Two years after the pandemic hit the country and upended learning, only one of the five incumbents on two school governing boards in Gilbert is running again while 11 newcomers are jumping into the Nov. 8 election.
Gilbert Public Schools with 39 campuses has six candidates vying for the three open seats – two with four-year terms and one with two years.
Incumbents Dr. Charles Santa Cruz, elected in 2013, is not seeking re-election William Parker, appointed in August 2021, pulled papers but didn’t file. The deadline to file was July 11.
“Apache Junction High School, where I taught for 15 years lost their JROTC instructor and I agreed to fill in as needed until they find a replacement, which has so far not happened for them,” Parker explained in an email. “Additionally, my wife retired at the end of the school year and we plan to travel whenever AJ finishes with me. The board has been a great experience and I have truly enjoyed my time on the board.”
Jill Humpherys, first elected in 2012, is running for re-election, joined by Collette Evans, Chad Thompson and Trina Jonas as they battle for the two four-year seats. Ronda Page and Jesse Brainard are running for the two-year seat.
Higley Unified School District with 13 campuses has six candidates chasing after the two available seats both with four-year terms. Voters living in HUSD boundaries also will be casting ballots on a $77.2-million bond.
Incumbents Amy Kaylor didn’t pull papers to run and Jill Wilson pulled papers but did not file. Wilson would not say why she decided against running.
The six candidates in the race are Amanda Wade, Curt Vurpillat, Roy Morales, Anna Van Hoek, Robert Lilienthal and Brooke Garrett.
Here’s a rundown on the two districts’ candidates, except for those who did not respond to requests for information or had a campaign website.
GILBERT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Humpherys, who also is a board member for the Arizona School Board Association Board, has five children who have graduated from GPS schools.
Humpherys says her focus is on student achievement.
According to her campaign website, her vision for GPS includes educating the whole child, smaller class sizes, more students taking Advanced Placement classes, encouraging a Love Your Schools Day, and using the Arizona Education Progress meter to measure progress towards goals.
As a GPS board member, Humpherys says she’s supported gifted education and the performing arts, encouraged the development of the ASPIRE program for administrators, helped pass the override and bond elections of 2015 and 2019, increased salaries for teachers and staff, affirmed the creation of more options for students, voted for updated curriculum, and supported secure school facilities and security cameras in GPS schools.
She’s also been vocal about her support or non-support of various education bills and would speak at the state Legislature. Recently, she’s been collecting signatures on a petition to stop universal voucher expansion.
Humphery’s campaign website is Jill4GPS.com.
Four of Evans’ five children graduated from a GPS school and her youngest son attends Highland High. She also has served on a number of district committees and councils.
She’s worked one year as a math and computer science teacher at Cactus High School in the Peoria Unified School District and is now a loan originator.
Evans’ campaign platform includes focusing on student achievement by giving them the necessary tools, including a rigorous curriculum to help them recover form COVID-learning loss and providing a variety of college and career-ready options.
She wants to ensure fiscally responsible and transparent processes by effectively communicating with families and the community and listening to all stakeholders and put student achievement first when it comes to spending.
She also wants to retain and attract quality teachers and staff by protecting instructional time in the classroom, offer competitive salaries and ensure all staff and students are safe.
Evan’s campaign website is at vote4collette.com.
Thompson, a small-business owner, has four GPS students and says he’s running because the current school board voted to close schools and forced students to wear masks. He wants to put students first and uphold parental rights.
He promises to be the “unwavering voice against the onslaught of politically biased and divisive programs trying to indoctrinate our children and tear our community apart.”
He believes that parents have the right to review curriculum and opt their children out on instruction on sensitive topics. He also believes that the current board’s decisions put students two years behind in their learning and his solution to fix that is to “return to basics and actual learning.”
Thompson touts his fiscal conservative spending, saying he would work closely with district finance professionals and administrators to craft a budget that “will eliminate begging for more money from the taxpayers.”
Thompson doesn’t see school choice as a threat to public education but rather an opportunity for GPS to perform better and more efficiently and he supports merit pay for teachers.
