David Lane hopes the third time is a charm. The 48-year-old automotive technician will try for a third time to persuade voters in the Mesa Unified School District that he deserves one of two seats up for grabs in November on the governing board.
Candidates have until Aug. 9 to collect the 400 signatures needed to place their names on the ballot, but four people have already expressed interest in running, according to the Maricopa County Schools Superintendent’s Office.
Two are incumbents: Elaine Miner and Mike Hughes.
Hughes, who has sat on the board for 12 years, said be believes he can add needed stability to the school district as it faces change.
“We are entering a crossroads, with new challenges Mesa has not ever had to face,” he said. “Every 10 years, we’ve doubled our enrollment. Now, it has really gone flat.”
He said charter schools and neighborhood buildout could be to blame, and fears the district could lose revenue if it continues to lose students.
Hughes, who works as the executive director for PREHAB of Arizona, said he wants the district to attract students with alternative school hours, nursing programs and smaller high schools.
Miner, the current board president, has served since 1999. She was a leading backer of Mesa’s intervention program for struggling readers, Reading Assistance Program, and was on a panel that advised the Arizona Department of Education on reading. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.
Miner and Hughes will face challenger Lane, who said he is concerned about older schools in the western and southern parts of town. His work last fall on a committee that promoted the passage of a $212.5 million bond issue underscored those concerns, he said.
“(The schools) need roofs and air conditioners and parking lots and fields — all those boring things that people don’t really think about, but they need them,” he said.
Substitute teacher Afton Zapata is a newcomer to Mesa’s political scene, but she’s been involved with Mesa schools most of her life.
A 1989 graduate of Mountain View High School, Zapata has three children in the school district. She said her master’s degree in educational leadership and 10 years of substitute teaching at schools all over the district have given her a unique perspective.
“With so many schools and so many teaching styles, it’s kind of nice to see that flexibility, to be able to take all the positive things and share them,” she said.
She said keeping highquality schools in Mesa, offering choices to parents and supporting the Hispanic community rank high on her to-do list, but as she gathered signatures she realized another issue was the talk of the town.
“People were all asking about the cafeteria menus. They were concerned about nutrition and wellness programs,” she said.