Meet the Mesa school board candidates (2022)

Meet the Mesa school board candidates (1)
  • Four contenders seek two seats on the Mesa school board.
  • The election is Nov. 4
  • Early voting begins Oct. 8
  • Key issues are class size%2C standards and school funding

Four candidates are competing for two four-year seats on the Mesa Public Schools governing board in the Nov. 4 general election.

The winners will replace Board President Mike Hughes and Board Clerk Michelle Udall, who are not running for re-election.

Candidates shared their views on topics from achievement to funding.

Dan Hink

Hink, 61, is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel and a retired Phoenix Union High School District teacher. He has a masters of administration degree from Central Michigan University, 30 graduate hours in educational administration from Ottawa University, and a bachelors of science degree from Arizona State University. He also is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

Hink has volunteered with the Mahnah Club of the East Valley, St. Mary's Food Bank and ,"Arizona Stand Down" to provide services and support to homeless veterans.

He has been married to Cherie Hink for 32 years. His children Christopher, Ryan and Katelin are graduates of Mountain View High School.

Why do you want to be a governing board member?

With my 40 years of experience in planning, prioritizing and budgeting, I know I can provide effective financial stewardship and accountability to the Mesa taxpayers, who fund our schools. As a teacher in both high schools and at the university level, I truly understand the challenges that face the students and the teachers. With my experience I believe I can provide the critical balance between the needs of the students and the always limited resources available to meet those needs.

What is the single most important issue in the district?

In my opinion it is high school graduation. The primary mission of the public schools is to ensure that each student moves through the educational landscape with the clear and attainable goal of a high school diploma. There is no more critical goal than a completed high school education. Every other rung on life's upward ladder is reached by succeeding in this first key accomplishment. Going on to college, technical school, trade schools and the many other career fields, all starts with a high school diploma.

(Video) Meet the Governing Board Candidates Public Forum - September 15, 2022

Arizona's educational dropout rate varies based on many factors, but overall, only 76 percent of our students graduate high school, leaving 24 percent facing a tough job market and limited future educational opportunities. Roughly, over 50 percent of those in jails and prisons do not have a high school diploma. This is an enormous problem, for every aspect of our society.

What can a governing board member do to improve academic achievement in the district?

The keys to academic achievement are high standards, and accountability for achieving those standards. The board must strive to provide a consistent and stable learning environment, allocating our limited resources to the most effective ways of learning and teaching, and to minimize "change for change's sake".

As a member of a five-person school board, it is vital that each member works to bring their own perspective on education, and for the board to work together to ensure a consensus on any decision. School board members must work with the superintendent and the district's staff to ensure that all actions are taken in light of this question; "How will this improve our student's learning, and our teacher's tasks?"

If the state Legislature releases the inflation funding to the public schools as the courts have ordered, how should the district spend the money?

The single best way to improve a teacher's effectiveness is to minimize class size.

The best application of resources in education is to maximize the time a student is directly engaged by a teacher or aide. Of course, hiring new teachers brings a whole set of additional costs; classrooms, textbooks, technology, support staff, on and on. But this is where we must put our resources; it is the most important aspect of education.

Jenny Richardson

Richardson, 45, has worked as a public elementary school teacher in California and Utah and has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Brigham Young University. She grew up in Mesa and is a Westwood High School graduate.

Richardson has served as a member of Mesa Parent Advocates for Quality Schools, the Mesa Public Schools Transforming Education Task Force, the Superintendent's Flash Committee on Grading Practices, Mesa Citizens for Responsible Public Policy, the Westwood Parent Group, the Carson Parent Group, and PTO/PTA organizations in California, Kentucky, Texas and Arizona.

She is married to Randy Richardson and has six children who either attend or have graduated from Mesa schools.

(Video) Meet the Governing Board Candidates Public Forum - September 29, 2022

Why do you want to be a governing board member?

I love Mesa and Mesa Public Schools. I am a product of its rich history and tradition and personally invested in its future success. I realize that as a parent, one of best things I can give my children is a strong educational background and a love of learning. I want this for all children living within our boundaries. It is an important investment in our future and in our community.

I believe families want strong neighborhood schools where they feel welcome and where their children are safe, curriculum they feel comfortable with and children who are motivated, challenged and well-prepared for higher education and successful careers.

As a board member, I will have a wider opportunity to work with families, educators, administrators and businesses to achieve those goals and help make sure our district's best days are ahead of us.

What is the single most important issue in the district?

The most important issue in Mesa Public Schools is to meet the needs of every student, every day. Making sure we funnel our limited resources into areas that can best translate into high achievement of each individual student should always be at the forefront of every decision we make.

What can a governing board member do to improve academic achievement in the district?

Individually, I believe a board member has little power. Working together, however, our governing board makes a huge difference in our district. I believe we must work together to set clear policy, specific goals and a vision of excellence for the district, hold administrators accountable for achievement of those goals, ensure that facilities are well-maintained and safe, allocate assets to promote high achievement of every student and support teachers in classrooms, choose curriculum that reflects the beliefs and attitudes of our community, recognize and celebrate successes and set the tone for healthy, professional, collaborative relationships in the district.

If the state Legislature releases the inflation funding to the public schools as the courts have ordered, how should the district spend the money?

It is important to realize that although the increased funding has been ordered, it hasn't yet been determined if or when the funding will be released. I understand if the full amount of the funding is released, it would only increase our base funding per student $279. Our district made many tough cuts over the last years to compensate for that lack of funding. They did a good job of trying to keep the cuts from affecting classroom learning, but those cuts have significantly affected morale in our schools.

