MARICOPA — It’s safe to say Maricopa Unified School District board member Torri Anderson is a long-standing Maricopan. She and her family moved to the city, long before it was even a city, in 1971 from neighboring Maryvale. Anderson grew up in what was then a small town, and she and her siblings attended school in Maricopa.

She left Maricopa for college, but returned shortly with her teaching degree in hand.

“It was very rewarding to be able to give back to the community that provided so much for me as a child, that was my ultimate goal,” Anderson said.

The seasoned school teacher would have a decades-long career in education, both in elementary and high school levels when MUSD was limited to just one campus. In 2010, Anderson decided to take the next step with education, and was appointed to the board.

“When the school board position came up, I knew that was another way that I wanted to give back to my community, because I have such a passion and a love for the city of Maricopa,” she said.

Anderson said that each term on the board has taught her new ideas about education, and she is proud of the accomplishments the board has made over the years including receiving the Arizona State Seal of Arts Proficiency, and maintaining a program for nationally board-certified teachers.

This upcoming November election will be her third, and she says much of her platform remains the same.

At the top of her list is her goal to provide excellence in education to MUSD students, which she believes can be achieved in a number of ways. First, Anderson said lowering class sizes for more individualized learning ability for students is pivotal, saying, “Our students deserve the ultimate education experience.”

A second but equal priority for Anderson is teacher pay. She is proud of the board’s consistent district and teacher raises over the past five years, and counts it as one of the more rewarding parts of her job. Her hope is that through competitive pay, teachers will feel both appreciated and more likely to stay within the district.

“We’ve got to take care of our employees, because if we don’t have employee satisfaction, then how are our students going to be satisfied?” Anderson said. “For me, it’s important that we continue to support our teachers and our administrators and our classified staff so they can provide an excellent experience for every single student and parent that walks through the door.”

Also high up on her agenda is ensuring equity within the school system through diverse hiring of staff and representation for students of color.

“Our school district is over 50% students of color, which is Hispanic, Black students, Native American students, Asian, Pacific Islander (students),” Anderson said. “So I would love to see that perspective represented in our staff, and in our school board so that when students watch a school board meeting, they’re seeing people that look like them, or they’ve got a teacher that looks like them.”

Her three children, now grown, also reaped the benefits of the Maricopa school system, with her youngest, Jackson, graduating Maricopa High School in May. She says her children support her no matter what, and help keep her grounded.

“They’re like, ‘Mom, whatever you want to do, we’ll support you.’ They keep me humble. They keep me in check,” Anderson said. “It’s important to have that family support and I’m proud of how they’ve turned out. It does truly take a community to raise our children, and I am proud of the fact that my community helped raise my children.”

Though her son just graduated, he was unable to attend his graduation due to COVID, a pain felt across the district by graduating seniors this year. COVID has been a hot-button issue for the board, which recently voted to reopen schools earlier than originally projected.

“My vision for the school year is we end the school year with in-person graduations and celebrations,” Anderson said. “If I want to achieve that, then I need to work backwards from there and figure it out. It may not be an easy decision now, but if it’s going to get us to some sense of normality at the end of the school year, then we need to make the difficult decisions now.”

Anderson is running against fellow board members AnnaMarie Knorr and Jim Jordan, and newcomer Tracie Armestead-Payton for the three open seats.

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Katie Sawyer covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at ksawyer@pinalcentral.com.

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