Kim Price Olsen and Jan Wilson recently wrote “Diane Douglas does not even remotely have the skills to do the (Superintendent of Public Instruction’s) job.” This is just progressive partisan rhetoric.

The Peoria Unified School District is among Arizona’s very largest with more than 35,000 students, 2,300 employees, 40 schools and a $200 million budget.

Before Diane Douglas became PUSD’s board president, several problems plagued the district, including the Challenger Center, the open/closed campus issue and the district’s administrative organization. With leadership skills, the ability to work with the community and administration, and a governing board that twice elected her president, Douglas resolved these issues.

In 2003, PUSD was caught funneling district tax dollars to the privately-owned Challenger Space Center. This continued for nearly five more years until Douglas became board president in 2008. Under her leadership, district spending on Challenger ended and the center agreed to repay the nearly $1 million the district illicitly gave it.

In 2007, families that wanted high school campuses closed at lunchtime had to collect hundreds of signatures petitioning the board to address the issue. A “closed but not closed” policy was passed but parents were not satisfied. The new policy still put students at risk. When she became Board President, Douglas promptly responded to the community’s request and campuses were closed.

With common sense and business acumen, Douglas orchestrated management changes that helped PUSD weather the economic downturn and the funding shortfall that came with it. For years, the superintendent managed PUSD’s complex business operations, yet his experience came almost exclusively from teaching. Douglas convinced the governing board and superintendent that an organization with a multi-million dollar budget needed a chief financial officer. Thanks to Douglas and PUSD’s new financial chief, the district is a much better managed organization today.

During her tenure on the board, Douglas dealt with issues ranging from solving a parent’s bus route problem, to district policy and budget considerations, to heart-wrenching student tragedy. Her detractors claim she has no experience, that she doesn’t care. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Olsen and Wilson urge us to vote for David Garcia for superintendent, yet his experience has been in creating our education problems, not solving them; and it’s our children who’ve paid the price. Ignore progressive rhetoric. Please consider Douglas’ demonstrated competence and experience when voting for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Rick Gutridge