Governing board makes controversial decision in wake of election


Anna Myers

Governing Board President Barb Mozden voting at the Dec 9 meeting. Mozden was reelected to the board this election cycle.

The CUSD Governing Board came to the decision at their monthly meeting on Dec. 10 to offer virtual and in-person options for students at their return after the Winter break. This will contrast from the current mitigation practices and it will become a mandatory expectation that 7-12 teachers will teach online and in-person simultaneously. No data or evidence was presented to support this decision at the meeting, and multiple speakers actually opposed the motion, including a representative from the CEA Teachers Union. 

The reasoning behind the decision was that students returning from Winter break who may have celebrated “unsafely” will have the option to stay home and receive full services. In contrast, board member Lara Bruner made the point that “parents overwhelmingly want their students to be in-person,” and suggested that this plan would not make any difference in the number of COVID-19 cases in the district. Dr. Craig Gilbert voiced his additional concern that teachers will be stretched too far if the plan passed.

Despite a lack of data and the opposition of multiple board members, the motion passed. 

This decision comes after the Governing Board election in November. 

Previous member Karen Mcgee chose not to file for reelection, while Dave Evans and Barbara Mozdzen initially showed interest in running again. However, in mid-August, Evans dropped out of the race after other candidate Jason Olive, a CUSD parent and former architect, served him in court to contest petition signatures. To be considered as a true candidate in school board elections in the district, applicants must receive at least 400 signatures on an election petition. 

In the end, Mozdzen was reelected, and Olive joined her alongside former CUSD Chief Financial Officer, Joel Wirth. The seats of members Lindsay Love and Lara Bruner were not up for reelection and the two will continue to sit on the board. 

The board’s ongoing conversation of how schools will function in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic will now gain two new opinions. 

Wirth has already made his own stance clear in a statement on his candidate qualifications page. He stated that when dealing with COVID-19, which he defines as the district’s “most immediate concern”, the district’s “top priority… must always be the safety of our students and staff.” 

Wirth also stressed the necessity to make decisions with “input from teachers, parents and students when evaluating online and person-to-person learning.”

Olive seems to agree with his new colleague, as he similarly stressed the importance of including teachers when making decisions on his own Ballotpedia page. 

According to a representative from the CEA teachers’ union, educators frustrated with the current situation and the expectation to teach online and in-person simultaneously are claiming that this lack of communication with teachers is the issue causing teacher shortages across the state and nation. A report by the U.S. Department of Education demonstrated that these shortages have resulted in a lack of high school science and special education teachers in Arizona. 

Teacher shortages may become more of a problem if educators choose to leave their positions due to the new plan approved by the board. It will be interesting to see how the teachers’ unions play a part in the issue, and how the consequences evolve.