When we think of June, most people rarely think ‘education.’ But that is exactly what more than 100 people were thinking Tuesday and Wednesday night in Tucson, Arizona.
Be Heard AZ! That was the theme of both nights as Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas sat with Pima County citizens, education officials, teachers, principals, and school board members during the fourth and fifth stop during her annual We Are Listening Tour.
The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) staff asked only one question: “What do you need for the education of your children?” Pima County knew exactly what they needed, and they weren’t afraid to let ADE know.
At the Tuesday night meeting, ADE staff was honored to have Pima County Superintendent of Schools Dustin Williams join Superintendent Douglas to answer questions or give unique insight from the county level. The meeting was held at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort Tuesday evening in order to not only give an opportunity to voice concerns or ideas for education to Tucson citizens but those attending the annual Teachers’ Institute Conference being held there as well.
Several speakers shared their personal stories, but also spoke broadly about considerations from school, district, and state levels. They had ideas for how they would like to see well-known issues such as teacher shortages and salary increases to support programs addressed. Partnership between ADE and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) was discussed with an emphasis on strengthening those ties. Family and parental involvement in education was an area of much discussion.
The Wednesday meeting had ADE at the Vail Innovation Center in Vail School District, which is located in the south Tucson area. It also saw to a packed room where district staff had to hurriedly bring out additional chairs to seat the abundance of attendees. Superintendent Douglas presented Vail School District Assistant Superintendent John Carruth with a certificate of recognition for the district’s hospitality in hosting the meeting, giving ADE an opportunity to hear directly from the people we serve: Arizona’s citizens. Board members from several neighboring districts, as well as neighboring counties’ districts, joined us for the event, speaking little but listening intently.
But the room wasn’t quiet. Teachers, principals, and parents spoke turn after turn, each discussing their needs, expressing their concerns over various issues, sharing stories from their own unique lives. Teacher salaries and retention issues were talked about, as ADE knows is a common topic in Arizona, but other topics like gifted education, dyslexia, and the new English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics Standards took more center stage than the previous night’s topics.
As with the three meetings already held in the greater Phoenix area to hear from citizens, ADE was reminded again this month of the very different concerns and needs people living in relatively close proximity may have. Another reason we look forward to traveling each month to various area’s throughout the state to allow our citizens the opportunity to Be Heard AZ. To learn more about the #BeHeardAZ campaign and where additional We Are Listening Tour meetings will be held, please visit www.azed.gov/beheardAZ. Individuals from around the state can also participate via Twitter using #BeHeardAZ and watch ADE’s livestream of the meetings if they are unable to attend, as well as contribute suggestions or comments at [email protected]