Candidate Evaluation Higley Unified School District

The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce is invested in identifying those candidates who will best represent the interests of the business community while serving in office. As such, we invited all candidates to respond to both written and video-response questionnaires which address a variety of issues impacting our businesses. These responses, as well as consideration for each candidate's demonstrated actions, were scored to issue a letter grades.

We recognize the need for well-rounded, knowledgeable elected leaders. We encourage our membership to reach out to candidates and to access available resources in an effort to cast an informed and confident vote.

When it comes to business issues, how do you rate the candidates? Click here to download a scoring worksheet for HUSD Governing Board candidates.

The following candidates did not participate in written responses:

  • Roy Morales
  • Anna Van Hoek
  • Curt Vurpillat

Brooke Garrett

​About The Candidate

  • Email: brookegarrettforhusd@gmail.com
  • Community of Residence: Whitewing @ Higley, Gilbert
  • How many years have you lived in this community? 10 years
  • Name of Employer:
  • Occupation or Title:
    • 2nd grade teacher
  • Campaign website or social media account:
    • Brooke Garrett for HUSD Governing Board
  • Brief Summary of Employment History (list format)
    • 2nd grade teacher
  • Educational Background (list format)
    • Graduated from BYU with a B.S. degree in Elementary Education.
  • Community organizations to which you belong or regularly support (list format)
    • Music Masterpiece, Room Mom, & Art Masterpiece volunteer from 2005-2015
    • San Tan Elementary PTO President from 2016-2019
    • Founding parent of Higley High School Uknighted Kingdom Parent Booster.
    • Uknighted Kingdom Booster President from 2020- present
    • Served as Ward Primary President and Stake Primary President within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
    • Acted as the Boys Scout Commissioner from 2017-2020 for the San Tan District and Agave District of the Grand Canyon Council in AZ

Questionnaire Responses

1. Give three (3) qualifications/skill sets that make you a leading candidate for Governing School Board. Explain why these qualifications make you a better candidate than your opponents.

I am a collaborator, I can bring various stakeholders to the table to connect, unify and build strong community support for the schools within the HUSD boundaries. When we moved here 10 years ago, I noticed there was lower enrollment at San Tan Elementary. Soon after, a new principal came and I worked with several community members to build a partnership and grow the community support for San Tan Elementary and ultimately other schools within HUSD.

I am open minded. To me, one of the great things about being a HUSD Board member is approaching things with a non-partisan mindset. This will allow me to listen with greater intent and to seek to understand the needs of all stakeholders who reside within our district boundaries. I feel that “politics” too often distract us from truly focusing on the education of our children. Let’s keep the “main thing” the “main thing”.

Lastly, I am dedicated and committed - As a former educator and volunteer within a variety of K-12 school systems in which I have lived I have experienced a lot. Not only have I served as a classroom volunteer, but I have served as President of two PTO boards and several high school boosters- all of which have provided me with experience and knowledge of the educational system. My desire to now serve as a HUSD Board member showcases my dedication to the educational community in which I live so that I can acknowledge the good things happening while proposing solutions to the challenges we face.

I believe with these qualifications and skill sets I am the best candidate for HUSD. I have a genuine, vested and long-term commitment to the success of our school district.

2. What is your vision for the school district in the next 20 to 30 years?

In 20-30 years, I envision a school district that maximizes every opportunity for children, staff and the community. To be given more options in programming and services based on student needs which change with our growing community and district. Our students face an ever changing world of technology, that we want them to be prepared for and equipped to become contributing members of a global citizenship as a result of all the opportunities they were provided at HUSD.

3. What actions do you feel will be necessary to help kids catch up in academics and in the social-emotional wellbeing as a result of the impact of COVID-19?

Of most importance will be digging into what is currently being done to help kids catch up in academics and in the social- emotional programs already in place, as a result of the impact of Covid-19. I believe in seeking and collaborating with district personnel, community members, the Chamber of Commerce of Gilbert, local charities, volunteer programs, as well as the Town of Gilbert to seek opportunities, resources, and funding to support academic gaps and social emotional support. This has already been touched upon by the current board as part of their Strategic Plan that they just rolled out to our community. I’d like to make sure it is implemented with fidelity over the next 5 years.


4. What are the top three (3) priorities you would like to see accomplished during your term as a member of the governing school board and how will these priorities further the advancement of education and the schools within your district?

