Meet Our Candidates: Betts Putnam-Hidalgo for Tucson Unified School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must register to vote by October 10 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

betts-putnam-hidalgo-scaledBetts Putnam-Hidalgo, a lifelong social activist and a fixture at Tucson Unified School District Governing Board meetings, is running for the board for the third time. The at-large position is nonpartisan.

The retired landscaper studied at the University of Arizona and at New Mexico University. Her family, which includes several enormous dogs, lives in a historic downtown Tucson neighborhood.

In its 2014 endorsement of her, the Arizona Daily Star said that the system badly needed new leadership, and that Putnam-Hidalgo “best” understood “the complex issues facing TUSD. The board must make tough decisions to focus a district that has lost about 13,000 students in the last 12 years.” The paper noted that despite her loss two years earlier, Putnam-Hidalgo

still kept up her regular attendance at board meetings. She’s also been actively involved in school site councils, served as a community representative and taught English as a second language to parents.

She speaks with enthusiasm of participating in parent leadership training through Voices for Education as a starting point for her advocacy. Her positions include supporting an internal auditor, reducing kindergarten through third-grade class sizes to 18 and making schools a neighborhood hub for social services as well as education.

A board adversary on one issue may be an ally on the next, she says, indicating she will not vote with a bloc on the board [and] … she’d ensure the authority line clearly reflects that “the superintendent works for the board.”

These same points are in her platform today. In addition to increased honesty and transparency in the district, she is calling for an end to abusively high administrative costs and low classroom funding. She will not support enormous compensation packages for the superintendent or other administrators while TUSD teachers and staff are among the lowest paid across surrounding districts. She notes that with the current pay structure, “the further one is from the students, the more compensation one receives. This is backwards and dangerous.”


“When it comes to avoiding teen pregnancy and having healthy relationships, ignorance is dangerous.”


The native New Yorker came to Arizona in the 1970s and came to her interest in TUSD through her son, now 16. She was 45 when he was born, already stepmother to two boys.

“When we lived in New Mexico, before my own son was born, the military recruiters started to call for my stepsons. I could not get them to stop. That was when I knew there was activism to be done in the schools,” Putnam-Hidalgo told us in an August 26, 2016, phone interview, during which she answered the following questions.

TUSD recently voted to include comprehensive sexuality education in its classrooms. What would you like this new curriculum to look like?

I’m really excited about it being a whole lot more than just name-the-body-parts. From what I understood from a number of high school students, they want [information about] how emotions and sexual contact intersect … I had that at a private school in the eighth grade: how sexual activity was nothing to be ashamed of and should be fun. We made fun of the teacher at the time but I now realize she was a revolutionary! Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Kristel Foster for Tucson Unified School Board

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the primary election, you need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!

kristel fosterKristel Ann Foster is a Spanish-speaking educator first elected to the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board in 2012. She’s seeking a second term. A language-acquisition specialist with degrees from Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona, she’s spent her entire career teaching and developing curricula — in Sunnyside Unified School District; at the University of Arizona, as a clinical assistant professor; in the Aurora, Colorado, public schools; and at the Discovery School in Cuernavaca, Mexico.


“Knowledge empowers individuals to better their lives.”


Foster has said that she’s proud of her work with Superintendent H.T. Sanchez and fellow Board members Cam Juarez and Adelita Grijalva to craft a Five Year Strategic Plan that offers “continuity, stability, and articulated vision [that] was missing for a long time in TUSD.’’

“I am an educator who understands how critical the political process and actions by elected officials are to the effectiveness and success of our public schools,’’ Foster writes on her Facebook page. “I am also aware of the serious attacks that public programs are under. My passion for quality public education and dedication to the students and teachers in our community inspire my service on the Tucson Unified School District’s Governing Board.’’

Foster responded by email on July 21, 2016, to questions Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona posed.

Tell us a little about your background and why it’s important to you to be involved with education in your community.

