Q-and-A with Apache Junction Unified School District board candidate Chelsea Connolly

Chelsea Connolly

Four area residents are running for two seats on the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board in the Nov. 6 general election. The Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent e-mailed questionnaires to the candidates. They will be posted online in the order they were received.

Name: Chelsea Connolly

Age: 32

Education: AJUSD graduate, three years of college, loan originator license, real-estate school.

Town/neighborhood: Apache Junction, Ironwood Estates.

Present or most recent business/employment: Branch manager at Academy Mortgage Corp. in Apache Junction.

Previous public office, boards and commissions: Lost Dutchman Days Parade committee, chamber of commerce member, Superstition Mountain Regional Business Alliance member, Community Appreciation Committee, Apache Junction Back Pack Drive Committee, Little League coach/team mom.

How are you better prepared to be a school board member than your opponents?: I was born and raised in Apache Junction. I attended Apache Junction Schools from Kindergarten to high school graduation in 2004. I also worked for AJUSD as an administrative assistant as well as a volleyball coach from 2008 to 2012. I opened a business here in late 2016 and have continued to grow. Running a business comes with setting visions and goals, working as a team, managing employees, managing a budget, following policies and guidelines and continuously getting more and more involved with the community. Next year, my son will be attending Desert Vista Elementary School as a Kindergartner; my concern for our district goes beyond that of a community member or board candidate but as a parent of a child in the AJ school district. I believe that working together as a team is important and handling yourself in a collective and mature manner is a must when you are representing any board or business. Talking negatively of your fellow board members or the district/business you represent is completely out of the question. I have stayed current on various issues with the school district by attending board meetings or watching them online. I have a passion for my community and our kids. To say my heart is in AJ is an understatement. My heart bleeds AJ.

If elected, what will you accomplish in your first 100 days in office?: In the first 100 days I will focus on assessing the situation the district is in and identifying our strengths and our weaknesses. I plan on getting the board and district more involved with the local businesses and I would like to work to increase transparency. In my current business, communication is key and I have mastered that. I believe the same goes for the school district, communication to parents and the community is key. Unanswered questions, emails, phone calls is something that, as a parent and board member, I would not tolerate. If elected, I plan on always being available to answer any questions or clarify anything for anybody. One of the biggest problems we have is getting the truth out there in a timely manner; not doing that leads to rumors that cause bigger problems to arise. As a governing board member, it is imperative that you listen and connect with the people you serve.

What are your hopes for Apache Junction Unified School District?: My hope is that we reconnect with our community, restore the trust that we have lost and get our spark back. Currently, we have people who live in our community who refuse to take their kids to AJ schools because of the bad stigma AJUSD has developed over the last couple of years. There is no reason why any student who lives in the district should be going to another school district. We need to get the community’s “AJ pride” back and make them bleed that black and gold that they did once before. Having a healthy, thriving school district will also bring more families here and make our community grow into what I know AJ can be.

Other boards and commissions, paid and unpaid, have a dais for its members, with staff members sitting in the audience or at nearby tables. Do you agree with the present school board meeting layout where the superintendent sits alongside the board of directors and why or why not?: I do not see an issue with the superintendent sitting with the governing board but I would not be opposed to changing that if it is really that big of a concern. I feel that where our superintendent is seated during the meetings is the least of our worries at the moment.

The school board at a recent meeting evaluated the AJUSD superintendent. How do you rate Dr. Krista Anderson’s performance as superintendent: Exceeds, meets, approaches, or far falls below the level of performance required and why?: As of right now I do not feel I can rate Dr. Anderson’s performance when I have not worked with her one-on-one. Once I have worked with her more and understand her visions and goals for this district, I feel I will be better equipped to answer a question like that. From the brief encounters I have had with Dr. Anderson and as an outsider looking in, I feel she is human and will make mistakes but she does have our kids’ best interest at heart. It seems to me that she is working tirelessly to fix what has been broken.

Should AJUSD have the meet and confer process for employees? Why or why not?: I believe that having input from the employees is a critical part of a successful governing board. I don’t feel I can make decisions on things without researching and part of the researching process is communicating with the staff and community and getting their input. The teachers and support staff are the eyes and ears for us and we should be in constant communication with them. We are a team and we all have the same goal to improve our district and grow our community. It is imperative that we gain the trust back of the AJUSD faculty and shutting them out will not lead us in the right direction.

What can the school board do to attract parents to enroll their children at Apache Junction Unified School District?: It is important our governing board listens to our community and parents to figure out what attracts them to a school district and what is important to them. We need to work furiously to improve the reputation that AJUSD has acquired. We can do that by being much more involved with the community and sharing all the positives AJUSD has to offer our youth. Utilizing social media daily would be a great start. We need to market our school district just as a business markets its services. We could also reach out to other districts and ask what it is they are doing to keep their enrollment up and bring these ideas back to AJUSD. Doing things how we have always done is not going to get us anywhere; evolving and changing can be a very good thing.

Facebook: facebook.com/chelsea.connolly.9

E-mail: chelseakconnolly@gmail.com

The Apache Junction Independent is mailed each month to 35,000 homes.

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