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15 people apply to fill vacant TUSD governing board seat
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15 people apply to fill vacant TUSD governing board seat

There are 15 applicants to fill the open seat on the TUSD governing board, vacant since board member Mark Stegeman resigned midterm on Oct. 3.

Pima County Superintendent Dustin Williams will choose a new governing board member to finish out Stegeman’s term, which is up at the end of 2020, by Nov. 1.

Many of the applicants had similar concerns that prompted them to apply for the board. The most common concerns cited were declining enrollment; TUSD’s reputation; governing-board in-fighting; teacher pay, vacancies and retention; finances; student discipline; school safety; ending the decades-old desegregation case; and student achievement.

Among the applicants are Sunnyside High School English teacher Adam Ragan, who lost a bid for the TUSD governing board in 2018 and intends to run in 2020. Ragan was also a member of TUSD’s board-appointed Family Life Curriculum committee.

Applicant Betts Putnam-Hidalgo has lost several bids for the TUSD governing board, most recently in 2016. She does temporary and sporadic work with city and county elections and is self-employed as a landscaper, according to her application with the Pima County Superintendent’s Office.

Former Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives John Christopher Ackerley is a high school math and physics teacher in the Amphitheater School District.

Former TUSD board member Bruce Burke is a retired lawyer who served on the TUSD board from 2003 to 2010.

Former state senator and former Pima Community College board member Luis Gonzales owns a consulting business that focuses on economic development, primarily on Native American lands.

Debe Campos-Fleenor has previously run for the TUSD governing board but was unsuccessful. She founded and owns a financial services and insurance agency.

Cristina Mennella is a home-health speech-language pathologist in Gilbert who was previously a speech therapist in public education, according to her application. Mennella says she signed a letter of intent to run for the board in 2020.

Raul Romero is a health assistant in a TUSD elementary school and an Air Force veteran, according to his application.

Joshua Reilly is a naturopathic doctor who owns his own practice. He was previously deputy mayor in his hometown Jackson, New Jersey, according to his application.

Joel Smith is a senior lecturer for the University of Arizona writing program and English department as well as co-chair of the Faculty Advisor Committee for the UA’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Tobin Rosen is a retired lawyer who worked as a civil attorney in the Pima County Attorney’s Office and before that was the principal assistant attorney in the civil division of the Tucson City Attorney’s Office, where he spent 26 years, according to his application.

Luis Vega is the Title V program manager at Pima Community College.

Charlie Verdin founded and manages an online retail company.

Roger Blumenthal is an executive pastor for a Christian church.

Peter Santaniello owns a consulting company.

The Superintendent’s Office put out a call for applications after the TUSD governing board unanimously voted not to submit names for consideration.

“I take this responsibility very seriously,” Williams said in a statement. “I will appoint the candidate who most closely aligns with TUSD’s governing board adopted mission, vision and values.”

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara.

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