Governing Board Issue, Volume 45, No. 4, Oct. 5, 2016

Five candidates compete in Governing Board race

Dan Hink, Elaine Miner, Michael Nichols, Steven Peterson and Kiana Sears are running for three openings on the MPS Governing Board. This issue of Mesa Agenda features their responses to our candidate survey.

Dan Hink Governing Board candidate Elaine Miner Michael Nichols Steven Peterson Kiana Sears
Dan Hink Elaine Miner Michael Nichols Steven Peterson Kiana Sears

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.

Incumbents Nichols and Peterson have served since 2009. They are seeking another term. Board member Dr. Ben Whiting, who has also served since 2009, did not seek re-election.

Voter information

Early voting begins Oct. 12. Polling places are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 8. For more information, see the Maricopa County Elections Department website, or call 602-506-1511.

Meet Dan Hink

Spouse

Cherie Hink, (wife of 34 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, U.S. Army; retired high school teacher

(2006-2013) Seven years as the director of the 11 high school Army JROTC programs in the Phoenix Union High School District, supervising 30 Army instructors and more than 2,000 student-cadets.
(2000-2006) Six years as a teacher and department chairman at North High School, Phoenix Union High School District.
(1996-2000) Four 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 and training the soldiers of the U.S. Army.

Education

Master of Administration, Central Michigan University
Bachelor of Science, Arizona State University
30+ graduate hours in educational administration, Ottawa University
Graduate of U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

Years in Mesa

16

Community and volunteer activities

  • Member of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce "Support our Schools" committee to advance the requested Mesa Public Schools override election
  • Mahnah Club of the East Valley volunteer
  • St. Mary's Food Bank volunteer
  • Former Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) representative for high school JROTCs in Arizona
  • Worked with Arizona Stand Down to provide services and support to homeless veterans

Three greatest strengths of Mesa Public Schools

1. 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.

2. 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, Mesa Public Schools has been conservative and prudent in its planning and spending of the diminishing funds provided by the state.

3. An effective and mutually supportive relationship between the administration, teachers and support staff. 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 points of view.

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

1. High school graduation: The primary mission of 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 and 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 Public 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 five-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 students' learning and our teachers' tasks?"

What I would contribute to the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board

With my 40 years of experience in planning, prioritizing and 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 school and university level, I truly understand the challenges that face students and 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 Elaine Miner

Spouse

Don

Children who graduated from Mesa Public Schools

I have three sons who graduated from Mountain View High School. 

Grandchildren who attend Mesa Public Schools

I have four grandchildren, three of which are school age. Two attend Bush Elementary, and one attends Stapley Jr. High.

Occupation

Recently retired

Education

B.S. in Home Economics Education, which included teaching certification

Years in Mesa

30

Community and volunteer activities

  • Served on the Mesa school board for eight years
  • Current Mesa Public Schools' PABDAC committee member
  • Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction's AIMS Advisory group member
  • Served on State Superintendent of Public Instruction's Arizona Reading Leadership Advisory Board
  • Former Mesa Schools Strategic Curriculum Review for Communication Skills committee member
  • Participated in Read Across America program
  • Served on Mesa United Way board
  • Served on former Mayor Willie Wong's Education Committee
  • Served two years as PTO President
  • Served on Mountain View's SIAC (School Improvement Advisory Committee)
  • Created RESPECT program, a districtwide volunteer program to encourage respect 

Three greatest strengths of Mesa Public Schools

1. A strong group of involved parents who volunteer and work well with teachers and staff.

2. MPS adheres to and maintains appropriate budget priorities. It works hard to ensure that teachers and the classroom are a top priority. For a district of its size, it is considered among the highest ranked districts in the country for spending the least amount on administrative costs.

3. Its focus on curriculum and quality instruction.

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

1. Years of insufficient funding.

2. Meeting the diverse and challenging needs of Title I schools without the necessary resources.

3. Complying with federal and state mandates that inhibit teachers from focusing on classroom objectives and meeting individual students' needs.

What I would contribute to the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board

I bring passion, experience and leadership. As a child I wanted to be a teacher. That desire transformed into a passion that has been a driving force in all my volunteer work. With my experience on the board and experience of managing a multi-million dollar business, I am able to hit the ground running in January. I am familiar with procedures, policy and budget issues. I was on the board when we hired two superintendents, when the district was growing and when its numbers started to decline. I have a record of being a strong and effective board member, and as a two-time president, I am recognized as a strong leader. I know what to expect, and I know how to get the job done. I am a liaison for parents, as well as for instructors and staff.

Website

minerformesa.com

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Meet Michael Nichols

Spouse

Nancy Nichols

Children who graduated from Mesa Public Schools

All three have graduated from Dobson High School — 2006, 2013 and 2015

Occupation

Retired Military

Education

Two A.A.'s from West Hills Community College
A.A. degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
B.S. (Magna cum Laude) from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Years in Mesa

20

Community and volunteer activities

  • Second-term MPS Governing Board member
  • Former PTO president at Pomeroy Elementary
  • Mesa Community Roundtable
  • Facilities Planning Committee
  • Adviser/trainer for PTO, PTA and booster clubs across Mesa Public Schools

Three greatest strengths of Mesa Public Schools

1. Strong historical fiscal responsibility.

2. Dedicated collaborative administration/teachers/support staff/operations personnel throughout system.

3. MPS is a nationally recognized educational organization, in which our community children participate.

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

1. The state's need to establish a strong, steady continual funding for public education. Replacing the band-aiding/stagnated funding mechanism currently in place for Arizona public education, which never is fully funded in all areas. I will continue to promote communication and working with internal and external stakeholders/lawmakers, sharing ideas and concepts that promote stable funding for public education.