The top 3 priorities I would like to see accomplished are:

First- Higley School District being the leading District of Choice. I would take seriously the responsibility of holding the superintendent accountable to the daily needs, expectations, and goals of HUSD to be the District of Choice. We’ve seen great progress over the last 10 years and I think we can continue in that direction. Second- I would like to see expanded opportunities related to academics, fine arts, athletics, and extracurricular activities for all children within our K-12 system. This would include some updating of our older schools. Third – I would address the immediate social and emotional needs of our students, staff and families/community.



5. What issues do you see with the current system of funding education in the State of Arizona? What changes, if any, would you propose be made to the current funding system?

The major issues within our current system of funding in the state of Arizona is the lack of funding and resources. The funding formulas currently in place make it difficult to fund programming and services in a way that is most productive. I would love to seek opportunities to collaborate with district, city, county, and state officials to discuss current issues and seek possible solutions to address our current system of funding public education in the state of AZ. I would love to see more funds allocated to Arizona and Higley students.


6. Do you have experience with complex budgets? Do you feel the district has positioned itself financially to address long-term sustainability?

Yes, I have some experience with complex budgeting as a PTO President, a member of the boosters, and working/providing for our family throughout my husband’s medical schooling and neurosurgery residency training years at Barrow Brain & Spine. I have lived in the Higley School District for the past 10 years and have seen how the district has learned from some of the decisions they have made in the past. I feel the current district personnel are working hard to remedy past misspending while increasing transparency in the complex budget process. Being fiscally responsible is extremely important to me. I understand that our M & O budget is for classrooms and salaries, while Capital is for operations and maintenance of our schools. I’m excited to dive deeper into understanding more about how the overall budget works and am up for the challenge to learn all that I can quickly in order to support the success of HUSD.


7. How would you propose to interact with your constituents (including the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce) to ensure that they understood what was happening at the Governing Board level and had an opportunity to voice their opinions?

One of the attributes I mentioned above is that I enjoy bringing people together and collaborating. I will seek opportunities to interact with my constituents to ensure that they understand I am willing to listen and engage. I will utilize various email, social media, and meetings to allow for these opportunities where opinions may be voiced and seek opportunities for solutions with a smile.😊


8. Please explain the difference in roles between the Governing Board and the school superintendent on overall education policy.

The superintendent role is to carry out all day-to-day operations using all the resources, policies and governance provided to her. The Superintendent also enforces and communicates district policies with the governing board. The Governing Board is responsible for oversight to one employee, the Superintendent. It is the role of the Governing Board to provide policies, good governance and resources to the Superintendent so she can carry out her daily duties. Another part of the Governing Board’s role is also to keep the superintendent fiscally and academically accountable based on district and state policies.


9. Do you have any final comments or thoughts you’d like to share?

I would like to have a lasting impact in my role as a Governing Board member of HUSD. We need to be fiscally responsible, while also focusing on school needs for improvement and safety. Some of our older schools need to be updated and bring in better technology. I believe when you have a strong community that supports local schools, you will experience a more positive culture, a rise in core academics, and students that have 21st century skills. As a mother of 5 children, all of which have graduated and/or are currently enrolled in HUSD schools over the last 10 years, I have seen the strength and areas for potential in our ever growing part of the southeast valley. I have a genuine interest not only for my own children, but all children within our boundaries because this will contribute to an overall stronger community now and in the future.


Robert Lilienthal

​About The Candidate

  • Email: lilienthal@hotmail.com
  • Community of Residence: Power Ranch
  • How many years have you lived in this community? 10 years
  • Name of Employer: n/a
  • Occupation or Title:
    • retired/volunteer
    • Special Education/Educator/Camp Director/Executive Director
  • Campaign website or social media account:
  • Brief Summary of Employment History (list format)
    • Sp.Ed. Teacher, Special Services Director, Summer Camp Director, Executive Director, High School Principal, Sp. Ed. Coordinator
  • Educational Background (list format)
    • Michigan State (BA), Eastern Michigan (MA), Univ So FL, Univ So ME, Univ of ME, Providence College
  • Community organizations to which you belong or regularly support (list format)
    • The Alliance for Therapy Dogs (Tester)

Questionnaire Responses

1. Give three (3) qualifications/skill sets that make you a leading candidate for Governing School Board. Explain why these qualifications make you a better candidate than your opponents.

a. Years of experience as a Special Educator
b. Years as a Business Owner/Manager
c. Working with/on Boards (FL HOA, ME SAD #4, ME Echo Lake Assoc, Humane Soc of SW FL).


2. What is your vision for the school district in the next 20 to 30 years?

Through the implementation of several of my shorter term goals, I hope to see a District which leads the State in; creating opportunities of partnership between school age childen and Businesses/colleges/vocational opportunities.