Thompson’s website is at votechadthompson.com.
Jonas has three children attending GPS schools and is the owner of a real estate business. She is involved in district committees and is vice president of a group that trains parent groups on best practices, fundraising, nonprofit procedures, and financial accountability.
She believes in building strong partnerships with parents, students and teachers and is a proponent of fiscal responsibility.
The challenges she sees for the district includes addressing learning loss from the pandemic, ensuring a positive and challenging learning environment, adapting and using technology for maximum effectiveness, and early identification and intervention of challenges for students.
Jonas’ website is trinajonas.com.
Page, who has four children who graduated from GPS schools, says she is a strong proponent of public education. She also is a GPS substitute teacher and owns a company that provides industrial organizational psychology services.
She also has been a district volunteer for 20 years working in a number of areas, including room mom/weekly classroom volunteer to grade, read to students, book fairs, field trips, lunch bunch and HHS Concert Choir Booster Club Board.
Her campaign platform includes improve upon the excellence already established in GPS by forward-thinking innovation and creativity for academic development. She also wants to provide students with the best curriculum and effective programs to help them achieve their highest potential and support teachers with the tools and resources necessary to create successful classrooms.
Her website is expected to go live this week.
Brainard is a Gilbert High School alumnus who’s soon to graduate from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a certificate in civic education.
He’s worked at the Arizona Senate for four legislative sessions and is currently a chief page.
His issues include helping improve student mental health by reducing the student-to-counselor ratio, developing more onsite and online resources for students and surveying students for their input.
He also wants to improve literacy among students, including those with learning disabilities.
To retain good teachers, he advocates increasing pay and benefits, provide them with mental-health resources and partnering with ASU and Maricopa Community College District for future educator programs.
Student safety also is top on his list.
His website is: jessebrainardforgps.com.
Garrett is a former teacher and a volunteer at various school districts where she’s lived. She is mom to five children who have graduated or are enrolled in HUSD schools. She is currently the president at Higley High School’s Uknighted Kingdom Booster.
Her top three priorities include making HUSD the leading choice for students and families by holding the superintendent accountable to the district’s daily needs, expectations, and goals.
She also wants to expand opportunities related to academics, fine arts, athletics, and extracurricular activities for all K-12 students and she wants to address the immediate social and emotional needs of students, staff and families/community.
Due to learning loss from COVID-19, she believes there are some actions needed to help students catch up with their academics and with their social-emotional wellbeing.
Garrett is setting up her campaign website.
Morales is a father of four and works in the mortgage banking industry.
He believes the district’s emphasis should focus on the teachers, students, their families and the community at large and says that parent engagement is key to understand students’ needs and addressing academic and policy concerns.
He also believes that the district needs to be transparent in fiscal spending, curriculum development and perform due diligence of proper educational materials that are acceptable to parents.
He says that parents should be in control of their children’s learning and that school choice allows parents to have input on where they send their students.
Wade is a former Williams Fields High School teacher and has two children attending Gateway Pointe Elementary School.
Her issues are to keep a competitive curriculum, respond to a growing population, teacher retention, and school safety.
She says families have options when it comes to choosing where to send their children to school and HUSD can maintain its position as a top choice by including programs that help students to feel prepared for either college and/or a career.
To address a growing student enrollment, she says the district needs to identify best ways to expand within the space it has and manage population increase at the campuses.
As a former educator, she says she can weigh in on how to make HUSD a desirable place to work as the district and schools across the country are wrestling with the ongoing teacher shortage.
School safety is also a priority.
She has no campaign website.
Anna Van Hoek
Van Hoek is mom to two school-age students and is a parental rights advocate for her own children as well as helping parents over the years through the IEP and 504 processes.
She believes in the liberty of parents to direct their children’s upbringing, including education.
She says she has a financial and accounting background and would ensure transparency in how the district spends money and that it is spent wisely.
She also is a proponent of rigorous academic standards, measuring student progress against those standards, and attaching some consequence to the results and holding schools accountable for providing a good education focusing on reading, writing, math, history and science.
Her website is annavanhoek4husd.com.