Governing Board Election Issue, Volume 43, No. 4, Oct. 13, 2014

Voters in Mesa Public Schools will elect two Governing Board members in the Nov. 4 general election. The four newcomer candidates include Dan Hink, Jenny Richardson, Benjamin (Ben) Smith and Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo. Read each candidate survey.

Four candidates compete in Governing Board race

Dan Hink, Jenny Richardson, Ben Smith and Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo are running for two openings on the MPS Governing Board. This issue of Mesa Agenda features their responses to our candidate survey.

Dan Hink Jenny Richardson Ben Smith Deanna Villanuevo Saucedo
Dan Hink Jenny Richardson Ben Smith Deanna
Villanueva-Saucedo

School board overview

Mesa residents elect board members, who serve staggered four-year terms without pay. The board sets district policies and oversees the superintendent, who is responsible for day-to-day operations.

All four individuals are first-time candidates for the board. Two candidates will be elected to replace Mike Hughes, who has served since 1994, and Michelle Udall, who joined the board in 2011.

Voter information

Early voting begins Oct. 9. Polling places are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 4. For more information, see the Maricopa County Elections Department website, or call 602-506-3535.

Meet Dan Hink

Spouse

Cherie Hink, (wife of 32 years) Retired Special Education teacher; 15 years in the Mesa School District, and 14 years teaching in six other districts, while moving around the world as an “Army Wife.”

Children who graduated from Mesa Public Schools

Christopher, Ryan and Katelin, graduates of Mountain View High School

Occupation

Retired Lieutenant Colonel, US Army; Retired high school teacher

(2006-2013) 7 years as the Director of the 11 High School Army JROTC Programs in the Phoenix Union High School District, supervising 30 Army Instructors & over 2000 student/cadets.
(2000-2006) 6 years as a Teacher and Department Chairman at North High School, Phoenix Union High School District.
(1996-2000) 4 years as the Professor of Military Science & ROTC Department Chairman at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA.
Retired in 2000 after 26 years of total Active Military Duty, proudly leading, teaching & training the Soldiers of the US Army.

Education

  • Masters of Administration, Central Michigan University 
  • Bachelors of Science, Arizona State University
  • 30+ graduate hours in Educational administration, Ottawa University
  • Graduate of US Army Command and General Staff College

Years in Mesa

14

Community and volunteer activities

Member of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce “Support our Schools” Committee to advance the requested Mesa Schools Budget override election; Mahnah Club of the East Valley volunteer; St. Mary’s Food bank volunteer; Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) representative for high school JROTCs in Arizona; Arizona Stand Down volunteer

Three greatest strengths of Mesa Public Schools

Academic Innovation. Throughout all the grade levels in the Mesa Public Schools, there is a constant effort to improve instruction and curriculum, and to be as “student centered” as possible. All elements of the District’s educational leadership collaborate to integrate new concepts and technology.

Strong and effective financial management of available resources, and the efficient application, over the long term, of those funds. Through good times and lean times, the Mesa School District has been conservative and prudent in its planning and spending of the diminishing funds provided by the State.

An effective and mutually supportive relationship between the Administration, the Teachers, and the Support Staff of the Mesa School District. In some school districts this can be a contentious and disruptive relationship, but Mesa has been successful in working through difficult issues, with two-way communication and a healthy respect for all the points of view.

Three greatest challenges facing Mesa Public Schools and how I would address them

1. High School Graduation:  The primary mission of the public schools is to ensure that each student moves through the educational landscape with the clear and attainable goal of a High School Diploma. There is no more critical goal than a completed High School education. Every other rung on life’s upward ladder is reached by succeeding in this first key accomplishment. Going on to College, Technical School, Trade Schools, the many other career fields; all starts with a High School Diploma. We must look for every opportunity to identify potential dropouts early, address the specific academic areas that are causing the problems and resolve them before they get so far behind they lose hope and no longer participate.

2. Class size: The single best way to improve a teacher’s effectiveness is to minimize class size. The best application of resources in education is to maximize the time a student is directly engaged by a teacher or aide. Of course, hiring new teachers brings a whole set of additional costs; classrooms, textbooks, technology, support staff, on and on. But this is where we must put our resources; it is the most important aspect of education.

“Smaller classes are particularly effective at raising achievement levels of low-income and minority children.  Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.” Schanzenbach, D. W. (2014). Does Class Size Matter?

3. Continuing to improve Mesa Schools academic attainments. The keys to academic achievement are high standards, and accountability for achieving those standards. The Board must strive to provide a consistent and stable learning environment, allocating our limited resources to the most effective ways of learning and teaching, and to minimize “change for change’s sake”.

As a member of a 5 person School Board, it is vital that each member works to bring their own perspective on education, and for the Board to work together to ensure a consensus on any decision. School Board members must work with the Superintendent and the District’s Staff to ensure that all actions are taken in light of this question; “How will this improve our student’s learning, and our teacher’s tasks?”

What would I contribute to the Mesa Public School Governing Board

With my 40 years of experience in Planning, Prioritizing & Budgeting, I know I can provide effective financial stewardship and accountability to the Mesa Taxpayers, who fund our schools.