2. The challenge of enhancing student education while infusing technology as a useful, meaningful educational instrument for our teachers, with the goal of having our students work- and/or college-ready, as society (work/higher education) has embraced the technological advances. I will continue to support positive efforts of this initiative moving forward. I will continue seeking opinions of administration and teachers, while working with other board members, for the assurance that the most optimal actions are taken for educational advancement of our community children, with the greatest emphasis on student safety and their use of technology. Over the past four years, a lot of positive efforts have been made.

3. Improvement of customer service. I will continue to be a voice for parents, and any stakeholder within Mesa Public Schools, while providing sound recommendations for system changes if and when needed. I will further support marketing/communication/education to the customers and personnel of Mesa Public Schools. Mesa Public Schools administrators have worked very hard in this area, though it is an area I will most definitely continue to always support.

What I would contribute to the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board

I will continue serving the community to the very best of my abilities and represent students, teachers and parents as they interact with MPS. I will continue to work with administration and other board members while providing recommendations for system changes for MPS improvement, and through communication channels, influence state lawmakers endorsing our public education system.

Website

Email: nicholsmps@cox.net
Facebook page under construction

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Meet Steven Peterson

Spouse

Julie Peterson

Children who graduated from Mesa Public Schools

Matthew - graduated 2005 - Westwood High School
Marshall - graduated 2007 - Westwood High School
Mindy - graduated 2009 - Westwood High School - currently a teacher at Adams Elementary
Marianne - graduated 2012 - Westwood High School
McKay - graduated 2014 - Westwood High School
Mason - graduated 2016 - Westwood High School

Occupation

Certified Public Accountant

Education

Master's degree in Accounting, Brigham Young University

Years in Mesa

14

Community and volunteer activities

  • Mesa Public Schools Governing Board
  • Mesa Foundation for Educational Excellence board member and treasurer
  • Westwood High School Parents Group
  • Youth leader, Venture Scouts - Wood Badge-trained

Three greatest strengths of Mesa Public Schools

1. Excellent staff — teachers, support staff and administrators.

2. Strong financial position.

3. Mesa schools have a tradition of being leaders in adapting to change.

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

1. Maintaining a focus on supporting teachers and students to enhance learning.

2. Continuing to implement the use of technology.

3. Funding for teachers.

I will continue to work with all appropriate parties involved to move these issues successfully along.

What I would contribute to the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board

• Eight years of service on the Governing Board of Mesa Public Schools
• Certified Public Accountant
• Financial experience as a Chief Financial Officer/Regional Controller
• Leadership experience in a large company
• Technology background: Systems development experience at CIGNA
• In touch with the financial pressures on companies operating in Mesa
• Exposure to school districts in Colorado, Tennessee, Connecticut and Arizona
• Experience as a father: Helping our children from elementary school through graduation from college

Website

None

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Meet Kiana Sears

Spouse

Ernest Sears Jr.

Children who graduated from Mesa Public Schools

Elaissia attended Arizona State University. Kiersten attended University of Arizona. Both attended Mesa Public Schools: Wilson Elementary, Johnson Elementary, Shepherd Junior High, graduated from Red Mountain High School

Occupation

20 years of public policy, philanthropy and governmental relations

Education

Master of Public Administration with emphasis in public policy and human resource management

Years in Mesa

20

Community and volunteer activities

  • Arizona State University Public Affairs Advisory Council
  • Arizona Cactus Pine Girl Scouts
  • National Forum of Public Administrators
  • East Valley NAACP - Political Affairs chair 
  • Rotary International GSE to Switzerland 2009
  • Art Masterpiece volunteerism (6 years) 
  • Foreign exchange host family (15 years)
  • Mesa Leadership 
  • Former Mesa YMCA board member 
  • AmeriCorps Promise Fellow

Three greatest strengths of Mesa Public Schools

A Governing Board that works well together, possessing excellent educational tools and resources available in the district, and providing many types of educational experiences throughout the district to those that learn using a variety of modalities.

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

1: Addressing the challenges of students living in impoverished conditions.

2. Identifying and addressing the unique adjustments that educational systems can make to address minority-majority school districts.

3. Developing a comprehensive educational equity plan within such an enormous school district.

What I would contribute to the Mesa Public Schools Governing Board

As an experienced non-partisan, public policy professional and member of a successful educational equity committee, I bring an ability to work in a collaborative manner to achieve outcomes that bring the most benefit to our students and teachers. I have worked with nonprofits for over 15 years and bring an understanding of the challenges that poverty imposes on public education, while at the same time embracing education as a vital tool in breaking the cycle of poverty.

As a parent of two adult children who benefited tremendously from their MPS education experiences, I bring a commitment to ensure ALL children receive access to the highest possible quality of education resources available. I bring a determination to restore a culture of respect in our school and to the teaching profession because the best learning environments for our students are also the best pedagogical environments for our teaching professionals. My life has been positively impacted by the wonderful education Mesa Public Schools afforded my children, and I want every single child in my community to experience this level of quality educational opportunities.

Website

www.Sears4MesaSchools.com
Facebook.com/Sears4MPS
Email: sears4mps@gmail.com

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