3. What actions do you feel will be necessary to help kids catch up in academics and in the social-emotional wellbeing as a result of the impact of COVID-19?

a. Assessment of all students.
b. Homogeneous grouping by age for academics.
c. Post assessment for return to heterogeneous groups.


4. What are the top three (3) priorities you would like to see accomplished during your term as a member of the governing school board and how will these priorities further the advancement of education and the schools within your district?

a. Development of a pre-vocational/vocational curriculum/program fr special needs students, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, so that non-paying jobs are coached for younger students, and paying placements for High School students (patterned after successful programs developed in Florida and Maine by this writer).

b. The strengthening and broadening of the Therapy Dog Program, as instituted at Coronado Elementary School, and recognized by the Chamber in 2018 as "Volunteers of The Year" both Plato, Socrates and myself. I would ask members of The Chamber if any would like Therapy Teams at their businesses, since I am the sole tester for The Alliance for Therapy Dogs in Gilbert.

c. To strengthen the home/school/business communication so that voices are heard, matters discussed, votes taken, and constituencies represented. And politics should not be a way out of discussing matters related to schools or children. There must be a strict separation of political "hot button, killer" issues, and student's needs, safety and well being.


5. What issues do you see with the current system of funding education in the State of Arizona? What changes, if any, would you propose be made to the current funding system?

There are great discrepancies in school funding, even though they are all "public schools", between Charter and District schools. Unfortunately, once again politics has reared it's head, and allowed a blanket percentage awarded to Charters, even though they may have many less special needs students. If all schools have a cap on state funding, why are Charters exempt? You see, not all are equal.

6. Do you have experience with complex budgets? Do you feel the district has positioned itself financially to address long-term sustainability?

a. Maine SAD#4 Special Services Director, overseeing and implementing the k-12 budget for Operations and Capital, Special education, Migratory Education, and Title I.

b. As Co-Director of a Summer Camp, where I was in charge of all purchases of equipment, food (300 for 9 weeks).

c. As Executive Director of Channel 3 Kids Camp, a year round Outdoor education facility and overnight Summer Camp for Underprivileged Children (who paid nothing to attend).

7. How would you propose to interact with your constituents (including the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce) to ensure that they understood what was happening at the Governing Board level and had an opportunity to voice their opinions?

The importance of social media, electronic communications, and instant gratification is only superseded by a proactive, engaging, responsive discourse which is concerned and proves it.

8. Please explain the difference in roles between the Governing Board and the school superintendent on overall education policy.

The Governing Board sets the District goals, the Superintendent executes them. The Board, then, evaluates the Superintendent regarding how well s/he has done.

9. Do you have any final comments or thoughts you’d like to share?

Building a caring staff takes more than money. We should be looking to the future, both in returning staff and students returning as staff members. As businesses will attest, holding onto the best is a challenge few are addressing. Students need to be identified in High School, and guided and nurtured as future teachers, future workers, future leaders, and helped by the community so that when they are ready, they will return to Gilbert and be rewarded for it.

Amanda Wade

About The Candidate

  • Email: amandawade4husd@gmail.com
  • Community of Residence: Ashley Heights
  • How many years have you lived in this community? Purchased house in 12/2010. Lived here until 06/2015; returned 06/2019. Have lived here again since 06/2019.
  • Name of Employer: Formerly employed with Higley Unified School District, at Williams Field High School.
  • Occupation or Title: Teacher, currently applying to law school.
  • Campaign website or social media account: Currently no website and have Amanda Wade for HUSD Governing Board facebook page
  • Brief Summary of Employment History (list format)
    • Williams Field High 07/2019-05/2021
    • Walter Johnson High School, Bethesda, MD 08/2015-06/2019
    • Williams Field High 07/2012-05/2015
    • Cortina Elementary 02/2012-05/2012
    • Student Teacher 08/2011-12/2011
  • Educational Background (list format)
    • Masters of Secondary Education; Grand Canyon University 12/2011
    • Bachelor of Science in Psychology; Arizona State University 05/2010
  • Community organizations to which you belong or regularly support (list format)
    • Wounded Warrior Project
    • IAVA, Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans of America
    • Sunshine Acres Children’s Home

Questionnaire Responses

1. Give three (3) qualifications/skill sets that make you a leading candidate for Governing School Board. Explain why these qualifications make you a better candidate than your opponents.

1. I am a former teacher with a decade of experience teaching in multiple schools, multiple states, and multiple grade levels which gives me a broad set of information that helps me approach problems within the district from personal experience and knowledge of how those changes impact schools both in the classroom and beyond. Having recent experience in the classroom gives me a unique perspective on both what schools are actually dealing with today and what it takes as a district to attract competitive and highly qualified teachers. I am one of the few members either currently serving on the board or running for the board that has education as my background and I am the only one with recent education experience. I have devoted my adult life to education and hope to use both my background in and love for education to better Higley.

