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Getting to know Amy Krauss

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

The past couple years have been challenging for all of us. I was especially grateful for the extra time, energy, professionalism, and careful consideration that the CFSD board demonstrated in navigating the district through such difficult, unchartered territory. Amy Krauss 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 Krauss too, I peppered her with questions and am sharing her unedited responses here.

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

My family moved to Tucson when I was 11 years old, which by Tucson standards makes me practically a native! I attended Emily Gray Jr. High and then Rincon High School. After a gap year, I completed a B.A. in Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona, followed by a J.D. from Tulane Law School in 1991. I returned to Tucson to begin my career, and the added bonus was meeting my husband, who was attending the University of Arizona College of Law. In September we’ll celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary.

My work has been almost exclusively in public service, first as a public defender, then as a federal prosecutor. I’ve been a self-employed criminal defense lawyer for the past 18 years, primarily doing appellate work in the federal court system. I also regularly volunteer with Step Up 2 Justice, a local legal services organization, to advise self-represented clients who have filed or are considering filing a lawsuit in federal court to address a grievance.

I started working from home when my boys were ages 4 and 6. Doing so enabled me to regularly volunteer in their classrooms, from the time they started attending CFSD schools in kindergarten and first grade. Seeing the incredible talent and passion of our educators is what inspired me to become more involved in school activities, FFO leadership and, eventually, run for a seat on the CFSD Governing Board.

I was raised to strive to be a better listener than talker, and to try to understand perspectives that may be different from my own. My parents taught me that if I believed strongly in something, I had a responsibility to get involved and not expect others to do the work. They emphasized the importance of being willing to walk the talk. These are some of the principles that have guided me throughout my life and are reflected in my professional and personal endeavors.

Outside of work, one of my favorite things to do is travel. I love studying the history of a place, meeting locals, and learning about other cultures. Cities or beaches, mountains or deserts, within the United States or beyond our borders, all travel excites me. I especially love learning about a place through their food, since I enjoy cooking and am always interested in finding new recipes to try.

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

My skills and experiences as an attorney are well-suited to board service, for several reasons. I understand and respect the laws relating to school governance, such as Arizona’s Open Meeting Law. I have the ability to critically read statutes, which is helpful when reviewing board policies because so many are based on our state statutes. I understand that reasonable minds can differ on matters of great importance, such as how to best educate K-12 students. Finding common ground and reaching consensus, even when there is passionate disagreement, is a skill that I have honed over the years, and which is absolutely vital for successful school board work. So too is the ability to listen and express oneself clearly both orally and in writing. Throughout my career I’ve worked to find solutions for people who have a range of capabilities as well as challenges. All of these skills and experiences apply to making the school board function in a healthy and productive manner.

As a current board member, I regularly attend FFO meetings at each of our 8 schools as well as District-wide FFO meetings. This provides an excellent opportunity to hear what’s happening at each school, and to get to know District families. I am accessible through email or by phone to any constituent who wants to reach me. I believe I can best serve CFSD families by understanding their needs, concerns, and priorities for their children's education.

In addition, I regularly attend conferences, seminars, and webinars offered by the Arizona School Boards Association in order to help ensure that our board engages in best practices to achieve results, and to fulfill my duties as an individual board member by staying abreast of issues facing public education. I also attend quarterly meetings with board members from other public school districts in Pima County. Every opportunity to learn about the challenges and successes in other schools is valuable to my work as a board member.

My personal experience with two children who have very different interests, skill-sets and challenges also shapes my perspective as a board member. I understand first-hand that there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. Rather, in order for students to thrive they should have the support they need to succeed based on their individual learning styles and interests. In my view, educational opportunity is the key to instilling the growth mindset that will allow students to become confident, lifelong learners and responsible citizens.

How long have you lived in CFSD?

In 2001 my husband and I made a conscious decision to purchase a home within CFSD boundaries. It was important to us, both having been educated in public school systems, that our children attend public schools. We were impressed with the rigorous curriculum and wide range of educational opportunities that CFSD provides. This was one of the most impactful and valuable decisions we made for our family.

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

As I said earlier, I was fortunate to be able to volunteer in my sons’ classrooms on a regular basis. Throughout their elementary school years in particular, I was frequently in their classrooms, often weekly. I chaired the Lunch Program at Manzanita when it was run wholly by parents, and in that role became involved in the FFO. Over the years I served in various roles within the FFO leadership, eventually becoming co-President.

