Get to know the Dysart Unified school board candidates: Crystal Chaffin

In the November election there are  six candidates vying for three seats on the Peoria Unified School District governing board.

Current board members Christine A.K. Pritchard and Jay Leonard are seeking reelection, while member Jennifer Tanner chose not to run.

The candidates running are Christine A.K. Pritchard, Jay Leonard, Rhiannon Miett, Jo Grant, Chrystal Chaffin and Charles Wilson.

The Peoria Indpenenedent will feature each candidate leading up to the election

Get to know Ms. Chaffin here.

Q: Please list your 3-5 major priorities for the district and how you plan to address each of them?
A: 1. Fiscal Responsibility. I want to see an itemized, line by line budget of how we are spending our money. Why is it never enough? I want to see where our money is going and see if we can make better use of our budget, because it feels like we are always coming up short. I want to see if we can do better with our budget.
2. Making sure we have practical materials and curriculum in our classrooms. I want to find out what teachers are lacking in their classrooms and what they are spending their personal money on. If it is a need, I want to see how we can make these things available to teachers so parents and teachers do not have to absorb the cost. Things like Kleenex, paper, manipulatives, supplemental materials, etc., are important to have in our classrooms. I’ve heard about the “paper shortage” every year I’ve been in the district. Why is there always a paper shortage, especially if we’re pushing to do more of our instruction online? As for the curriculum, I think we should continually be teaching the basics, while continuing to offer electives. I believe the core classes and the electives/special areas go hand in hand. I would like to see the subjects of history and social studies once again emphasized to their importance. I want us to teach a well-rounded and accurate view of history, with no bias. I also hear a lot of people in the community say that they’re unhappy because our test scores have been low. Standardized tests do not measure a student’s intelligence, growth or a teacher’s effectiveness. They measure how well a student takes a particular test. We are constantly assessing our students, and they don’t ever have any time to internalize their learning because they are constantly having to perform on a test. I think we should scale back the testing, stop obsessing over data, and let our teachers teach. Maybe we try this for a few years and see how we do in our classrooms. Maybe then our test scores will reach proficient and satisfactory levels.
3. Advocating for funding at the state level. We all remember the recession years and the lack of funding for education that followed. Districts all over the state bore the brunt of it for several years, and I do not want to see this happen again. We need to be mindful to properly fund education, especially with our current economy during this pandemic. I would welcome the chance to work with state lawmakers to make sure that all Arizona schools are adequately funded, including here in Dysart. Once the state passes the budget, it is then up to our district to make sure we’re spending it wisely.

Q: What is your occupational background?
A: I am a teacher. I have been teaching for 14 years as a music educator, and the last five years have been here in the Dysart Unified School District. I’ve taught all grade levels, K-12, so I have an understanding of all our students’ educational needs. I have a bachelor’s degree in music with an emphasis in string bass from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, and I have a master’s degree in music education from Arizona State University.

Q: How do you plan to address the budgetary issues the district faces?
A: Fiscal responsibility is really important to me. This pandemic will, no doubt, present challenges to our budget. According to Dr. Kellis, per the June Governing Board Meeting, we are already facing a deficit this fall with our funding. My approach to the district’s budget is similar to my approach with my own. If we need more money for this category, we have to figure out what other category it is coming from. It is possible that we could receive additional state or federal funds, and if so, that would be great. However, balancing and maintaining our budget is of utmost importance to me. As I previously stated, I would like to see an itemized line-by-line budget of our expenditures to see how we can accomplish this. I want to take an in-depth look to see where our money is going and how we are spending it.

Q: What are your thoughts on the innovation and the district as education takes on an even bigger technological role?
A: When the pandemic hit, I felt that our district was well prepared. We had already been using Schoology (the online platform) as a tool in our classrooms, so both teachers and students were trained on how to use it. Other districts went into a tailspin while they were figuring out what to do. I think the use of technology can be a wonderful tool to supplement learning, but I am wary of us relying on it too much. It could be easy for us to say, “Well, we have the 1-1 laptops, and we have trained our teachers and students, so online learning will be the best for us from now on.” Online learning has its place, but I caution any push to make this move permanent or long term. As a teacher, I had a difficult time getting my students and parents to communicate during the online learning for fourth quarter (spring 2020). I can tell you that I was genuinely concerned for the well-being of my high school students. They were old enough to know how to communicate, they knew how to get a hold of their teachers, but so many of them got completely lost. I remember reaching out to other teachers, asking if they had heard from these students. The other teachers were just as concerned as I was. We made multiple attempts each week to reach out, but we couldn’t get any participation from them. Students who were incredibly successful in my classroom struggled with online learning. In addition, we were told not to introduce any new concepts during this time. Students missed out on an entire quarter’s worth of instruction, and they will already be behind this fall. Some students will thrive in the online learning environment, but the majority of students may not. Consider the K-2 students. We spend the first two months of school teaching kinders how to behave at school (sit in a chair, raise your hand, walk in a straight line, etc.). How much more difficult will it be for these younger students, also? I know teachers and some parents are worried about students’ safety, but let us consider these things, also, as we make our decisions. I believe there is a dialogue that needs to happen between parents, teachers, students, and district administrators. We need to focus on serious problem solving so that we can do what is best for our students. Everyone says “it takes a village to raise a child.” Let’s get our village together and get it done.

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