The governing board will need to look closely at what programs and staff it should bring back, if the funding materializes. One area I would like to examine is programs to "grow our own" future administrators, by providing assistant principals at many of our high-population schools. Also, funding for high school counseling programs was cut. Increasing funding would translate into smoother registration processes and increased awareness for our students in preparing for and procuring scholarship dollars.

(Video) Meet the Governing Board Candidates Public Forum - September 29, 2020

Funding for soft capital accounts that will increase the district's ability to take advantage of digital software will be important to consider as technology plays a bigger role in education. Personally, I would love to see increased funding returned to teachers in compensation, benefits packages and programs bolstering the arts and gifted education in our district. Those programs play a big role in meeting the needs of every student, every day.

Benjamin Smith

Smith, 35, has a masters in business administration and owns an education technology company called Blended Learning Solutions LLC.He also is a Fiesta Bowl Parade Committee chairman.

Smith is married and has three children.

Why do you want to be a governing board member?

I have a passion for education, a strong desire to serve my community, and a love for the arts. I strongly believe that a thorough review of the budget and implemented technology will result in funds that can be reallocated to improve essential extracurricular activities such as; athletics, music, and creative arts in the Mesa Public Schools.

What is the single most important issue in the district?

As I gathered my signatures and met with the Mesa public, I found that the single most import issue in Mesa Schools is the perception of lack of equitable allocation of funds throughout the district.

What can a governing board member do to improve academic achievement in the district?

A governing board member has influence over the vision and policies within the district. As a board member, my focus will be initiating and supporting policies that emphasize supplemental learning programs to enhance intellectual growth.

If the state Legislature releases the inflation funding to the public schools as the courts have ordered, how should the district spend the money?

(Video) Meet the Governing Board Candidates Public Forum - October 3, 2018

My campaign has focused on the necessity of implementing and offering programs, such as athletic, music, and creative arts. I envision an allocation of those funds being directed towards these programs. I would also push for a percentage of the funds to be allocated to teacher salaries.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo

Villanueva-Saucedo, 44, has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in public administration from Arizona State University. She is the director of public outreach for Maricopa Community Colleges. Before that she was community liaison for Mesa Public Schools and Maricopa Community Colleges. She also has served as a neighborhood outreach for the city of Mesa.

Villanueva-Saucedo is a past PTO president for Holmes Elementary, has served on the Mesa Public Schools Planning and Boundary Design Advisory Committee and has served as chairwoman of the Mesa Housing Advisory Board. She is on the board of directors for A New Leaf, the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens, United Food Bank and the Mesa United Way.

She is married with one son, a Mesa Public Schools graduate.

Why do you want to be a governing board member?

As the daughter of an elementary school teacher, the wife of a school groundskeeper and the proud mom of a recent Mesa graduate, I bring a unique perspective to the role of governing board. I am fortunate enough to have always lived and worked in this great community of Mesa. We have numerous assets and strengths in Mesa but also numerous challenges. Many families are dealing with a variety of economic and social challenges. Having worked with a wide range of community members and agencies for more than 20 years, I bring this broad community perspective to the governing board. As we continue to keep Mesa a high achieving, financially sound, fiscally responsible pillar of our community we can't lose sight of those that are struggling and who may need additional assistance to find academic success. As a Mesa mom, I truly believe that Mesa Public Schools is a great choice for children and families in our community and offers great choices for parents looking to find the best environment for their student to find academic success. I want to bring my rich community experience and wide network of community contacts to keep this true moving into the future.

What is the single most important issue in the district?

There are many issues important to the district, several of which are interrelated. My focus as a governing board member would be to ensure that we are meeting the unique needs of each individual child and family while maintaining high expectations and valuing our teachers and staff. Each child has a unique set of skills, strengths, needs and challenges. Children also come to us from a variety of home situations with varied levels of preparation and school readiness. We must absolutely hold high expectations for each and every child while meeting their unique needs and supporting their academic success. This is a daunting challenge that our teachers face each day while under mounting pressure from state legislation and unfunded mandates. Making sure that our teachers and staff are valued and appreciated is imperative so that we can keep great educators in our classrooms and schools. It was heartbreaking, as a mom and PTO member to see wonderful educators leave Mesa, not to join another district or take another job but to leave teaching entirely because of the pressures involved.

What can a governing board member do to improve academic achievement in the district?

A governing board member can provide strong leadership to make sure that Mesa Public Schools continues to the lead the way in student success, fiscal responsibility and employee relations. Governing board members can set high expectations that each and every student that arrives at our doors will find their own academic success. A governing board member can provide financial oversight to make sure that our employees are valued and that dollars are spent wisely in the classroom. A governing board member should listen to a wide range of constituent concerns and ultimately make those difficult decisions that are in the best interest of students. A governing board member can take the time to research best practices and evidence based practices to find out what truly works in creating a district wide environment where all students can find success.

(Video) Vancouver Public Schools board candidates meeting with The Columbian's Editorial Board

If the state Legislature releases the inflation funding to the public schools as the courts have ordered, how should the district spend the money?

In the classroom. Our students deserve a variety of tools, both technological and otherwise, that meet their range of learning styles. Our educators deserve to have adequate supplies and resources to meet the unique needs and challenges of the children in their classrooms.

The winners will replace board president Mike Hughes and board clerk Michelle Udall, who are not running for re-election.


1. Mesa Public Schools hosts forum for governing board candidates
(ABC15 Arizona)
2. Carroll ISD Parents Pack School Board Meeting Following Administrator's Secretly-Recorded Holocaust
3. Mesa public schools holding special meeting
(ABC15 Arizona)
4. Meet the Candidates for Groton Town Council 2017
(Groton Municipal Television)
5. Ravenswood School Board Candidate Interview - Laura Nunez, con los subtítulos en Español
(Palo Alto Online)
6. Governing Board Special Meeting - September 6, 2022
(Mesa Public Schools)

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