Thu, Dec. 05

Full House: Seven candidates seek three seats on Mingus school board

Rodney Fielitz

Rodney Fielitz

Voters in the Mingus Union High School District have seven choices for the school board's three seats that are up for election.

Board Member Tom Parmarter is the only incumbent running for re-election. Board President Bryan Detwiler and Board Member Scott Stokes, both incumbents, are not running for re-election.

Six challenging candidates round out the field: Tom Mulcaire, Mike Mulcaire, John Tavasci, Ron Agoglia, Rodney Fielitz, and Brenda Zenan.

The Verde Independent sent questionnaires to all seven candidates with the same two questions that have been sent to candidates for the Clarkdale-Jerome and the Cottonwood-Oak Creek district boards.

The questions are 1) Why are you qualified to serve on the school board? 2) What is the most important issue facing the school district and how would you address it?

Tom Parmarter, 70, lives in Clarkdale and is a retired aerospace manager.

"Prior to moving to the Verde Valley in 1994, I was the industry representative for the vocational programs in the Grossmont School District in San Diego, Calif. I have served for two years on the MUHS Site Council and two years on the governing board at the Verde Valley Christian School. In 2000 I was elected to the Mingus Union Governing Board and re-elected in 2004. During this time I have not only acquired experience, but have taken advantage of many opportunities to advance my skills and knowledge as a board member such as law conferences, open meeting requirements and good boardsmanship.

"There are several issues facing MUHS district which I feel must be addressed. First, the board must move to begin rebuilding the fractured trust between the administration, staff, board and the community. This can only be accomplished by laying out a specific strategic short and long-term plan and sticking to it. This process will take time and should be public," Parmarter stated. "We need to ensure the bond renovations approved overwhelmingly by the community are completed on time and under budget."

John Tavasci Jr., 61, lives in Clarkdale and is self-employed with an employment agency. He is a former superintendent of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.

"I've dedicated my entire life to education and the service of children. I have been a 5th grade teacher, a special ed teacher, a director of special education, a principal and a superintendent. I also taught postgraduate courses in school law, school finance, the principalship and leadership at NAU for 20 years.

"The school board sets policy and hires effective leadership to carry out that policy. Having had 19 years experience working with school boards as a superintendent I know the difference between setting policy and micromanaging, if elected I'm looking forward to participating with four other board members in setting policy and letting someone else do the work this time."

On what he sees as the most important issue facing the district, Tavasci said, "If elected I need to spend a lot of time learning what the issues and challenges are for MUHS. It would be premature for me to try and answer this question until I have access to all facets of any problems that may exist and hear all sides to an issue. At that point I will rely on my 30 years of experience and then add my voice to four other board members in pursuit of solutions. I'm certain that I will discover many strengths as I get to know this school community. I graduated from MUHS in 1965 and my pride in that school will be a great start for me. Spending priorities will be of great interest to me."

Rodney A. Fielitz, 57, lives in Clarkdale and is a real estate broker.

"I have been involved in and with the schools since living in Arizona. I help with Clarkdale schools, Cottonwood schools, and for the past three years been involved with Mingus High. Worked on the committee to pass the bond for the remodeling of Mingus High. Also a board member with the Mingus Connection, having owned and operated successful businesses. Having common sense, making important decisions, being able to communicate with the public, being honest and fair."

Fielitz sees the most important issue as "Giving our kids the best education we can. Keeping the good teachers and their benefits. Watch how the money is spent, make sure we get the best deals."

Mike Mulcaire, 52, owns Mike Mulcaire excavating Inc. in Cottonwood.

"I served for 12 years on the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Board. For 10 years of which I was president of the governing board. During my tenure, I proved time and again that I am an advocate for youth in our community. I believe in accountability in our schools, a responsible budget management system and interaction between our schools and our community."

Regarding what the most important issue is, Mulcaire says, "There appears to be several issues circulating within the community, but until I am elected and can gather all of the information I need to make an informed decision, I can not predict how I will address any issues. I will promise to gather the facts, keep an open mind and base my decisions on what is best for the students and the taxpayers of the Mingus Union District."

Brenda Zenan, 58, lives in Cottonwood and is a retired and substitute teacher at Arizona Upgrade Academy.

"I am retired from the Bureau of Land Management after 33 years of service. Prior to my retirement I managed a multi-billion-dollar land conveyance program in Alaska and supervised a staff of 80 employees for approximately 10 years. My work required negotiations with land and mineral developers, environmental organizations, over 200 Native tribes, and other federal and state agencies.

"I have the expertise to set achievable goals, to balance a multi-million-dollar budget, and to work with diverse individuals and groups to achieve common objectives. Although I have never served on a school board, over the years I have been active in various PTAs/PTOs and involved in my children's school activities. I do not want to be on the MUHS Governing Board for personal benefit. I have no future political ambitions, my children have finished high school, and I have no relatives who work or have contracts with the school. I have the management experience to facilitate teamwork in the decision-making process, to ensure that personnel issues are handled professionally in accordance with procedures; and to reestablish a basis of trust among the board, school administrators and employees, students, parents, and the community."

Zenan stated that, "The most important issue facing the MUHS District is a means to achieve a high quality education opportunity that attracts students to attend and to graduate from MUHS. To accomplish this we need to create a climate of trust among administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Providing easily understood well-publicized, advanced agendas of all school board meetings and the encouragement of public attendance can help create that trust. Promises made should be promises kept. High morale among teachers is fundamental for improving student attitudes toward education. Board members need to understand all sources of financial support, federal, state and local and which decisions can adversely affect these sources. More thought should be given to how these funds are used to achieve high quality education that is student friendly."

Ron Agoglia, 61, lives in Cottonwood and is a security guard.

"I have served on a school board back East. I have worked at the school for two years and I believe in getting involved in the community. I truly believe I can help the school."

Agoglia says the most important issue is, "getting the school back on track, getting trust within the MUHS family and making the community feel like they are part of that family. We need to rebuild trust and openness in decision making. A transparent school board."

Tom Mulcaire did not return his questionnaire.

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