Governor Ducey, fellow elected officials, honored guests and the people of the great state of Arizona:
The founders of our state valued education so much, they wrote the role of Superintendent of Public Instruction into our constitution. I am deeply honored to step into that role today.
As an educator and speech therapist, I have worked my entire career in Arizona’s public schools and I know what our students are capable of when they have the resources they need to be successful.
One of my most inspirational students that I worked with was a boy I refer to as Mason who had brain damage from seizures and was unable to say any words. When I first started working with Mason, he was in the first grade and his mother shared with me that he was only using a few picture cards to communicate. For example, when Mason was hungry, he had a picture card that said “eat” and when he was thirsty, he had a picture card that said “drink.” But Mason only had FIVE picture cards. Can you imagine, a child with only 5 words to communicate his ideas?
Fortunately, through the resources available to me in the public schools, I was able to teach Mason to use an iPad to express himself. With technology these days, you can program in pictures into the iPad for personalized communication. By the end of the school year, Mason had learned to say all of his friends names, talk about his favorite video games, and most importantly, his mother shared with me that he could say “I love you.”
Our students like Mason need extra supports to be successful in school, but it’s not only our students with disabilities who rely on our schools for academic and professional success. ALL of our students need access to a high quality education, which includes music, science, art, technology and social-emotional supports to not just be productive, but also well-rounded members of our community. The skills they learn at school extend far beyond the classroom, into our homes, work places, and even around the world.
Throughout my campaign, and even now today, I am driven by my vision for Arizona’s schools. In every corner of the state, I have said, “Imagine if”…
- Imagine if we elevate the voices of our educators and let educators lead
- Imagine if we work collaboratively and use research to find the best solutions
- Imagine if we celebrate the diversity within our state and treat multilingualism as an asset
- Imagine if our students have the learning opportunities they deserve, no matter their zip-code
Well, I am done saying “imagine if” and I’m thrilled and thankful that starting today, I’m now in a position where I can best support our students like Mason and ensure that every other student across Arizona also has the opportunity to thrive.
I have many goals and priorities for the Department of Education.
First, I am surrounding myself with brilliant leaders and educators who truly understand how a world-class system of education works. Together with these amazing leaders, I intend to restore the Department to what I believe is its primary role: an agency of service. The Department’s highest responsibility is to provide the resources and guidance that our educators and families desperately need to ensure that our students receive a quality education.
Second, we will soon launch an audit of the agency, to gain insight into what is effective, what needs improvement, and to be accountable for every dollar allocated.
Additionally, I will collaborate with the legislature and governor to pass policies that invest in our schools and ensure competitive pay for all educators including support staff.
We must address our teacher shortage and consider new and different ideas, such as paid maternity/paternity leave for teachers as a means to attract and retain teachers to the profession.
None of this will be easy and change takes time; it will take deep understanding and intensive work to fix it. To the students, parents, educators and citizens of Arizona, there will be no rash decisions as we do our due diligence in finding the best solutions. There is a lot to do, and together, we will get this right.
I am proud to say I am an educator. I am a teacher. And I am committed, as your Superintendent, to listen to our students and their families; to support and advance my fellow educators; to collaborate with members of the legislature and with the governor to fulfill the vision of Arizona’s founders: that Arizona’s future starts in our schools.