Human Interest

The Sedona-Oak Creek School District will see new faces on the board for the first time in several years as four candidates are vying for three seats on the Governing Board this November.

Those candidates answered questions as they look toward serving the next four years. Next up is Heather Hermen.

Q: What made you decide to run for school board?

In 2010 I completed Verde Valley Leadership, which at the time was a two-year leadership program, and then began serving on their board for four years. During my leadership training and service, I had the opportunity to hear about the challenges and areas for growth in Sedona and the Verde Valley. The vision of the program is to “inspire individuals to action” and I use that vision daily to find areas where I can make a difference, and assist in creating positive change.

After being involved with the struggles the district has faced over the last two years, I’ve seen firsthand that parent involvement is crucial. It became clear to me that I could be involved in the process, asking questions and finding solutions for the benefit of all children in the district. My son is in fourth grade at Big Park Community School and I’ve served on site council, as PTSA president, and currently serve at the state level for Arizona PTA. I view serving on the school board as the next step in my involvement to assist the district and create positive change for our students.

Q: SOCSD teachers are among the lowest paid in the state, resulting in high turnover, problems finding affordable housing and low morale. How will you raise salaries to keep teachers in Sedona and attract new teachers?

First, because Prop 123 passed, our teachers have been given a new salary schedule with increases and the average starting teacher salary has increased. That being said, I do think that with new board members seated, it will give the new team a chance to review the budget, and look at areas where change is in order. Our teachers are hard working, dedicated professionals and they deserve to have that reflected in their paychecks. I don’t think it’s an easy or clear answer as to how it can be accomplished until the board can sit down and work on it as a team.

Q: What do you feel is the top priority currently facing the school district?

I believe clear, honest and transparent communication with the community is crucial. Even if there are uncertain and difficult decisions to be made, open and honest communication can make the process more effective and create a cohesive environment.

I also believe strongly in the power of community/school partnerships and believe now is the time to engage the community and make the district more successful than ever.

Q: What’s your opinion of the recent restructuring of the schools within the district?

I think the community rallied to keep a school open, assist in creating new environments and opportunities for West Sedona to excel in the STEM program, Big Park to explore and work on the IB program, and the junior high was moved in order to keep the programs at the high school that were needed to attract and keep students. So far I’m hearing great things from parents and staff members from all schools and it appears to be working. But, it doesn’t mean the job is done. We can continue to work toward making our schools even better.

Q: In the last two years, the school board and administrators have faced scrutiny from parents, teachers and local media. What do you feel it will take to right the ship?

Again, open and honest communication, tapping into the incredible resources we have in our community from individuals and businesses who are ready to roll up their sleeves and help, and as the Arizona School Board Association points out, “the school board sets the tone for how the community sees the schools.” I believe with some fresh ideas, experienced professionals and dedicated individuals we can inspire parents and the community to have confidence in our school district again. If new board members keep front of mind- every student is affected by every decision the board makes — we can use that reminder to steer the course toward improvement and putting their educational needs first.

When I first listened to the AZSBA webinar about becoming a school board member, a key statement stood out to me, “school board members are to inspire parents to have confidence in their schools.” I want to feel that confidence as a parent, homeowner, business owner and community member. It’s time for all of us to have that confidence.


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