Jill Broussard, Pinal County School Superintendent, is a wife, mother, coach and teacher. She also is the dynamic leader of the Pinal County School Office and Education Services Agency. She oversees the payroll of more than 6,300 teachers and educational staff over 20 public school districts.
As a former kindergarten teacher, Broussard’s heart is with the children. She has been focused on refining the Secure Care program. This program is focused on youth temporarily incarcerated at the Detention Center. It offers these young people an opportunity to continue their education. Broussard is focused on enhancing the transition skills of these young people, in effect preparing them for the day they transition back to their home school district.
The Pinal County Schools Office is also responsible for the Mary C. O’Brien (MCO) Elementary School, also known as the Accommodation School. Originally intended as a school for migrant workers, it now includes special needs and low-income students. There are about 117 students at MCO. All county property taxpayers fund this school. When asked why MCO is not folded into an existing school district since its per-pupil cost is higher that of a regular district, Broussard replied, MCO is doing better than regular school districts with far more difficult students with socio-economic issues.
The Villa Oasis Interscholastic Center for Education (or VOICE), a high school of 100 students, has several pregnant female students. A beta site under Broussard provided instruction on human anatomy, to include the menstrual cycle, to these young women. Upon conclusion, the young women were asked if they had known of this information prior to the class. Astoundingly, they all stated they did not. Broussard intends to expand this course to include psychology and physiology, with an emphasis on behavior modification.
The Villa Oasis Interscholastic Center for Education is focused on teens at risk of not completing their secondary education. It focuses on academic and occupational training, with an emphasis on independent living.
Upon taking office, Broussard discovered a recurring $4,900 monthly bill (or almost $60,000 annually) for internet access. The education office was paying for a premium plan under Broussard’s predecessor when more affordable options were available. Broussard took action, chose a more affordable plan and saved county taxpayers $50,000 annually. When one of her employees retired, she consolidated positions, streamlining her operation while saving county taxpayers another $30,000 annually.
Pinal County Schools are caught up in the questionable Common Core standards. Common Core is the current administration’s attempt to federalize K-12 education with a one size fits all curriculum. It is essentially the nationalization of compulsory education.
Broussard’s predecessor purchased some very expensive software needed to comply with Common Core standards. As a result of Common Core acceptance by the State of Arizona, several millions of dollars will be spent on software, new books, new lesson plans and teacher training, all because Arizona accepted Race to the Top money.
Broussard is still working her way through Common Core. One bright spot may be the Common Core software package, which Pinal County owns and provides state-wide rights. In essence, Broussard could become an “enterprise department” for Pinal County. The possibility of reducing the department’s reliance on property taxes is a real possibility.
Despite the turmoil in education today caused by Common Core, Broussard has not lost focus of the importance of basic courses like civics. In fact, Broussard was a Core Team Leader in Speakout Pinal County, which endorsed the use of iCivics, the interactive civics education video game series inspired by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
It appears that Pinal County education wins with Jill Broussard.