Teachers group interviews 4, recommends 3 for board seats

District 51 teacher representation group Mesa Valley Education Association has announced its picks for the Nov. 5 school board race.

Eight teachers from various schools and content areas with varying years of teaching experience invited all seven school board candidates to sit for interviews with the group. Four responded: Pat Kanda and John Williams in District C, Tom Parrish in District D and Greg Mikolai in District E.

The group recommends that voters choose Williams, Parrish and Mikolai based on their answers to 11 questions, ranging from what a candidate believes the relationship between the school board and staff should be to what their perceptions are of charter schools and voucher systems.

Association President Darren Cook said the group looked for three qualities in each candidate: an open mind, unabashed support of public education and an interest in collaborating with teachers to achieve goals in improving education.

The group that interviewed candidates liked that Williams said he values teachers’ opinions and that Parrish said he wants to see improvement in local education but believes teachers are working hard on that goal, according to Cook.

He added that Mikolai, the school board’s president, and the association have not always agreed, but he “is a thinker yet he’s also a learner.”

“We were looking for people not who would agree with us all the time but listen to us with an open mind,” Cook said.

Cook said association membership has jumped nearly 10 percent in the past month to approximately 900 teachers — a boost he attributes to “concern over what will happen on the board.”

He said several teachers have told him they are worried Kanda, Lowenstein and Sluder “linger on what’s wrong with public education” and may want to test new policies while Mikolai, Williams and Parrish “believe there’s more right than wrong with public education and want to lift it to that next level.”

Still, Cook said the group used the term “recommend” rather than “endorse” for its candidate picks because it wants teachers to feel free to vote for whichever candidate they prefer.

Cook said although the group picked Williams, he could see working with Kanda on the board as well.

“His position on guns in the classroom is not one I’m completely comfortable with and his position on public bargaining is not one I’m completely comfortable with, but I believe we can work with him,” Cook said.


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