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Sat, March 23

Arizona superintendent talks about Mayer schools in State of Education speech

Kathy Hoffman

Kathy Hoffman

Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Education Kathy Hoffman mentioned Mayer Unified School District prominently in her Feb. 4 State of Education speech to the House of Representatives.

In her address, Hoffman talked about a visit to Mayer High School where she learned about Future Farmers of America (FFA), a leadership, agriculture and animal program for high school students. She described the school’s 85-acre Land Laboratory with its greenhouse, aquaculture center, metal shop and farm animals.

“Last year, 13 of the chapter’s students received Industry Welding Certificates, and their chapter president received a scholarship to participate in a leadership conference in Washington, D.C. This past January, the students were awarded a $1,200 grant to clean up Big Bug Creek following the fires and floods that devastated their community in 2017,” she said.

The lack of affordable housing in the area contributes to high teacher turnover rate, one of the challenges facing this district as well as other rural school districts. Hoffman spoke of a teacher living in an RV near Mayer High School. The list of challenges and obstacles is not short, she added.

One area she wants to focus on in the state is creating an inclusive environment that supports children from all backgrounds and all types of families. “A simple step we can take to help reduce discrimination and bullying for these students is to repeal the ‘no promo homo’ law,” Hoffman said, calling the policy outdated and saying it “contributes to an unsafe school environment.”

The statute in question permits schools to provide education on AIDS and HIV, but also makes it illegal to include anything in the program that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle” or “portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle.”

In her speech, Hoffman identified other top priorities including:

Teacher shortages

With only 150 physics teachers in the state, she said that’s one reason Arizona has only 20 percent of high schoolers taking physics, making it difficult to convince students to become engineers, scientists or doctors.

Class size

Teachers with 30 or more students find it difficult to provide individualized attention to students, particularly those facing depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. Hoffman said that also points out the need for more counselors.

English learners

Hoffman supports legislation to allow students with limited English proficiency to spend more time in general education coursework with native English-speaking peers. She said research indicates that actually improves the success of the English-learner students.

Charter schools

Hoffman wants to require charter schools to have the same financial accountability as public schools, especially when purchasing goods and services.

Support staff

Hoffman said that the raises promised to teachers exclude art, music, and special education teachers as well as counselors and speech therapists. She wants a “dedicated, sustainable funding source” that need not go to the ballot.

Capitol Media Services reporter Howard Fischer contributed to this article.

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