MARICOPA — Patti Coutre, a 10-year veteran Maricopa Unified School District board member and busy mom-of-four, celebrated her last day on the board after resigning Thursday. She attributed her leave to employment changes during the pandemic but is excited about her new job working in MUSD administration.

“It’s still a little hard,” Coutre said of her decision to leave the board. “This morning I woke up and I’m no longer a board member, no more emails. I had to take down my board Facebook page. It’s just going to take a while for me to get used to this because for 10 years, being on the board has been my life. But, I do promise that I am not disappearing, I’m always going to be active in the community.”

Her track record over the last decade has included many important decisions made by the board as the district has grown every year. She has been a vocal proponent for a new high school to address overcrowding. However, one of her favorite parts of being a board member was getting to see the outcome of hard work for MUSD students.

“The fondest memories that I have are all of the end-of-the-year celebrations, graduations, promotions,” Coutre said. “Graduation was always my favorite, to be able to congratulate each student as they walked across the stage of their accomplishment. ... That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

Coutre had been working with a catering company until recently, but with many events canceled due to the pandemic, the gigs dried up. She had been seeking full-time employment since July and found the perfect fit as the new facilities and operations administrative assistant for MUSD, where she will help maintain the facilities and grounds of the district and its schools.

“It’s a huge support role, making sure that our schools and the district office has what they need to do,” Coutre said.

Her new role is a great fit for her previous experience in running offices and customer servicing over the last 10 to 15 years, and she hopes to maintain that connection to MUSD through her new position. But she’s sad about leaving her board position, nearly two years before her scheduled term completion in 2022.

“I love the school district, I love what we built, I love the progress and where we’re going, and I wanted to continue to be a part of that after my board service; it’s just, unfortunately, COVID just kind of upped that timing,” Coutre said sadly. “I do regret the fact that we’re in the middle of this property and COVID, but I have to do what’s best for my family.”

As a board member, Coutre worked long hours and used vacation time to attend workshops to become a better board member. She simultaneously raised her kids in Maricopa schools, also serving as vice president of the Maricopa High School Football Booster Club. Her three eldest have “flown the coop,” but her youngest son is at MHS as a sophomore.

“They have been so supportive for these past 10 years with me being on the board and missing birthdays, missing games and missing events,” Coutre said of her children.

Coutre said she realized after joining the board what a strenuous process running a district can be, but still, she is very proud of the work she managed to accomplish from the dais.

“The struggle that I saw was our communication piece, not only internally, but externally,” Coutre said. “I think that throughout the years, throughout the different superintendents and their leadership, that has drastically improved. I’m very, very proud of that. In fact, I think now it’s to the point where people are going, ‘Why am I getting all these messages from the school?’” she joked.

Her resignation comes just over a month before the Nov. 3 board election, which has four candidates for three open seats. Coutre is supporting Tracie Armstead-Payton for one of the board seats, commending her for her history in education.

“I’ve had several conversations with Tracie,” Coutre said. “She comes from the Midwest, she really has a good grasp on our education. I think she’s gonna be a great asset to the board, if she should win. I’m going to vote for her.”

According to Mark Krumrey with the Pinal County School Office, Coutre’s seat will not be on the ballot in November. Krumrey said the board opening would be posted after Jan. 1, and there will be no guarantee that the fourth candidate not chosen by the public in this election will be the one chosen by the county superintendent for the remaining two years of Coutre’s term.

“Any eligible resident within the Maricopa Unified School District No. 20 who is interested in being appointed will be able to apply with the Pinal County School Superintendent’s Office when the publication of accepting applications has been made,” Krumrey said in a press release.

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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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