As a teacher in both the High Schools and at the University level, I truly understand the challenges that face the students and the teachers. With my experience I believe I can provide the critical balance between the needs of the students and how to best apply the always limited resources available to help our students succeed.

Website

electdanhink.com

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Meet Jenny Richardson

Spouse           

Randy Richardson

School-age children, grade levels and schools

  • Ryan, senior, Westwood High School
  • Abigail, 8th grader, Carson Jr. High
  • Rex, 6th grader, Emerson Elementary
  • Rigdon, 1st grader, Emerson Elementary
  • 66 nieces and nephews have attended, attend, or plan to attend schools across the district

 Children who graduated from Mesa Public Schools

  • Mallory, Westwood 2010; pursuing master’s degree at ASU
  • Randal, Westwood 2012

 Occupation

  • Elementary school teacher, public schools in UT and CA, 1990-1994
  • Full time Homemaker and school volunteer 1995-present

Education

  • Emerson, Carson, Westwood High School, 1973-1986
  • BS in Elementary Education, BYU, 1990

Years in Mesa

After growing up in Mesa, I went away to college, married and we lived in Utah, California, Kentucky and Texas while my husband received more schooling and served in the military. We returned to Mesa in 2004 because we know it to be a great place to live and raise a family.

Community and volunteer activities

I am a member of Mesa Citizens for Responsible Public Policy, educating voters about ballot items affecting education, such as bonds and overrides. I have served on Mesa Parent Advocates for Quality Schools (MPAQS), MPS Transforming Education Task Force, MPS Superintendent's Flash Committee on Grading Practices, Westwood Parent Group, Carson Parent Group, SIAC member of multiple schools, and PTO/PTA organizations in California, Kentucky, Texas and AZ (holding various offices, including president and fundraising chair), weekly classroom volunteer, booster club member, and Art Masterpiece presenter. I also am active in my church, currently teaching a weekly Bible-study class and a class of 6 year olds.  

Three greatest strengths of Mesa Public Schools

1. People, people, people: MPS' greatest strength is our students, our families, our classified staff, our certificated staff, our administration and our supportive community that values education.

2. School Choices:  A strong school solidifies a neighborhood, increases property values, draws companies to our city and creates a sense of community. MPS has been ahead of the curve by offering innovative programs, great neighborhood schools and varied cutting-edge choice schools to best fill the needs of all families and students, under the umbrella of the district and the public school system.

3. Fiscal Responsibility:  Mesa Public Schools spends more of our budget dollars in the classroom and less on administration than our peer districts.  MPS was nationally recognized by the Center for American Progress as a high academic "return on investment" district.  

Three greatest challenges facing Mesa Public Schools and how I would address them

1. Achievement gap: Doing the same things in the same ways will not work for every learner. It is important that every learner is met where they are, and that each student shows appropriate growth from year-to-year. As a board member, I would work to be sure our administrators at every level have the ability and time to be true educational leaders, perhaps by assigning high enrollment schools an assistant principal. I also believe our students will best achieve when served by highly qualified teachers who are supported with updated training, resources and technology for the classroom, and I would work to be sure that was occurring.

2. Encouraging Innovation and Creativity in an Age of Standardized Testing: We need to allow our teachers to teach creatively, using their skills to make core content come alive for students, as well as have them teach creativity, allowing our students to become problem solvers. The world we need to prepare our students for is changing rapidly; we cannot predict what they will have to know to be successful. They need to be able to be problem solvers, and think outside the box. This type of creativity happens when our students and teachers can collaborate and benefit from the diversity within our district. As a board member, I would look for every opportunity to champion and celebrate creativity and innovation. I would also work to safeguard opportunities, like PLC's, for our educators to inspire one another.

3. Budgetary Constraints: Lack of funding from the state and our declining enrollment create an on-going problem for the district. As a board member, I would like to reach out to the estimated 10,000 students that live within our boundaries, but choose other options for their students. I would like to listen to their concerns and then work to make our schools and programs strong enough they would choose us. Also, continued financial transparency and conservative spending is a must as a district, so our stakeholders feel they can continue to support the district's requests for valuable bonds and overrides. 

What I would contribute to Mesa Public Schools Governing Board

I provide the unique perspective of a graduate of MPS, former educator in public schools, and mother of children at all stages within our district. I actively participate in the schools in our district by volunteering and attending all types of events. There I have gained great perspectives on what works in MPS, and what our students, parents and staff expect and deserve. I am currently engaged in the educational conversation with our stake holders, and would like to expand that role as a school board member.

