Oct. 20, 2004 - In an uncontested race for three open seats on the Amphitheater Unified Schools governing board, there will be one new face and two who are returning to continue their service in the same way they have been serving over the last years.
Nancy Young Wright has served on the board since January 1997 and is the current president. She is a parent of one Amphi graduate with another daughter on her way to graduation this spring. Young Wright is a writer and is active in the Oro Valley community where she lives.
Young Wright was not available for interview, but in an e-mailed statement she listed the main issues she will concentrate on heading into another term.
She stated Amphitheater currently "fares well" under both state and federal accountability measures and she will work to continue that success.
"I will work with state and federal lawmakers and the community to ensure adequate funding to support achievement for all students," she stated, adding that to do this the board can attract and retain "the best staff possible" and provide them with the resources they need.
She also said there is a growing awareness in Arizona that "education is economic development," an idea she will work to communicate with constituents.
"I'll do my part to help promote this understanding," she stated. "We can't attract high paying jobs and improve our overall quality of life in Arizona if we don't stop shortchanging our public schools."
Young Wright also wants to develop and maintain relationships with other local governing bodies "to ensure positive interaction and support of educational issues" and wants to see continued support of the fine arts programs as well.
"Amphitheater is one of the few districts in the state that has maintained our art, music, and PE at the elementary level during these difficult years of budget cutting," she stated. "The arts play an important role in improving academic achievement in other areas, and they enrich our community."
Working in a district that is continually growing, she and other board members must also focus on securing land for a new middle school and a fourth high school, she stated, particularly in the Northwest, where land is disappearing as it continues to be developed. She supports educational donations by developers looking to build within the school district.
She intends to continue her service in a way she views as having been successful over her last two terms.
"Amphitheater is one of the best public school districts in Arizona. This achievement is due to the commitment of parents, staff, students and to the critical support from our community," she wrote. "Many people, including the school board, staff members, and community members, have worked very hard during the last eight years to restore accountability and openness to the district; to lower class sizes and raise our employees' salaries. We have succeeded in these goals. I want to continue to help build positive interactions with the district and community."
Fellow board member Kent Barrabee agreed with Young Wright and said that while he came in under "wild times" during a recall election, the board has quieted since then and the past few years have been spent working together as a team.
"I enjoy working on the board and want to continue doing it," he said of his decision to run again. "When things are going well, it's almost like an obligation that you stay on and share your experience with the district."
He said he believes the good feelings in the district go beyond the board, to the parents, teachers and students because of the importance the board has placed on communicating with the public and improving morale.
"There is a sense that the whole school and community is part of the team. That we need to work together," he said.
Barrabee has been on the governing board for four years. He is an educator who has taught at Harelson and Prince elementaries, as well as at the preschool, adult and college levels throughout his 40 years in the education field.
He said the most critical issue facing the board now is not exclusive to the Amphi district, but a problem that schools across the state and nation are reporting - not enough money to go around.
Barrabee and the board has signed numerous resolutions urging legislators to increase financial support to the schools and has supported groups such as the Arizona Education Association in their efforts to lobby more money.
Despite a tight pocketbook, Barrabee said the board was able to OK a 7 percent raise to the staff last year, a move that he said helps morale and also has been able to maintain the same level of programs.
The board also honors students, teachers and parents regularly at board meetings for their accomplishment, something he said "doesn't cost anything but goes a long way toward showing our appreciation for what they do."
He agreed with Young Wright that it will be important heading into a new term to anticipate the district's growth needs and to plan ahead. He said the Students First program has made new construction difficult for Amphi and it is a challenge the board must work through.
"Their formulas have made it difficult for us to act as quickly as we might like to to acquire land for new schools," he said.
Current board member Michael Prout, whose term also is up, decided not to run for re-election. He has served on the board since May 2000 and said the almost five years he spent working in the district "had been long enough."
"I get the sense the district really doesn't need me anymore," he said in an Aug. 6 interview with the Northwest EXPLORER.
Prout joined Amphi after becoming one of the members of a group calling for a recall election in the spring of 2000.
The new face running to fill Prout's place is Linda Loomis.
Loomis spent 33 years as an educator before retiring this summer from the Tucson Unified School District, working in the Flowing Wells and Amphitheater school districts as well. She has been both a teacher and administrator and also spent time with the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University working with teachers and students aiming to be teachers.
She has lived in the Amphi school district 30 years and put two children through school there from kindergarten through 12th grade.
She said members of a school board serve to set school policies and not to "micromanage," but could not comment on how she would rank the current board in terms of performance, as she said she has not followed the board's decisions in recent years.
She said she does not have any criticism of how the current board is functioning. She would like to make sure, however, that technical and vocational programs as well as arts and other elective programs are not neglected when the school is "trying to make the bottom line."
She is running for a seat on the board because, "I think everyone should give back to their community."
Because the race is uncontested, she has not been holding campaign events, but she did go door-to-door during the petition process and met individually with more than 500 members of the community. She said she heard from many of them that they are "feeling good" about how Amphi is being run and are hoping to have a continued "stable situation."
Loomis believes in maintaining high standards for all students and thinks that testing is "a good idea to measure success." However, she said schools need to make sure they are offering all students the opportunity to succeed by having a variety of programs available. She said when the AIMS test becomes a graduation requirement for the seniors of 2006 it will be difficult.
"I hope when that time comes we have done everything we could to communicate with families," she said.
She foresees her first important decision to be made as a board member will be taking the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Committee studying a possible budget override and making a decision. She said she is not for or against the measure and will not make a decision before hearing all of the input from the committee.
She said she does not have specific issues she would like to see addressed, however, she believes the board should concentrate on "making good decisions on limited resources."