Seven candidates submitted at least 400 signatures by July 6 to qualify for the ballot in November’s Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board election, where three seats are up for grabs.
However, any candidacy can be challenged in Maricopa County Superior Court by July 20.
The candidates who submitted petitions are Julie Cieniawski, with 1,099 signatures; Rose Smith, 1,028; Zachary Lindsay, 740; Kathleen Angelos, 643; Elizabeth Hart-Wells, 557; Lucy DiGrazia, 536; and Geraldine Payne, 401.
All three board seats up for election this year are open as incumbents Allyson Beckham, Barbara Perleberg and Sandy Kravitz are not seeking re-election.
The Progress asked the candidates what they thought is the single most pressing issue facing the district that they would address if elected. Five candidates replied.
“The single most pressing issue if I am elected to the Scottsdale Unified School Board, besides tracking where money is being spent, is the indoctrination of children through the curriculum,” said Angelos, a U.S. Navy and Air Force veteran and precinct captain for the local Republican Party.
Cieniawski, a former SUSD teacher and past head of the Scottsdale Education Association, cited the district’s finances and the need to include all voices in conversations about the district’s direction.
“To move SUSD forward we will need to carefully examine expenditures and ensure all available resources are directed to support meaningful and equitable student learning experiences,” Cieniawski said. “This collaborative process must include open and transparent decision-making with input from all stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, staff, and community members.”
Hart-Wells, a chemistry teacher in the Maricopa County Community College District with two children in SUSD schools, said student competitiveness’ and scientific literacy are major issues.
“I aim to focus governance on students’ abilities to compete in a global, connected world,” Hart-Wells said. “To that end, I aim to broaden how we think about ‘literacy’ to include science literacy; not because every student must be a scientist or engineer, but because in order for our kids to compete with their peers around the world for quality opportunities, jobs, and workforce development, they require a strong foundation in science literacy.”
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Lindsay, whose daughter is a student at Cochise Elementary, said, “The safety and well-being of our educational community is always a top priority.”
“As a result of COVID, the most pressing issue in January would be the social and emotional well-being of our students, teachers, and staff,” he added. “Recognizing the importance of district employees, equity and diversity, as well as financial transparency are also pressing issues.”
Smith a former SUSD employee with grandchildren in the district, said, “In the state of Arizona, funding for district public schools is the number one issue.”
“Our children deserve the best education we can give them as a society,” Smith said. “Besides growing student enrollment, attracting and retaining talented educators would be a priority. Strong public schools build strong communities.”
DiGrazia and Payne did not respond to requests for comment.
The Progress also asked each candidate why they were qualified to sit on the board.
Smith, who also attended SUSD schools, pointed to her time employed with both SUSD and the City of Scottsdale.
“I understand the working of public funding, budget, policies and practices,” Smith said. “I will be an excellent steward of public funds and will strive to help direct dollars to the classroom.”
Smith said she worked on the “Yes to Children” campaign to pass the most recent SUSD budget override and is an appointed volunteer on the Department of Education’s Professional Practices Advisory Committee.
“Most importantly, I love this community and the value our schools bring to it,” said Smith, whose sister is a principal in the district.
Lindsay also pointed to his professional background and involvement in district issues.
“First and foremost, I am the dad of an elementary student in SUSD,” Lindsay said. “I have spent the last three years advocating for all stakeholders in the district. In addition, I have 19 years experience in the financial services industry, which will help guide me in ensuring financial transparency within the district.”
Hart-Wells said she has both teaching experience and a diverse business background that will benefit the district, citing roles in business technology “that included management of multi-million dollar operational budgets, early stage investment funds, and revenue distributions generated from successful commercialization of inventions.”
She was also a senior congressional fellow and as a research associate at The National Academy of Sciences.
“Last but not least, I am an educator and a parent of two students who have spent more of their education in SUSD than anywhere else,” Hart-Wells said. “I know how critical a quality public education is to a young person, particularly those in disadvantaged situations. I know because I lived it. To those SUSD students and families struggling, I see you, and I care about you.”
Cieniawski said she has been an advocate for all children since she started teaching in 1986 and cited her long resume in education.
“(I) have dedicated my efforts to educating and supporting students, families, colleagues, and our community,” Cieniawski said, adding:
“Through my teaching and administrative experience, coursework, leadership and fiduciary roles on the AEA Board of Directors and as local association president, I have developed a thorough understanding of the complex and comprehensive network necessary to properly educate children.”
Angelos only stated that she meets the state requirements to run.
“The qualifications needed for the school board according to ARS 15-421 state that I be a registered voter in the state of Arizona and that I am a resident of the school district for at least one year immediately preceding the day of election,” Angelos said. “I meet these requirements.”
The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board election will appear alongside other local, state and national elections on the ballot on Nov. 3. There is no primary race in school board races.