Website

www.jennyrichardsonformps.com

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Meet Benjamin (Ben) Smith

Spouse

Jill Smith

School-age children, grade levels and schools

  • 5-year old son named Brody, Kindergarten
  • 7-year old daughter named Cadence, 2nd Grade
  • 11-year old daughter named Chloe, 7th Grade 

Occupation

As a product of the Mesa Public School system, I have more than 15 years of experience in education as a technology and administrative consultant. On and off from 2000 to 2008, I worked with a group in Scottsdale to lead the design efforts for one of the nation’s leading K-12 virtual curriculum providers. In this role, I worked with Teachers, Administrators, and Educational Technology Leaders nationwide to successfully implement learning technology. In 2008, I started consulting on my own, and now own a company called “Blended Learning Solutions” focused on teaching schools how to get the most out of their technology. I’m also a Fiesta Bowl Parade Committee Chair.

Education

My education includes; a Bachelors in Management, an MBA, and several professional certifications. I’ve also been accepted into a PhD program where I will study the Psychology of implementing technology in education.

Years in Mesa

16 years

Community and volunteer activities

  • Fiesta Bowl Committee 10 years
  • Feed My Starving Children Volunteer (http://www.fmsc.org/)
  • ASU Sun Angel Foundation
  • ASU Sun Devil Foundation Ambassador
  • Supported multiple non-profit educational and religious groups in New Orleans to support the rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Parent Volunteer in the Classroom for all three of my kids

Three greatest strengths of Mesa Public Schools

1.  Mesa Public Schools greatest strength is the supportive administration. During my campaign, I met with many parents and teachers and found that the administration at the schools and the district listen and understand; attributes I intend to support as a board member.

2.  Another Mesa Public Schools strength is the strong and inclusive High School sports program. A strong sports program can drive quality students to a school, and can also provide students with motivation for educational success.

3.  The willingness of the district and schools to adapt and innovate is another Mesa Public Schools strength. From Red Mountain High Schools implementation of a STEM Diploma Program to the Districts foundation and support of the Franklin schools, the district has a history successfully adapting to the changing times.

Three greatest challenges facing Mesa Public Schools and how I will address them

1.  One challenge I see in Mesa Public Schools is the way special education students were incorporated into the general population. While some special education students thrive in the general population, those with focused needs struggle. As a board member, I would push for change related to either bringing the special education students back into a sheltered environment with teachers trained to support their needs, or providing general education teachers with training and tools to properly support special education students.

2.  Another challenge I see in Mesa Public Schools is the diversity within the district and the challenge of providing a high quality education to students throughout the socioeconomic spectrum. As a board member and innovator, I would seek solutions and policy to raise the bar for struggling students.

3.  The final challenge I see in Mesa Public Schools is the lack of Instructional Aides to support an increased student/teacher ratio. As a board member, I would support policy to look for innovative ways to either increase the number of available Aides, or find a ways to increase the efficiency of the available Aides.

What I would contribute to the MPS Governing Board

If voted onto the Mesa Schools Governing Board, I would bring innovation and a fresh perspective on issues plaguing the district.

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/BenSmithforMUSD

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Meet Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo

Spouse

Manuel Saucedo

Children who graduated from Mesa Public Schools

One son who graduated Dobson High this past May

Occupation

Director of Public Outreach for Maricopa Community Colleges

Education

BA in Psychology and Master's in Public Administration from Arizona State University

Years in Mesa

I have lived my entire life in Mesa Public School boundaries.

Community and volunteer activities

I am currently a board member for Mesa United Way, United Food Bank, Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens and A New Leaf. My previous community experience includes PTO President at Holmes Elementary, member of Mesa Public Schools Planning and Boundary Design Advisory Committee, City of Mesa Redistricting Commission, City of Mesa Housing Advisory Board.

Three greatest strengths of Mesa Public Schools

Mesa is a great, caring community - definitely its greatest strength. We have countless parents, siblings, aunts, uncles who are engaged with and give time to Mesa Public Schools. Our sports, arts, music, leadership programs and more wouldn't be possible without their support. Mesa Public Schools also has countless teachers and staff who truly care and want see our students succeed. From teachers to bus drivers, from groundskeepers to student advisors, we have an awesome team of folks focused on helping our children. Mesa is fortunate to have a strong nonprofit network that supports families and children in need. Agencies like Mesa United Way, A New Leaf, United Food Bank, among others, are a critical part of our community.

Three greatest challenges facing Mesa Public Schools and how I would address them

Maintaining financial stability after years of budget cuts is imperative. Holding high expectations for every child while meeting their unique needs is another daunting challenge that our teachers face each day while under mounting pressure from state legislation and unfunded mandates. Making sure that our teachers and staff are valued and appreciated is imperative so that we can keep great educators in our classrooms and schools. It was heartbreaking, as a Mom and PTO member to see wonderful educators leave Mesa, not to join another district or take another job but leave teaching entirely because of the pressures involved.

What I would contribute to the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board

I can provide strong leadership to make sure that Mesa Public Schools continues to the lead the way in student success, fiscal responsibility and employee relations. As a Governing Board member I can support high expectations that each and every student arriving at our doors will find their own academic success. I can provide financial oversight to make sure that our employees are valued and that dollars are spent wisely in the classroom. Lastly, as a governing board member, I will listen to a wide range of constituent concerns and ultimately make those difficult decisions that are in the best interest of students.

Website

www.deanna4mesaschools.com

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