August 5, 2004
School board elections were decided Wednesday for much of the East Valley without any ballots being cast — but that will not be the case in Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe.
The deadline for candidates to file election paperwork passed Wednesday with the bare minimum of challengers stepping forward in Cave Creek, Chandler, Gilbert and Fountain Hills unified school districts.
Under a state law passed two years ago designed to eliminate the expense of counting ballots in uncontested races, the county schools superintendent will appoint all of these candidates to their respective governing boards without their names ever appearing on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Write-in candidates will not be allowed to run.
Meanwhile, plenty of candidates emerged in other parts of the East Valley.
In the Scottsdale Unified School District, eight hopefuls will compete for three open seats on the five-member governing board.
Mesa and Paradise Valley unified and Tempe union high school districts each have five candidates running for three open positions. Tempe and Kyrene elementary and Higley unified school districts each have four candidates running for three open positions.
Chris Thomas, attorney for the Arizona School Boards Association, said the shortage of candidates in some districts might be a reflection of a declining amount of volunteerism in communities nationwide. School board members do not get paid but often spend up to 20 hours per week on the job.
"People’s lives are stretched," he said. "They feel they have less and less time to do these things."
Helen Hollands, president of the Gilbert Unified School District governing board, is running unopposed for the second time. She said she likes the job, but acknowledged it can be demanding.
"My husband tells me it’s one of the most expensive volunteer jobs I’ve ever done," she said.
But she said she enjoys contributing to public education and learning new things about how the system works.
Maricopa County Schools Superintendent Sandra Dowling said many parents do not pay attention to governing board races because they are either content with the way things are running or they do not realize the power a school board has.
"The local school board affects your life every single day," she said. "The president of the United States affects your life maybe once every four years."
Thomas said governing boards have two main duties: To set all district policy
and to serve as watchdogs.
They also oversee all hiring and firing and control multimillion-dollar budgets that often rival municipal budgets.
In Mesa, for example, the school board will spend $500.6 million in fiscal 2004-05 while the City Council will spend $809.1 million.
Three positions are open in every East Valley school district except Fountain Hills Unified, which has two open seats.
Cave Creek Unified:
Marvin Christensen Lisa Doche Javier Ledesma
Karen Clark* David Evans Charlotte Patterson*
Fountain Hills Unified:
Steve Davis Dana Saar*
Helen Hollands* Traci Klein Linda Rollins*
Nancy Eugenis Ward Fogelsanger Ed Moore* Denise Standage
Robert Briscoe Jr.* Mitzi Epstein Sue Knudsen Rich Zawtocki*
Lynn Burnham Richard Crandall Carmen Guerrero Cindi Hobbs* David Lane
Paradise Valley Unified:
Nancy Case Anne Greenberg Thomas Ohmart* Sue Skidmore* Karen Taylor
Queen Creek Unified:
T. Dale Hancock Monte Nevitt* Craig Seymore*
Shari Avianantos* Terry Benson Sean Michael Diana Joel Feldman* Molly Holzer Eric Meyer Jennifer Petersen Sandra Zapien-Ferrero*
Karen Arredondo* Rose Crutcher* Raymond Devine Kimberly Gomez*
Tempe Union High:
Michelle Helm* Zita Johnson* Donald Keuth Mary Frances Lewis Lizabeth Stephens