The five candidates running for the Tempe Union High School District governing board are vying to represent the entire district. But the focus, for many, is on one campus: Corona del Sol High School.
Already, criticism of the incumbents is heating up, with the two challengers characterizing them as unresponsive to the community's concerns about the school, which has been plagued with poor air quality issues for years.
But the incumbents are fighting back, saying that the elections are about more than one school or one issue.
"We're fixing it. Move on. We've got to get past this. Our job is teaching and educating kids," said board member Don Keuth. "We have some of the best professional people working on this, our staff did a phenomenal job over the summer. We've gotten great reports back from the state saying we did a great job ... We're scratching and clawing to make things work out."
He said budget concerns, which could impact class size next year, should be the top priority. Keuth joins two other incumbents who are running for re-election - Zita Johnson and Michelle Helm.
They are being challenged by Sam Holdren and DeeAnne Clowes, who have made the Corona del Sol air quality concerns main platforms of their campaigns.
Clowes is a mother of two students who live in the school's attendance area. But concerns over the its air quality led her to enroll them elsewhere - and they also led her to run for school board.
"It's providing me with a lot of interaction with how our district does its business, and how our board members deal with their constituents," she said.
"Someone's got to change the way they respond to people, hold them accountable. The whole reason for a governing board is to make sure the superintendent and staff is doing the right thing."
Sam Holdren, a community advocate and organizer for Equality Arizona, lists on his Web site that one of his top concerns is "student health and school safety."
Holdren is also a member of the Tempe-Chandler Parent Teacher Student Association, a community group that formed out of the Corona Clean Air Coalition to advocate for open communication from district officials about the health and safety problems at Corona del Sol.
"Parents, students and community members shouldn't have to struggle with district officials to obtain access to important public documents, as has been the case recently," he said.
Holdren says the problems at Corona del Sol are representative of a larger problem.
"It permeates the entire district. It's not just about Corona, it's about leadership, what's going on in the school board right now. There are serious issues going on," he said. "The parents who are concerned have tried to approach the school district wanting to work as a partner and they just won't."
Helm, a retired teacher who is running for her third term on the school board, acknowledged that the Corona del Sol issue is looming large in the minds of voters.
"I think it would be kind of ridiculous of us to presume that it won't be the large elephant in the room that everyone will have questions about," she said. "However, I don't think it should be the only issue. It's very easy to get caught up with one school, but we are responsible for every school."
For example, Helm said, there are facility needs that must be addressed at Mountain Pointe and McClintock high schools - needs that will be hard to fund if the district's budget overrides and bond issue fail to pass in November.
She said that a renewed focus on marketing is essential to combatting declining enrollment.
Johnson, who is ending her sixth year on the board, agreed the declining enrollment, coupled with state budget woes, will be the major issue. "Declining enrollment affects the whole district," she said. "I would hope the conversation is about how to make public education stronger and how important the quality of public education is for our state and the world. I hope that is the overriding issue that really gets focused on."