I am an educator with 25 years of teaching experience. I’ve directly experienced policy decisions in the classroom and know how these affect teaching and learning. I’m honored to bring this perspective to the discussions we have on the TUSD Board as we move our school district forward. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Fred DuVal for Governor of Arizona

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early ballots need to go out in today’s mail! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Fred DuVal scaledIn recent years, many Arizonans have been rightly concerned by members of the Legislature passing bills that are overtly partisan, regressive, and extreme. As part of the executive branch of the government, one of the governor’s roles and responsibilities is to act as a check-and-balance on the Legislature: The governor can veto bills that are harmful. A governor who is consistently on the side of sexual and reproductive health care access could, at the very least, make it much more difficult for members of the Legislature to continue attacking women, the LGBTQ community, and organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Fred DuVal will be that governor. In addition to making education a fundamental platform in his campaign, Mr. DuVal has consistently placed himself in support of equal rights and meaningful health care access.

All of this is of vital importance, but none of it gets at the real reason I’m voting for Fred DuVal on November 4. During the course of this election, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with or meet a number of candidates, including the opportunity to meet Mr. DuVal twice through some campaign volunteer events organized by the Arizona Education Association. What struck me most about him was his willingness to listen — not just stop talking, but really step back and listen — to questions voters were asking or experiences they were sharing.

Put all of that together, and I know he’s the kind of person I want representing me.

Fred DuVal was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions earlier this month.


“Extremism has dominated Arizona’s political landscape for far too long.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in Tucson, Arizona. After graduating from Occidental College, I returned to Arizona, where I earned my law degree from Arizona State University. I went on to serve in Bruce Babbit’s office, helping craft our Medicaid system and bringing the highest levels of education funding in state history. I have dedicated my life to making my state a better place to live and raise a family. I intend to continue that as Arizona’s next governor. My wife Jennifer and I live in Phoenix with our 4-year-old son. Our older son, Will, attends college and is an ROTC cadet.

Outgoing Gov. Jan Brewer had a major accomplishment when she pushed through Medicaid expansion, despite opposition from within her own party. What will you do to build upon that success and ensure that every Arizonan has access to quality health care?

I applaud Gov. Brewer’s decision to continue to fund Medicaid. Arizona’s AHCCCS system has been praised as one of the best in the country, and as governor I would keep it that way. I fully intend on keeping Medicaid expansion; ensuring all Arizonans have access to high-quality, affordable health care is one of the main goals of my administration. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Daniel Hernandez Jr. for Sunnyside Unified School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Daniel HernandezExtending from south Tucson to Sahuarita and from I-19 to Wilmot Road, Sunnyside Unified School District includes 14 elementary schools, five middle schools, and three high schools. Its student body, which totals 17,400, comprises an overwhelming majority of Hispanic students. In this year’s election cycle, three candidates are vying for two open spots on Sunnyside Unified’s school board. One of these candidates is Daniel Hernandez Jr., up for reelection for the first time since taking office in 2011.

Currently the acting president of the governing board, Hernandez was once a student in Sunnyside Unified School District. Although he is not even 25 years old, Hernandez already boasts incredible political experience. He has worked for numerous congressional campaigns, and he passed his first bill at 19 years old. After the shooting at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event, where he was working as an intern, Hernandez felt compelled to give back to the public by running for office. Since 2011, he has been a passionate advocate for students as a member of Sunnyside’s board. He hopes to maintain his position so that he may continue to improve public education in Arizona.

On October 23, Mr. Hernandez took time out of his busy schedule to meet me for coffee and discuss the issues surrounding the upcoming election.


“I’m hoping to work with next year’s board members to make sure that comprehensive sex ed becomes solidified in policy.”


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a Tucson native. I grew up on the south side in Sunnyside Unified School District, which is the district where I am now the president. I was born in the 1990s so I’m a little on the young side, but I’ve already had a lot of interesting experiences working in public policy and politics.

My first foray into politics was back in 2007 working on the Hillary for President campaign. I then worked on Gabby Gifford’s campaign for Congress, which led me to spend a lot of time thinking about the influence of policy. After her campaign ended in 2008, I became part of the Arizona Students’ Association, which works to make sure that students have all the resources they need to be successful. We have three public universities in Arizona (ASU, NAU, and U of A), and I was part of a team that represented all 150,000 students in the university system. I lobbied at the Legislature and got my first bill passed when I was 19. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Allison Ewers for Kyrene School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

A._Ewers_headshotKyrene School District encompasses Ahwatukee as well as parts of Chandler, Guadalupe, Tempe, and the Gila River Indian Reservation. It is home to approximately 18,000 students in 19 elementary schools and six middle schools.

