At least four legislators were petitioned on behalf of a Gilbert Unified School District board candidate after she had been cut from the list of contenders by the Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Office.
Now she - and eight others who were eliminated - will be reconsidered after the search had been narrowed down to four finalists. County officials said the phone calls and e-mails had no influence over the decision to interview the remaining applicants who were thought to have been out of the running.
Maricopa County Deputy Superintendent of Schools Ted Carpenter, who returned last week after being out of the office for a couple weeks, said it was his decision to go back and interview all the applicants. He said they all should have been interviewed to start with.
"With Carpenter out sick, it kind of got miscommunicated," Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Sandra Dowling said. "He's in charge of making sure that the office flows the way it does."
Dowling said her staff always narrows the list of board candidates to three or four. She makes the final decision on the appointment.
Four legislators, including Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, called Dowling at home within a span of 48 hours last week to endorse Holly Reycraft for the open seat on the board, left vacant by Traci Klein in February. Reycraft had been cut from the list at least 10 days earlier, on March 6.
Farnsworth and Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, co-signed a letter to Dowling on March 13 requesting Reycraft be added as an interviewee and considered for the open seat.
"I really think that Holly would do a great job," Farnsworth said by phone Tuesday. "Anybody who knows me knows that I don't give recommendations lightly."
Farnsworth said he recommended Reycraft only after he interviewed her about her experience and philosophy, and acknowledged that he asked Dowling to open up the interview process beyond four people.
"I'm grateful to her to listen to me," Farnsworth said. "She was very receptive. I applaud her for being willing to listen and respond to constituents' concerns. I think it was the right thing to do."
Dowling said the letters of recommendation are important, but aren't the sole factor.
"Carpenter has a real sense of how he wants things done, and that's a good thing," Dowling said. "As long as I get three or four names (to choose from), just give me the best you got."
Carpenter said he had two people call him - one in support of Reycraft, the other in support of Julia Taylor McCleve, a former longtime board member who had also applied but was not initially chosen as a finalist. Carpenter also received an e-mail in support of Reycraft and one in support of McCleve.
Reycraft said she has met with several legislators through her work with autism legislation. She is a facilitator for the parent support group Supporting Autism Now through Education, or SANE.
Reycraft said she had a feeling something like this was going to happen, and is "thrilled" she will now be interviewed.
"Gilbert is a town where most of the residents have a very strong sense of civic duty," Reycraft said. "I would be thrilled to have an opportunity to represent everybody in our community."
Although Reycraft said she thought she was out of the running, she was planning to run for the Gilbert school board in the fall.
"Farnsworth knows that it's a personal goal of mine to become a board member," she said. "If the decision was to open it up, then great."
Reycraft is a former guidance counselor and special education department chairwoman at Greenfield Junior High School in Gilbert. She also was a special-ed teacher in the Tempe Elementary and Tempe Union High school districts.
The finalists were M. Laurin Hendrix, Blake Sacha, Adelaida Severson and Lily Tram. The remaining applicants, besides Reycraft and McCleve, are Emma Jo "E.J." Anderson, Mindy Siegel Baggett, Tamera L. Cameron, Debra Carr, Elizabeth Cress-Sweet, Shauna Seamons and Joseph H. Thomas.