A Conversation with Kyrene Board President Bernadette Coggins

Bernadette Coggins, newly elected Kyrene school board president
Bernadette Coggins, newly elected Kyrene school board president

Editor’s note: Bernadette Coggins is the new president of the Kyrene School District Governing Board, succeeding Ross Robb. Wrangler News correspondent Diana Whittle asked Coggins about the opportunities and challenges she sees facing the board in the coming year.

By Diana Whittle

As the new Governing Board president, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Kyrene School District? “I am currently serving my second term on the Kyrene Board and most recent served as vice president for the 2014/2015 school year. During my first 4 years on the board, we were faced with unprecedented cuts in education spending. Due to the financial diligence of the Governing Board/District, I am optimistic for the future of Kyrene as we are currently in a financial position to restore some of the cuts made.

A balanced budget is a priority and we anticipate stable enrollment and additional revenue from the state. The challenge is to remain transparent and continue to be diligent as we begin the budget process for the coming year. It appears that Proposition 123 has strong bi-partisan support and we are counting on everyone to be informed about the election in May to ensure that more state funding will be approved.

Along with a balanced budget and fiscal accountability, increasing student achievement remains at the forefront. While Kyrene is an A-rated district, the Governing Board recognizes areas of concern and we are committed to focus on strategies to address these concerns. We need solution-oriented, fiscally accountable, forward thinking and vested stakeholders in our community on the Kyrene School Board.”  What strategies are being considered for the district to remain competitive, in a community where charter schools and open enrollment continue to erode the numbers of available students?

“Our focus should not be competing with charter and private schools; however, it should be to target where Kyrene excels and what needs improvement. Our goal should be on how we can get back the 4,000 plus students who reside in our district boundaries, but choose other options.

We need to focus and remain steadfast in providing support in areas of concern, such as supporting and retaining stellar teachers, innovative programs and elective opportunities for our children. Kyrene has some of the best teachers who have been recognized nationally.

Our priority should be to provide programs to accommodate all diverse educational needs in our community from college preparatory to prevention programs. To boost enrollment, Kyrene needs to consistently highlight our many outstanding teachers and the vast array of dynamic new innovative programs that benefit students.   While implementing new programs, it is crucial to examine the success and expand accordingly, based on the needs of our community.

Two specific programs need to be celebrated in Kyrene. We are expanding our Dual Language program and have over 650 students participating in grades K-6. We also have the Kyrene Traditional Academy-Sureno Campus that was recently honored as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence for 2015.   We have much to celebrate in Kyrene!” What is the best asset that Kyrene offers to families?

“The Kyrene School District has many excellent programs to meet the educational needs for all our diverse students. Our district prides itself on the many innovative programs. Successful students need dedicated teachers and a rigorous and engaging curriculum that includes arts, physical activity, technology and opportunities to gain critical thinking skills along with community engagement.”

As the overseer in the leadership direction of the district, what do you as the major priorities of the board for the next year?

“Kyrene is in an era of transition, as the Governing Board will be selecting a new superintendent. We have selected the national search firm McPherson & Jacobson, on-line at www.macnjake.com, to assist in identifying potential candidates.   The applications for prospective candidates are due by Feb. 15. The Governing Board plans to identify the finalists in April. Please visit the Kyrene website for updates on this process.

The Governing board will be meeting this month to identify and review priorities for the upcoming year. I feel confident that student achievement, retaining highly qualified teachers and a balanced budget, will remain top priorities.”

Please provide some information about yourself: education, professional background, family, etc.

“I was elected to the Board in 2010 and served as Vice-President of the Board for the last two years. I am a graduate of Dobson High School in Mesa and Arizona State University in Tempe.

I am also a resident of south Tempe and I have instilled the importance of community service and civic duty to my three sons.

To learn more about serving as a board member, I have attended many classes and seminars. I received the ASBA (Associate of Boardsmanship Award) for Commitment to Board Development and Continuing Education Attainment in School Law, Technology, Financial Management & School District Communication-June 30, 2013.

I also received my Master of Boardmanship after completing 84 hours of additional coursework and training in topics such as, Assessment and Accountability (AzMerit), School Finance, Roberts Rule of Order, Open Meeting Law in October 2015.” What first attracted you to serve on the board and what’s interests you in continuing to serve?

“I was fortunate to have an outstanding public education here in the East Valley and I have lived here for over three decades. I was blessed with amazing teachers that made a lasting impression and supported me during times of adversity in my life. I am passionate that every child deserves a quality public education like I received.

My family also has deep roots in the East Valley. My husband, Tim, is a Kyrene School District graduate; and, my three children have all attended schools in Kyrene.

So, it is an honor and a personal duty for me to give back to our community.

I believe it’s important to have an advocate for the children, teachers, parents and community as we approach additional challenges in public education.

I have a comprehensive understanding of the Kyrene District and I have served at many levels from working in the classroom, PTOs and the District’s Parent Superintendant Council. ”





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