In elementary school and middle school, I helped with special events like school plays, science fairs, philanthropy projects, and I chaperoned more field trips than I could count (including Manzanita’s 3-day science camp in Payson). I served on Orange Grove’s FFO leadership as the Grant’s Chair, which enabled me to better understand the needs of teachers, and to help provide them with resources for special projects that were important to them. I also served as Orange Grove’s liaison to the CFSD Foundation during the 2008 school year, when funding for public education was drastically cut and the role of the Foundation became even more critical. That experience helped me to understand and appreciate not only the financial value of the Foundation, but the power of community partnerships in achieving CFSD’s mission.

I was also very involved in the High School’s Grad Night for more than a decade, beginning when my boys were still in elementary school. The event aims to keep our graduates safe by providing an all-night celebration in the HS gym. It takes months of planning as well as hundreds of volunteers to put on. I love Grad Night in particular because I think it exemplifies one of the best parts of CFSD, that is, the whole community coming together to take care of our graduates.

If I had to sum up “my experiences in CFSD” I’d have to say it’s all about community - at each school and throughout the entire school system.

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

My initial motivation to run grew organically from my involvement for many years at the school level. As co-President of Manzanita’s FFO, I attended monthly District FFO meetings, where I heard what was happening at each CFSD school, Community Schools, and the Foundation. I began to understand how District policies affect the learning experiences of every student, and that prompted me to think about expanding my volunteer service to the District in a more comprehensive role.

Before deciding to run, I attended board meetings for several months to get a better idea of what board work really entails. Fortunately for me, that coincided with the adoption of our current strategic plan. I was impressed with the depth of research (set out in the Reframing Report that is available on CFSD’s website) that preceded the adoption of the plan. Hearing the administrators and board members commit to creating an educational system that provides a foundation for the success of all CFSD students, and hearing the specific ways that goal will be accomplished, inspired me to want to join the board. After two terms on the governing board, my motivation to deliver on that goal is as strong as ever.

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

One, I will continue to put students first by providing the best education possible. Our most important responsibility as Governing Board members is to serve CFSD's children by providing the best education possible with the resources that are available.

Two, 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.

And three, I will promote students' social and emotional well-being. I will advocate for investing in school counselors and a proactive counseling curriculum to promote students' social and emotional development.

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

Every decision at the board table should be made from the perspective of putting students first. Our most important responsibility is to serve the District’s children by providing the best education possible with the resources that are available. While student achievement is the overarching goal, a board member must also take into consideration the concerns of parents, employees and taxpayers.

I do think this is happening in CFSD. The Board uses several modalities to accomplish its goals. For instance, every year we go through a process to articulate specific performance goals for the Superintendent. Progress toward those goals is measured twice annually. Surveys of students, parents and staff are another useful tool the board relies on to inform our decision-making. Most important, perhaps, is that every major policy, budgetary and curricular decision is preceded by a period of data collection, study and extensive discussion prior to implementation. The materials are posted online, and discussions are considered during board meetings that are open to the public, where public comment is always welcome. The board’s strict adherence to open meeting laws ensures transparency, so that parents, employees and taxpayers are never in the dark about what topics are being addressed at the board level. Board members must continue to be accessible and responsive to the feedback we receive from all stakeholders.

What differentiates you from the other candidates?

My track record of dedicated experience in our schools and with our Governing Board differentiates me from many of the other candidates. For the past two decades, I’ve continuously engaged in various roles in CFSD, from classroom volunteer to FFO leadership to the Governing Board. These experiences provide me with a wide perspective of the CFSD system, as well as deep connections with our community.

My legal education and 30+ years work as a public attorney also positively differentiates me from the other candidates. I’m a problem solver. I am adept at grasping and effectively analyzing complex issues, identifying the most salient questions that need to be answered, making connections between and among issues that might not be obvious, and considering alternative means to achieve a desired outcome.

I think people who know me well, in personal or professional circles, would say that I am a very capable person with a steady demeanor. I can handle a long to-do list effectively, without becoming frazzled. I am forthcoming, reliable, responsible, and importantly, I am a person of integrity.

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