spent on these “ancillary” topics (sexual preferences, gender identity, transgender issues, LGBTQ issues, etc.) taking time away from much-needed academics.
4. Do you support the idea of parents being the sole stakeholders in their children’s lives?
I don’t believe parents are the sole stakeholders, but they certainly are the PRIMARY and MOST IMPORTANT stakeholders in children’s lives. Schools and other stakeholders (such as grandparents, friends, churches, coaches, etc. ) can assist, but do not supersede parents, in raising children.
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?
• I absolutely support teaching American History completely and accurately, covering both the good and the bad aspects of our nation’s journey. We should do so in a straightforward, factual manner, and in age-appropriate ways for all students. However I absolutely draw the line at any curriculum that pits any group of people against another. That divides based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political viewpoints, or anything else. Students should never be taught that some people are “good” and some are “bad” based on their differing characteristics. Rather students should be taught to respect and appreciate the overwhelmingly unifying characteristics we all share based on our common humanity.
• I oppose any political indoctrination in the curriculum or relayed by teachers at any grade level. Schools/teachers should not passively or directly disseminate a particular political viewpoint; a student should never be able to detect what political ideology any teacher or administrator personally holds. Students should be taught to function independently; learning how to think, not what to think.
• I believe we should have programs that focus on building good character and positive behaviors. These are critical life skills necessary to producing graduates who can be good people and good citizens. Things like trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Unfortunately in recent years more and more race-based, sexual, gender identity, social justice, activism, and political indoctrination have crept into our curriculum. These are things I certainly DO NOT support. We need to look closely at exactly what concepts are being taught. Most importantly, we need to reduce the time we’re spending teaching any of these topics, as they’re taking much-needed time away from our most important task: to teach reading, writing, math, science, etc.
6. Based on the limitations and powers of a school board member, what’s your platform?
My platform consists of 4 things:
1. Academics There are many things to celebrate within SUSD. However we’re failing at our most important task: to educate.
• BEFORE-Covid we had only 46% of our high school students proficient in English, Math, and Science
• SUSD now ranks 6th out of 10 suburban Phoenix districts in 10th grade math
• 40% of our 3rd-8th graders are not at grade-level in English or Math
2. Equally important: School Safety A student was recently INSIDE Arcadia H.S. with a gun in his backpack. We must secure our campuses to keep students/staff safe.
3. Parental Rights and Transparency
• I adamantly oppose political and sexual indoctrination; and divisive, identity-based curricula. These topics don’t belong in schools and take time away from academics.
• Schools assist, but do not supersede, parents in raising children. The vast majority of students are minors. Their parents have the right to know everything their children experience at school.
4. Fiscal Responsibility Prioritize spending on teaching core subjects. Reduce overhead and waste. Spend tax dollars wisely to produce a good return on investment
7. What do you believe to be the biggest issue impacting K-12 students in Arizona?
Without question the poor levels of academic achievement. Statewide only 38% of our students are proficient or better in English and 30% in Math (2020-2021). That means 60-70% of our students are not at grade level. Simply unacceptable. SUSD performs better than the statewide averages (see stats in answer above) but still not at acceptable levels.
8. How do you think the state should support public education? Do you believe in expanding school vouchers?
Without question the state should support public education. It is our moral obligation as members of society to best prepare our youth to succeed in life. A couple of things need to be improved:
1) Accountability, so that parents and community members can more easily see school-level academic and financial details.
2) Balance funding in more equitable ways. Schools in more affluent areas often have more resources (i.e. tax credits, property tax revenues, bonds/overrides, etc.) than schools in less affluent areas, sometimes even within the same District. I support vouchers. I believe that competition “raises all boats”. The fact that 54% of eligible K-12 students in Scottsdale do not attend SUSD schools tells me that SUSD has to improve in order to attract and retain these students. There are some students whose needs cannot be met by their local public school. I have a granddaughter with autism. There came a point where the public school wasn’t able to fully serve her needs. She ultimately went to a private middle school for students with similar challenges, then came back to the public school system for high school. Recent data shows that the state funding per pupil in an Arizona public school far exceeds the average ESA Award, $10,854 versus $6966. So vouchers are more cost effective. I would support more oversight and accountability for private and charter schools accepting vouchers to ensure students and taxpayers are being best served.
9. Do you have a plan to fund renovations of schools in your area that are run down?
This ties in with two issues SUSD is facing:
1) school safety
2) under-utilized facilities. Regarding school safety, the state has a $5 BIL budget surplus. I’d like to see legislation that directs each school to conduct an expert physical security assessment and present a list of needed upgrades and costs to the State for funding. SUSD has approximately 10 school facilities that are either empty or substantially under-utilized. As this issue is addressed by the new Governing Board, many possibilities will be considered--- from renting out space, consolidating/closing schools, to innovative ideas like providing affordable housing for young teachers. What all the possibilities are unknown at this time. The ultimate decision(s) that come out of this real-estate utilization project will determine what funding options are needed to support any needed architectural changes.
10. Do you have a plan to address the shortage of teachers?
First we need to assure that money intended for teachers actually goes to them. SUSD has comparatively high overhead and building maintenance costs that often siphon money intended to go to these employees. We need to reduce overhead and building costs to free up money for teachers. It’s been estimated that our cost for under-utilized real-estate alone is $3-$4MIL, enough to provide a $2700 raise for each teacher. Teachers of certain subjects such as math, science, and special ed are more likely to leave, and perhaps need additional resources. Research shows that other factors also play an important role in retention, most notably better support from Principals. I’d also look into innovative ideas like recruiting retired teachers, perhaps on a job-sharing basis. Doing so might actually save SUSD money as the District wouldn’t have to pay retirement or medical benefits for them, and salaries might be less than that of the current most tenured employees.
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. The most recent State Legislative session passed a $50MIL budget to provide a School Resource Officer on EVERY school campus. This would be an excellent role for retired military or police officers, paid for by the State!
12. Please feel free to add any additional information you would like voters to know about your candidacy.
• ACADEMICS is my FIRST PRIORITY.
• SUSD is a big operation (21,000 students, 3000+ employees, 29 facilities, and nearly a half a billion dollar budget). We desperately need a Board member who’s run large-scale enterprises. Of the three incumbents continuing on the Board, and any of the candidates who might be elected, no one has managed a business the size that I have.
• The job of a Governing Board member extends beyond any ONE issue, no matter how important that issue may be. In addition to the topics covered above (curriculum, parental rights/transparency, safety, real-estate, teacher retention, etc.) the new Board will be dealing with declining enrollment, violence and bullying, in-depth financial analysis, and most critical of all assuring we have an excellent Superintendent. No other candidate has the skill set to manage ALL of these issues.
• The best teams are made up of people with DIFFERENT perspectives and expertise, not all cut from the same cloth. I urge you to vote for candidates with COMPLEMENTARY, not DUPLICATIVE, skill sets.
• Finally, I’m not managed or endorsed by any political organizations, as ALL of the other candidates are. I’m beholden to no one. My loyalties are to students, staff, parents, and taxpayers. “What the heck, vote for Keck!”