2. Leadership within the community. Having served as the head girls JV volleyball coach, student council advisor, and a Sources of Strength advisor at various times throughout my career, I have personal experience planning, organizing, and implementing community projects, activities, and events. Understanding how to organize and work within a community from students, faculty, parents, and other community members is what being on the school board is all about. Knowing how to compile resources, connect resources with each other, and implement them within the district requires an understanding of how schools, students, parents, and community members interact with the district and how decisions from the board can impact their ability to successfully implement goals.

3. Communication and a willingness to collaborate. As a teacher our greatest skillset is knowing how to communicate and collaborate with the individuals we come into contact with. I do not pretend to know everything that it takes to be on the school board, nor do I pretend to have the background necessary to automatically know the best answer to every problem the district faces. I do, however, possess the ability to both recognize when I need to listen and ask questions from those who do have the background necessary to make the most educated decision and the ability to use the resources available to me to help make not only informed decisions but decisions that are reflective of best practices.

2. What is your vision for the school district in the next 20 to 30 years?

Higley is rapidly growing in population at the same time we are facing unique challenges to today’s education environment. My hope for Higley is that we implement plans that help keep our classroom sizes small as we grow, keep highly qualified teachers in our classrooms, and continue to maintain a competitive curriculum throughout all of our schools. Education is facing tough challenges across the nation and that is especially felt in Arizona with recent decisions at the state level. Higley needs to work to stay ahead of the curve in terms of what we offer to students, parents, and teachers; I feel strongly that my time in the classroom, especially during the pandemic helps me to intimately understand just how difficult things are in the classroom today. My experience has also taught me how much Higley as a community is devoted to bettering ourselves. If we can focus on education and see how each and every member within our community is benefited when our public schools are great, there is very little we cannot accomplish or prepare for.

3. What actions do you feel will be necessary to help kids catch up in academics and in the social-emotional wellbeing as a result of the impact of COVID-19?

I feel the most important thing when it comes to helping our kids catch up and protect their social-emotional wellbeing is to remember to treat students and our expectations of them with their humanity in mind. The hardest part about teaching during the pandemic was to watch students of all ages struggle with major life changes that were difficult for us adults to face; and what was even more difficult was watching individuals maintain the same level of expectations on our students in terms of measurable goals as they were facing unprecedented times. Academically students can catch up when we structure our student expectations in a way that focuses on the main goals academically and that starts with accepting the reality of all our current students. There has been measurable loss and we cannot structure our curriculum without the previous school years in mind. When we realistically approach the problem and maintain a goal of not putting unrealistic expectations on our students we can help ensure their social-emotional wellbeing in the process. Schools are back in person, we are putting together field trips, dances, events, etc. but that doesn’t mean we have forgotten the impact of the last two years of hardships. We have a new reality with respect to daily living and while we can honor that new reality we must not pretend it isn’t felt by everyone in our community, and in large part the weight of that has been put on our children. The greatest action we can do is to allow ourselves grace as we navigate best practices and the ability to recognize where changes need to be made.

4. What are the top three (3) priorities you would like to see accomplished during your term as a member of the governing school board and how will these priorities further the advancement of education and the schools within your district?

1. Plan for and implement responses to population growth. We have new builds exploding all over the district and with these new residential builds comes new families and students. I would love for Higley to be ahead of this population growth so we do not have to experience hardships within our schools with respect to staffing, class size, and resource availability. Planning for the future instead of reacting to it is how Higley continues to provide the best possible education experience for all of our students. Making responsible growth a priority will benefit all schools in the district because no one school needs to bear the weight of the increased population on their own.

2. Address staffing shortages and the hardships that those shortages create for our communities. Arizona is in a crisis with respect to staffing, this is a problem beyond Arizona as well, however, we were experiencing this problem prior to the pandemic. My second priority is to make Higley a desirable district to work for. Great teachers and support staff are in a position of being able to choose where they want to work as districts everywhere are having difficulty filling all of their available positions. If we make Higley one of the most desirable districts in Maricopa county we have the opportunity of selecting the most qualified employees to help fill our positions. With competitive staffing we can achieve competitive results and that reality is how we achieve advancement in all of our schools.