In a state that doesn’t mandate sex education of any kind for its students, abstinence-only education — or the complete absence of any sexuality education programs whatsoever — is the norm in Arizona. Kyrene School District currently uses abstinence-only-until marriage curricula, but supplements the information with outside sources, for instance by inviting representatives from the health department to talk to students about sexually transmitted diseases and condom use. While this kind of supplemental information is good, the school district has the opportunity to deliver much better sexuality education to its students.

Allison Ewers is uniquely positioned to bring her background in sensitive and inclusive educational curricula to help Kyrene improve its sex education programs to be truly comprehensive. On October 19, she shared with us her vision for public education in Kyrene, and how her unique background will inform her participation on the school board.


“Education is power, and … our children can use that power to keep themselves safe.”


Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a proud resident of the Kyrene School District and graduate of the public school and university system in Arizona. I will work hard to ensure that our children have the same opportunities for success that I have had.

I am currently a producer for HP2, Inc., a local Arizona small business. My involvement in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, the Arizona Science Fair, Arizona Local First, One Community, and the Arizona Small Business Association has allowed me to see firsthand the crippling effect that discrimination has had on our state. This makes it much more difficult to attract high-wage, technically advanced business to the Valley.

When I travel worldwide, I am often asked, “What is wrong with Arizona? There seems to be so much hate.” I am working to change this reputation. It is time for strong leaders in our schools and our state Legislature. I can no longer stand by and watch this happen to the reputation of a state that I am so proud of, so I have chosen to step up. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Brian Davidson for Osborn School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Among elected officials, school board members are in a unique position to directly affect the lives of students under their governance. When a school board understands that accurate, comprehensive, and inclusive sex education is part of a well-rounded education for all students, it can help empower students to make informed, healthy relationship choices and to respect the humanity and diversity of the individuals they’ll encounter in their lives.

Brian Davidson has lived in the Central Phoenix Osborn School District for 10 years, where he’s been an active community volunteer in that time. Currently, Mr. Davidson seeks to serve his community by running for Osborn School Board, where he plans to advocate for smaller class sizes, continued arts and music education — areas that have been cut in many districts throughout the state — and more classroom resources for teachers.


“Children need to be empowered with information about their bodies and prepared to make responsible decisions by the time they are in middle school and high school.”


Brian Davidson was kind enough to take the time for an interview on October 16, 2014.

Tell us a little about yourself.

A third generation Phoenician, I grew up on the west side of Phoenix. After attending Phoenix College, I graduated from Northern Arizona University. I worked for nonprofits focused on education and career development. From 2003 through 2011, I worked in environmental policy for the State of Arizona and the Environmental Protection Agency. A resident of Central Phoenix since 2002, I served on the Encanto Village Planning Committee and the Woodlea Melrose neighborhood board. I live with my wife Michelle and two children.

Why is it important to you to be involved with education in your community?

As the parent of two school-age children, the quality of our public education system is of fundamental concern to our family. I want to ensure every child in our community has access to a world-class education. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Adelita Grijalva for Tucson Unified School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Adelita GrijalvaSchool board elections, often overshadowed by high-profile congressional and presidential campaigns, directly impact the lives of voters and their children.  It is critically important that we elect qualified school board members in order to ensure the quality of Arizona’s public schools.

For the past 12 years as a Tucson Unified School District board member, Adelita Grijalva has worked tirelessly as an advocate for students and their families. She has fought for a number of important changes, including smaller class sizes, increased funding for music and the arts, and improvements in technology throughout the district. Ms. Grijalva, the acting president of the TUSD Board, is seeking reelection so that she may continue working toward equity and excellence in education for all K-12 students in Arizona.

On October 10, Ms. Grijalva took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to speak with me about some of the important issues surrounding the 2014 school board elections.


“TUSD was the first in the nation to adopt an anti-discrimination policy that includes gender identity.”


Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a Tucson native born and raised, and I have three children, two of whom are school age and attending a TUSD elementary. I work at a nonprofit organization named Pima Prevention Partnership, and I’m the director for Pima County Teen Court, a juvenile diversion program. I’ve been there for 19 years.

I was involved in politics very young. My father ran for office when I was 1 [year old], and every election since then we’ve been involved in somebody’s campaign, whether it be his or a friend or someone else we support. Every campaign season — every November —  I’ve been part of a campaign.

I ran for office 12 years ago, and I’ve been on Tucson Unified School District’s Governing Board since then. Continue reading