Dorothy Denetsosie Gishie and incumbents Christine Fredericks and Carole Gilmore have been elected to four-year terms on the Flagstaff Unified School District Governing Board.
They will join Anne Dunno and Carol Haden, whose terms end in 2022, to make up the five-person board that oversees FUSD operations.
Of the four candidates competing for the three positions, Denetsosie Gishie secured the most votes at more than 20,000, or 27.79%, followed by Gilmore at 26.47% and Fredericks at 26.12%. Northern Arizona University student and Flagstaff High School alumnus Makaius Marks, 19, fell behind the other three candidates with 19.63% of votes.
Denetsosie Gishie said she was humbled by the results and is looking forward to begin meeting with different constituent groups before officially joining the board in January.
“A lot of people kept saying, ‘You’ll get it, you’ll get it,’ but I didn’t realize I would get the most votes,” said Denetsosie Gishie, who will fill the seat vacated by Kara Kelty. “There’s a lot our parents and our voters within the school district want to change and I’m excited about all of that, but along with that it also comes with the work and I look forward to how all that is going to unfold. But I’m very excited and very humbled by the support.”
Denetsosie Gishie is a 33-year Flagstaff resident and an FUSD parent. She has worked as a counselor, social worker and program manager at Native Americans for Community Action (NACA) for three decades and ran for the school board in the hopes of addressing the district’s diversity and accessibility issues.
“I will do everything I can to be a representative for all our students and our schools,” she said Wednesday.
The upcoming term will be Fredericks’ third and Gilmore’s second. Fredericks has lived in Flagstaff for 16 years and was a teacher for 14 years, half of which were spent at Tuba City High School as an English teacher. Gilmore, who was first elected to the board in 2016, grew up in Flagstaff and graduated from Flagstaff High School. She has decades of experience as a teacher and educational administrator and supervisor.
Fredericks said the school board election was clearly a hot issue this year, pointing to the high number of votes received by school board candidates this year, most of which surpassed those received for each of the two Flagstaff mayoral candidates, as well as the Flagstaff City Council candidates. Paul Deasy received 15,103 votes for mayor, while more than 19,000 votes each were cast Fredericks, Gilmore and Denetsosie Gishie.
She said she hopes community members will be more willing to work alongside the board in the coming months on the school district’s most pressing issue: getting kids back in school.
“I hope that we can come together, that some of the hate can stop and that parents become a little bit more patient with everything that’s going on,” Fredericks said. “The board is doing everything it can to make sure that all students are taken care of. Some things are out of our control, but those things that are within our control, we absolutely need to do better. And I think we have done better from when this thing started in the spring, but there’s always room to grow.”
Gilmore said getting started on creating the district’s next budget as soon as possible is also a priority for the upcoming term, especially because of changes brought on by the pandemic.
“I just see there’s many challenges ahead, not just with COVID, but we have student decline, we have to look at the budget in the future and certainly we have to look at what we are going to do about COVID. I feel very strongly that we need to offer to the parents choices so that they can make what’s best for their family,” Gilmore said.
She also said she is especially looking forward to welcoming Denetsosie Gishie to the board and helping her adjust to the formalities of meetings.
“I think that having Ms. Gishie on will be an excellent addition to our team and will broaden our horizons for everyone,” Gilmore said.
Although Marks will not join the school board for the upcoming term, he said he will continue to advocate for improved diversity in FUSD schools and support for teachers’ essential needs, such as day care during the pandemic.
“It was unfortunate that I didn’t win, but it wasn’t a matter of being elected; the importance was the message, what was being communicated,” Marks said. “It was important to me to have these conversations with students, teachers, community members. It’s something I’m familiar with, but to have it on this sort of level, this platform, is important because now people understand that I’m serious about this. I shall continue to go to board meetings and continue to be present in schools and classrooms, and if our voice is not being heard, then they can expect me on the next ballot.”
Three spots on the Williams Unified School District Governing Board were also up for election this year: Leah Payne, Carla Dent and Herman Nixon have all been reelected.
Payne had 30.1% of the votes, totaling 1,541, while Dent had 29.39% and Nixon had 22.5%. Patrick Lucus had only 18.01%, falling behind Nixon by 230 of the total 5,120 votes.
Kaitlin Olson can be reached at the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (928) 556-2253.