3. Updating and expanding Curriculum and program opportunities. As our population grows we have the opportunity of creating programs and expanding curriculum to include more electives, more opportunities, and greater chances for growth for our students. With our increasing population we have the capacity to offer courses that not only will help our students who are college bound, but we can offer more programs that help to include students who are career bound. Having the capability of providing certain courses or opportunities at all grade levels grants more students the opportunities to explore areas of interest they might not have considered without potential exposure. The availability of choice helps our students to feel empowered as they can choose course options that keep their imaginations captivated and grants them opportunities to shine.

5. What issues do you see with the current system of funding education in the State of Arizona? What changes, if any, would you propose be made to the current funding system?

Arizona ranks near the very bottom in per pupil spending, teacher salaries, and overall education rating when compared with the rest of the nation. A growing focus on charter schools in Arizona has led to a dramatic hit on public education in addition to growing misinformation on how schools spend their money and what schools teach have contributed to Arizona’s decline with respect to public education. Now more than ever we need to focus on our public education because our community is only as great as the education we provide. Our education system touches all areas of our community because our students will grow to be members of the community they live in and we are better served when we have granted them the fullest capability to both challenge themselves and grow. Our students today are community leaders of tomorrow and our education system is failing our students. We, the supporting community, are failing our students when we turn our backs on public education. Doing everything we can to help bring Arizona from near last and helping our state navigate a way to lead the pack only helps better all of us but it will take a collective effort from all of us to accomplish this task. That starts with focusing on public education. We emphasize parent choice, which is vital, but we cannot continue to feed lies into the narrative of what goes on within our schools. School districts post their curriculum and budget breakdown, teachers have continually gone above and beyond to post curriculum materials and course information, and teachers and schools do everything they can to help bring our students up to the level they need to be. However, without continued funding, funding that isn’t bare bones we are tying the hands of our schools and then blaming them for failures in student academic performance. We compare our public education system to charter schools without focusing on the reality that charter schools often kick out lower performing students or students who are deemed “difficult,” because it helps their numbers and scores look better. With more students returning to the public school system, that per pupil funding that was allocated at the start of the year doesn’t transfer with them. This means the public schools have to figure out ways to stretch fewer dollars to more students. I hope Arizona makes efforts to keep the money with the students and we can do that when we no longer allow our state legislators to profit from personal ties to charter schools. When people making decisions about our education system stand to financially gain from those decisions we can no longer trust the community’s interest is the main focus.

6. Do you have experience with complex budgets? Do you feel the district has positioned itself financially to address long-term sustainability?

My experience with complex budgets is limited given my career path and prior experience has focused on education. As a student council advisor at the High School level I have experience with budgets that deal with tens of thousands of dollars throughout the year however, that is where my personal handling of large complex budgets outside of managing my own personal experiences ends. I do feel the district is taking great steps in doing what they need to in order to position themselves for long term sustainability. In order for the district to be successful with that I feel strongly that Higley community members need to realistically address the problems Higley faces. We will have population growth, cost of all goods/resources are increasing, and with these increases means new budgetary issues.

7. How would you propose to interact with your constituents (including the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce) to ensure that they understood what was happening at the Governing Board level and had an opportunity to voice their opinions?

In addition to open board meetings where constituents have the opportunity to speak, which I feel is necessary to help the board and the community maintain transparency and connectivity; I believe strongly that taking the time to answer questions and concerns from constituents is important. Continuing to publicly display meeting agenda items, budget breakdown and information relating to budget proposals, and access to meeting minutes helps keep constituents as informed as they desire to be. Routinely sending out information to community members when changes are implemented in the form of community mailers and responding to constituent emails is how the governing board members should interact with their community. Outside of those important aspects each and every board member is a member of the community. We interact with and engage with our constituents on a daily basis, they are our neighbors, our friends, and our family. I have children in the district and friends with children in this district. I go to their sporting events, graduations, performances, etc. our interaction with our constituents is a part of our daily experiences.

8. Please explain the difference in roles between the Governing Board and the school superintendent on overall education policy.

The difference between the Governing Board and the school superintendent to me is the difference between those who legislate and those who enforce/implement day to day actions. The Board with the guidance of the superintendent, faculty feedback, and community recommendations looks at budget needs and usages, policy implementation and changes, curriculum approval, advocates for all students, ensures accountability within our schools, and provides support across the district. Ultimately the board as a collective body makes these decisions for the district as a whole, having a group of members make these decisions with the sole focus of the community in mind grants the board the unique ability to help provide a stable structure within the district. Whereas the Superintendent is responsible for the day to day management of the district. The superintendent is responsible for carrying out the policies that the board adopts.

9. Do you have any final comments or thoughts you’d like to share?

Video Responses

The following candidates did not participate in video responses:

  • Brooke Garrett
  • Roy Morales
  • Anna Van Hoek
  • Curt Vurpillat
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