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Getting to know Amy Bhola

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

Amy and I live in the same neighborhood, and we forged our friendship at the school bus stop. I always appreciated Amy's friendly smile and her willingness to volunteer at the school on a committee that engaged students to serve those in need. Fast forward to these past couple years, and I was especially grateful that she was on our school board. Amy Bhola maintained poise, thoughtful openness to differing situations and a vastly wide-range of opinions from the community, and went about her governance with wisdom, faithfully and patiently putting in long hours to guide the best path for the district. To help others get to know Amy Bhola too, I peppered her with questions and am sharing her unedited responses here.

Amy Bhola, can you share a brief biography to give our readers the opportunity know a bit more about your background?

I am a native Arizonan who has attended public schools for my entire educational career. I attended the University of Arizona where I earned a BA in Elementary Education. While I was teaching in Phoenix, I earned a Masters in Education and Middle School Endorsement from Northern Arizona University on the ASU campus. My career included 11 years teaching middle school math & science in three different school districts and two states. During my teaching career, I held numerous leadership positions including serving on the Amphitheater District Math Committee, as the grade level team leader for four years, and as a cooperating teacher for several student teachers at Akimel A-Al Middle School in Kyrene USD.

I also served on the Career Ladder team in Kyrene and was a lead teacher for Kyrene Science Academy in collaboration with Gilbert Community College – the program was created to facilitate a greater understanding of science for at-risk middle and high school female students. Other leadership positions included Peer Coaching for 1st year math teachers, Site-based Council Representative, School Improvement Plan Coordinator, District Science Assessment Development Committee, Math/Science District Conference Committee and sponsor of Math Olympiad. I was honored with the Compaq Technology in Education Award of Excellence and was Nominated by Akimel A-al’s principal for the Arizona Science Teacher of the Year Award.

More recent work experience has been in the non-profit sector, including as the Volunteer Manager for Imagine Greater Tucson, a community-based effort dedicated to protecting & enhancing our quality of life in the greater Tucson region. I also ran a successful small business for 10 years.

What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve on the school board?

Both my professional and volunteer experiences have prepared me to serve on the school board. My years in the classroom allow me to view my role on the board from an educator’s perspective. You will often hear me ask during meetings how a decision might benefit our students, the impact it will have on our teachers and whether it will increase their workload. I also have a deep understanding of student learning, curriculum, and assessment.

Much of the work we do on the school board sets the direction for the district and ensures that it is well-run. Working in three different school districts allowed me to witness a range of governance competency and ethics and see how the culture in a district can be impacted by board decisions. In addition, I gained first-hand knowledge of how effective strategic planning and high-quality curriculum foster excellence in instruction and achievement. From the onset of my teaching career, I have volunteered on initiatives which focused on supporting our students and teachers through adequate funding for public education.

Volunteering has been an integral part of my life. It has allowed me, and frequently propelled me into, leadership positions. My love of learning, desire for personal development, and ability to build connections have helped me grow into an empathetic, collaborative, and reliable leader. In the Tucson community, I served on the board of Junior League for many years, including a term as president, which honed my governance skills. As past president, I developed a JLT Community Project in collaboration with Lend A Hand Neighborhood Coalition and Pima Council on Aging. JLT CARES was created to provide safe, accessible and energy efficient homes to seniors within the greater Tucson community. For 23 years, I have served as an advisor to a women’s organization at the University of Arizona. For the past 6 years, I have served the same organization on a national leadership level.

How long have you lived in CFSD?

My family and I have lived here for 24 years.

What experiences have you had with CFSD up to this point?

We know we are fortunate to be part of Catalina Foothills, a community which understands the value of and is willing to support public education. For the past 14 years, much of my life has revolved around my children and their outstanding educational experience. I have watched them grow into critical thinkers and independent learners, under the guidance of knowledgeable, motivated, and inspirational teachers. CFSD has prepared them exceptionally well for college and life beyond.

From the day my son started Kindergarten at Sunrise Drive through my daughter’s graduation in May of this year, I have actively volunteered in their classrooms and in their schools. At Sunrise, I worked on the Math-a-thon, and Spirit of Sunrise fundraising campaign. I was instrumental in developing a Science Day in tandem with the Science Fair at Sunrise. Science Day brought in professionals in science-related fields, including UofA professors, to provide interactive seminars with the students at all grades. I also worked with other parents to bring a community garden to Sunrise and then worked with teachers on lessons in the garden which supported the existing science curriculum. I was awarded a CFSD Super Volunteer Award for my volunteer work at Sunrise Drive.

As my children moved to middle school, classroom volunteering opportunities were not as frequent but I continued to lend my time to various tasks and co-chaired the Student Action Committee which encouraged OGMS students to donate time and energy to community members in need. When they moved to the high school, I volunteered for their athletic boosters and clubs in addition to FFO-led committees such as Fall Fling, Spirit Wear and Grad Night. As previously mentioned, I also served on the CFSD Foundation Board.

What motivated you to become a candidate for the CFSD school board? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?

Public Education is my profession and my passion. This was never more true than when my own children started school.

When the state made draconian cuts to education funding in 2008, I saw a threat to the quality of my kids’ education. My concerns over increased class sizes and the potential loss of supplemental programming spurred me to reach out to CFSD school board members and the superintendent. I was struck both by their responsiveness and their willingness to engage in in-depth conversations about planned mitigation strategies to keep the cuts as far from the students as possible. Their answers to my questions were candid and they offered ways that parents could support our students and schools.

This led me to volunteer on FRIENDS (Foothills Residents Involved in Educational Needs of District Students), the CFSD Foundation, and eventually to run for a board position where I felt I could have the greatest impact on continuing CFSD’s long tradition of excellence.

If elected, what are 3 priorities you hope to accomplish in the next four years?

One, I will continue to work with my colleagues and the administration to attract and retain high-quality educators. I will prioritize investing in our teachers and providing the resources they need, understanding they have the most direct impact on student achievement.

Two, I will advocate for our students. I will learn, listen, and engage with the Arizona School Board Association and our CFSD community to provide the best education possible for our students.

And three, I will work with my colleagues and the administration to secure more mental health support for our students and faculty. I will engage our community to understand what additional support we need, and identify specific ways to deliver that support.

What do you see as the role of a school board member? Is that happening in CFSD?

The role of a school board member is to work collaboratively with other board members to set policy and goals that provide educational opportunities for students, to communicate effectively with stakeholders (community, parents, students, staff), and to serve as an advocate for students.

Yes, I believe this is happening in CFSD. Something that is often misunderstood is that the board does not interfere in the day-to-day operations of the district and that no individual board member has authority to act on behalf of the entire board or the district. Although our board does not always agree, we interact in a professional manner and we understand that the majority decision rules. We genuinely are committed to listening to each other’s views and we are committed to allowing for public input during meetings. In addition, we allow the experts at the district level to do their jobs but are not afraid to ask tough questions to ensure decisions are in line with policies, goals, and student success.

As the employer of the superintendent, one of a school board member’s roles is to provide guidance for annual goals and evaluation. In my experience, this is a collaborative and timely way to help set the direction of the district for the year and to ensure adherence to the district mission, vision, and strategic plan.

What differentiates you from the other candidates?

My experience as a classroom educator sets me apart. I have found that each school board member brings their own life and professional experience to the board and in a best case scenario, this helps to create a well-rounded board with diversity of thought. Because of my schooling and experience in education, I often look at issues from a different perspective than my colleagues. I have knowledge of what enhances student achievement and like to think I have the ability to spot what looks like a short-term educational fad or trend. I also understand the lingo. ;

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