Get to know the Peoria Unified school board candidates: Devon Updegraff-Day

Independent Newsmedia
Posted 9/21/20

In the November election there are nine candidates vying for three seats on the Peoria Unified School District governing board.

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Get to know the Peoria Unified school board candidates: Devon Updegraff-Day


In the November election there are nine candidates vying for three seats on the Peoria Unified School District governing board.

The three seats are currently held by Monica Ceja Martinez, Judy Doane and David Sandoval.

Mr. Sandoval is seeking re-election, while Ms. Ceja Martinez and Ms. Doane have chosen not to run.

The candidates are: Linda Busam, Kacie Franklin, Rebecca Hill, Kirk Hobbs, Mr. Sandoval, Davita Solter, William Sorensen, Devon Updegraff-Day and CJ Williams.

The Peoria Indpenenedent will feature each candidate leading up to the election.

Get to know Ms. Updegraff-Day here.

Age: 39

Career and education: Master’s degree in physician assistant health sciences, working toward a doctorate in health sciences. Owns a small allergy & dermatology medical practice

Years as an Arizona resident: 39

Family: Married with three children.

What do you think is the most important thing to consider regarding instruction during the pandemic?

Access to education, special needs children, security and consistency for the children, socialization for the children and the negative effects on the mental health of the children.

What ideas do you have to support PUSD schools in maintaining programs during a budget-strapped pandemic?

Significant money should have been saved by decreased electrical, water, food, janitorial services and support staff costs. The money saved by school closure has not been accounted for and should be examined and used toward maintaining necessary programs.

How will you identify and advocate for the resources needed to ensure healthy and safe schools during the pandemic?

I support a commonsense approach to improving the health and safety of our schools during the pandemic. We do not live in a sterile environment and we cannot have a germ-free environment be our goal. Per CDC recommendations, I support schools providing supplies for respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, including alcohol-based hand sanitizer, tissues and no-touch receptacles for disposal. Placing HEPA with UV light capabilities in classrooms can help reduce the rate of transmission, masks should be optional for both teachers and students. I think it’s ridiculous to expect children of any age to wear a mask over their face all day and it is not safe for them to wear masks in the heat during outdoor activities. My experience working in the medical field, giving lectures to students while wearing a mask is just not practical and teachers should be given the opportunity to relax without a mask during their downtime.

What will you do to see that schools do not become overcrowded and how will you try to alleviate those schools that are already at capacity?

Portable classrooms are a short-term option that create an immediate solution for overcrowded classrooms. I would recommend a close examination of budget expenses to find areas where unnecessary expenses can be cut. Examples include an assessment of outside contracts to ensure the district is getting the best deal, examine administrator job requirements to see if one person could do a job currently being done by two and push for schools to become more energy efficient through the use of solar, turning computers off at night and on weekends, lights off in rooms not being used and reduction of paper copies when possible.

How will you deal with inequities and other systemic barriers that keep low-income students and students of color from thriving? How will you strive for equity in the school system?

I believe equity in the classroom must come naturally and not be forced. In the book, “iGen” by Dr. Jean Twenge, the generation between the years 1996 and 2013 are the most ethnically diverse generation in American history with just under than 50% being non-Hispanic white. According to Dr. Twenge, the generation after iGen, will be the first non-white majority. This rise in diversity confirms that over the decades the American population has become more open-minded, more accepting and less racially divided; real change just takes time.

With the pandemic affecting the social and emotional well-being of students, how do you plan to support wrap-around services for children?

I fully support the emotional well-being of children, but I am also very hesitant to allow school institutions to become involved in the home. I work in the medical field where privacy and the right to personal decision making is considered essential. I believe teachers to be the most impactful and have the best opportunity to identify students who are struggling to offer guidance and support when needed. Unfortunately, I do not believe teachers can develop those crucial relationships through a computer screen. In-person learning is essential for students who are struggling with feelings of isolation, depression and difficulty in the home. My plan to support those kids struggling would be to fight diligently for schools to open back up immediately so children who need both the school environment and teachers to thrive have that opportunity.

What ideas do you have for addressing teacher retention in the district?

I would love to see more value placed on teacher mentorships and for student/parent surveys to be incorporated regularly and have them hold significantly more influence for teacher evaluation than just standardized test scores. I believe there is so much more to teacher performance than just their students’ standardized test scores. Parent/student surveys could be designed to look for student retention and understanding of the material being taught. Teachers who take on students the following year should be given surveys to determine which students are prepared and which students are requiring significant review. Information gathered can be reviewed and patterns can be identified to show which teachers are connecting with their students, explaining the material effectively and who are succeeding at preparing their students for the next grade level. Teachers who perform well and are willing to mentor should be given either a bonus or raise and teachers struggling must agree to be mentored by a stronger peer. Mentorship involves classroom observation to evaluate and improve teacher styles and how the material is being delivered to the students. After a designated period, a second evaluation would be performed that would include mentor review plus student/parent surveys looking for growth and improvement. The mentor relationship should be long term and even the strong teachers should be offered opportunities to observe other successful teachers in other schools and districts so they too can gain new skills and techniques for handling various classroom environments and challenges.