OPINION: Braden Biggs announces candidacy for Apache Junction school board

Braden Biggs

At the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board meeting on Feb. 13, the board ignored the wishes of our community and chose to go back to a five-day schedule. The school district gathered a group of 30 community members from all walks of life and importance within our school district and had them make a recommendation. As a member of that committee, we were told by Superintendent Krista Anderson that we must present one four-day schedule and one five-day schedule option. We spent weeks researching, asking the important questions and finally making our decision. While we had a few members not complete the process, the committee overwhelmingly recommended a four-day schedule. Although it took several rounds of votes and discussions, in the end, there was one dissenting vote of the 26 people in the room.

There were surveys sent out to the community stakeholders, current AJUSD families and former AJUSD families. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of a four-day schedule. The survey results were as follows:

  • Staff preference – Which calendar enables us to prepare our students for higher education?: 340 total responses from staff, equating to 82.35 percent wanted the four-day school week.
  • Current AJUSD families – Which academic calendar do you prefer?: 930 total responses with 60.43 percent wanting the four-day week, compared to 39.57 percent wanting a five-day schedule.
  • Which calendar enables us to prepare our students for higher education?: 53.44 percent said four-day, while 46.56 percent said five day.
  • Of former AJUSD families, they were asked that if AJUSD moved back to a five-day traditional schedule would you return?: 124 total responses came back with a result of 7.26 percent saying yes they will return, 71.77 percent saying no they would not return, and 20.97 percent saying maybe. If AJUSD went to a five-day (modified) schedule, which is what the governing board voted on, those numbers jumped to 11.29% saying yes they would return.

Our school board continues to ignore the will of the people, citing what they believe is best for our district. However, not answering why they feel it is best? What in the data presented causes them to vote this way? They are the governing body elected by the people of the AJUSD community, they are elected to serve the voters not make decisions based of their own predetermined personal beliefs. They don’t believe in the voters and our community to know what is best for the district and their children. They have once again showed that forming a committee and asking the public isn’t something they really care about. They just want to show that they care. Last night, board member Michael Weaver made a comment to the tune of “This isn’t the time for a popularity contest, that is in November.” Mr. Weaver being one of the two board members up for re-election should be more careful of his word choice. The community will remember this in November if his name shows up on the ballot. Mrs. Dena Kimble has publicly advocated for the five-day and was the only no vote when the board voted to move to four-day. Rather than look at the whole picture she sees what she wants to see. I have heard her many times say “the perception of the school board is positive.” Clearly, those of us in the room and in the community feel otherwise.

If she or any other member of the governing board think that they can continue to ignore the will of the people who voted them in they are wrong. In one instance, a governing board member asked that I personally stop speaking out against the decision in the thousands of comments on various social media accounts. It is comments like this that are the most upsetting, as I strongly advocate for a public voice. I have been immensely proud of our community and our students over the last several days in ensuring their voices are heard. They have taken to action through posting on social media, sharing stories, protests and even petitions that have gathered over 400 signatures in less than 24 hours. Our community voice should not and will not be silenced.

We continually hear that there is little stakeholder involvement in our school district. However, this is a shining example as to why the stakeholders do not get involved. They speak up, stand up and take action and then their view is ignored by the governing board. We continually hear our elected leaders say they want our youth to have a voice and we want them to stand up. However, when they do, we knock them down and tell them to be silent. Students, teachers, parents and voters all have a voice that should equally be heard. No one person’s voice is more important than others.

I truly believe that our district made the right choice last year by bringing Dr. Anderson and Dr. Cruz on board to lead our district. However, they must enforce the decisions made by the governing board. It is my belief that we made this decision prematurely without enough data to support or negate the points; three years time is not enough. The governing board has stated that they did not fully implement their plans for a four-day. So if this is true, then how can we say the four-day isn’t successful? Dr. Anderson and Dr. Cruz have been fighting to put out fire after fire since being hired. They have not been given enough time to fix the internal issues that our district faces. Issues that can and do lead to things like financial hardships, declining enrollment, staff retention and more. They are working tirelessly to ensure our children have the best quality education possible.

I firmly believe that decisions are made by those who show up; it is with that I announce my candidacy for Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board. We need to elect leaders who advocate for our community, we need to elect leaders who listen to our teachers and staff members who educate our children. We need leaders who aren’t afraid of walking out of a school board meeting to a crowd of upset and angry community members.

We have seen our governing board over the years not listen to the people and make rash decisions without viewing the problem as a whole. They spoke about cost-saving measures that the four-day move would have, however, that never occurred. They spoke about the fifth day being used as a credit-recovery day or an extracurricular day, however, that never occurred. When are we as a city going to stand up and say that we want what is best for our kids? I am a graduate of AJUSD, I have grown up here, I have friends and family here. I have seen the ups and downs of our school district. The governing board says that the community doesn’t support the schools. That is just wrong. The governing board doesn’t support the community.

If elected, I will fight for the voices of the many not the few. No one will ever be 100 percent happy, however, when our dedicated staff doesn’t feel appreciated. When our staff feels that they will be met at the door with a smile and a good luck to you if they don’t agree with the district, that is an issue. If they disagree or fight for their kids in a way that doesn’t please AJUSD, that is wrong. When our school board says, “We appreciate our community and our faculty,” while voting against the majority of the AJUSD stakeholders, that is not valuing their opinions.

It is my belief their decision will cause a loss of great faculty, teachers, advocates, parents and students. Then what will their excuse be? We need to be focused on the right problems, not the wrong ones. We need to find ways to give teachers more money. We need to find ways to fight and advocate for our students and their education by not ignoring those who teach them. We need to focus on the right issues and get to the root cause of the problems. Then and only then, can we truly right the ship.

Over the coming weeks and months you will see me in the community fighting for you, fighting for your voice to be heard. I hope I will gain your support and trust and I promise I will never not listen to a member of our community. I will never back down from the fight of all residents in Apache Junction. I believe the community is the strongest voice in any form of government and I will fight for you. I will be gathering signatures and raising funds to run and help fight. Please be on the lookout and vote for the change you want to see.

Please visit my Facebook page – fb.me/Biggs4AJUSD or contact me directly at biggs4AJUSD@gmail.com.

Braden Biggs
Apache Junction

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