The next generation of school board members – Are we mentoring them for success?

ASBA Connect board memberMany prospective governing board members – and even some who have already made the grade and are serving – face a steep learning curve understanding how a school district actually works and how they interact with the superintendent.

Adding to the difficulty of getting up-to-speed, new board members will take office in the middle of the school year after the November General Election. Even so, there are myriad services available from the Arizona School Boards Association and mentors who are more than willing to provide answers to questions and guidance backed by years of service.

Dr. Don Covey, Maricopa County superintendent of schools, sees a greater diversity of prospective board members regarding age, gender and ethnicity. In districts with a high Latino population, Covey says candidates running for governing board positions are strong advocates for Latino success.

“I’m seeing a pretty good diversity age-wise,” Covey says. “There are quite a few 25-to-35 year olds. Then, in the 45-to-55 age group, they have a lot of children in school and that gives them a vested interest.”

Regarding appointments that his office makes to fill a board vacancy that occurs after a General Election, Covey is amazed by the interest in the community. “We have had as many as 18 apply for a single vacancy in a district,” he says.

With all that interest, there is an obvious need to provide candidates and new members with some guidance. Carole Siegler, a member of the Catalina Foothills Unified School District Governing Board for 19 years and last year was named a member of the prestigious All Arizona School Board, is one such valuable mentor.

“I would love to be able to talk to a single-issue candidate – whether it’s testing, school start time or the superintendent – and try to get that person to look where that issue fits into the larger context of education and the school district,” Siegler says.

New members bring a freshness with different skill sets, expertise and personalities. But when a new member asks why something is done a certain way, and is told that that’s the way it has always been done, Siegler says she takes a step back. “I need to remember that even as experienced as I am, I can learn from new board members.”

Corina Madruga Chavez, in her first year on the Tolleson Union High School District Governing Board, recalls attending a community event where an individual announced his candidacy for the board – and she was encouraged by that candidate to run for a second open seat.

“I really didn’t have any mentors,” she says. “It would have been nice. It was scary for somebody who had never had any aspiration of entering the political realm. I needed more valid signatures than some of our state legislators. It’s not an easy task. Now, I’m part of those who try to mentor and bring folks to consider running.”

At the time she decided to run, Chavez, who attended Tolleson and has two school-aged daughters, wasn’t familiar with ASBA’s services, publications and videos designed to assist would-be board members.

Those services will be spelled out at two webinars by various board members and ASBA leadership, including Tracey Benson, Chris Thomas and Karen Loftus.

Scheduled for March 29, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and April 20, from noon to 1 p.m., both webinars will help individuals interested in running for their local school board understand what is involved in being elected to and serving on a school board. Participants will hear from three diverse school board members about their experiences and where to find information about being a candidate. Participants will also have the opportunity to submit questions to be answered live during the webinar.

In addition, organizations and community groups can learn more about school board service and how to become a board member by requesting an ASBA representative to speak at an event or meeting. Just fill out the online speaker form and ASBA will respond within 24 hours.

For details, check out the ASBA website – under the Services & Resources tab, click on Becoming a Board Member.

Darbi Jenkins joins ASBA team

darbi_jenkins_smASBA is pleased to announce Darbi Jenkins as the new Governmental Relations Analyst. She has most recently served in Phoenix Mayor Stanton’s office and was previously an Education Policy Advisor at the State Capital. She was also a substitute teacher in the Kirkland Elementary School District. We are excited to have her on our team.

Prop. 123 New Question? Stump The Lawyer!

chris-thomas-AChris Thomas
General Counsel/Director of Legal and Policy Services

Q: Can material from an organization that has taken a position on Prop. 123 be distributed by people acting on behalf of a school district without violating the law?

A: It depends on whether the message itself amounts to an attempt to influence the outcome of an election under the law. The law concerns itself with the message, not the messenger. However, the analysis might change if the organization’s name or logo was, itself, an attempt to influence – such as YES on Prop. 123 Committee, etc.

Mere public knowledge that the organization has taken a position on Prop. 123 is not enough to deem neutral materials that contain the organization’s logo – save for the aforementioned stipulation – an attempt to influence the outcome of an election by those acting on behalf of a school district using school district resources.

Download the full Q&A

View Expect More Arizona’s Prop. 123 toolkit for schools and districts.

Winter/Spring Journal Magazine Now Available

Featuring 2015 Annual Awards Showcase

Click to view the new journal

Click to view the new journal

Meet Barbara Underwood, Gila County Director

Barbara-UnderwoodDistrict: Payson USD
County: Gila
How long have you served on your school board? 8 years
How will you serve your county district members this year as the ASBA County Director for Gila?
I will be a voice for Gila county and all students by attending as many meetings and workshops I possibly can. I will also be active in voicing my concerns to our legislators. I will make myself available for any concerns you may have.

ASBA Executive Searches Now Open for Application

Superintendent, Red Mesa USD, Deadline is April 4, Noon
Superintendent, Ganado USD, Deadline is April 6, Noon


Register now for Summer Leadership Institute, June 9-11. SLI is moving to Loews Ventana Canyon, Tucson, AZ. Click here to view breakout sessions and registration information.

Early Bird Session
Role Play: A Really Bad Board Meeting and How it Should Be Done

Administrative Assistant Track

Just for School District Administrative Assistants to the Superintendent and School Board.

County Conversations in Leadership
Meet your ASBA County Director and Discuss Leadership Initiatives Happening in Your County

Special Keynote Speakers

Fri, June 10: Dr. Mari Koerner, Dean
Fulton School of Education, Arizona State University

Sat, June 11: Kathy Wiebke, PhD, NBCT
Executive Director, Arizona K12 Center

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