MARICOPA — With the November election fast approaching, Maricopa Unified School Board President AnnaMarie Knorr is readying for a possible third term after seven years on the board. With four school-age children currently in Maricopa schools, Knorr has had a firsthand look at the results of her work with the board.
“I get to experience the products that we are delivering every day through my children,” Knorr said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to have kids in school in the school district to be a good board member, but I think it does help.”
The board member ran for her previous two terms unopposed, and is readying for her first November election against incumbents Torri Anderson and Jim Jordan, and newcomer Tracie Armestead-Payton.
Knorr has teamed up with fellow board member Jim Jordan as a running mate, saying, “we both share similar values.”
If elected for her third term, Knorr would like to see MUSD become a top-rated district in the state.
“We do that through supporting our staff and our teachers and ensuring they have the tools that they need to do their jobs,” Knorr said. “It also takes good customer service for our parents and our students.”
On the line of customer service, Knorr stressed the importance of parent communication, a challenge in and of itself but especially in the age of COVID.
“COVID has obviously presented some challenges that were unexpected and we’ve really never experienced. Through anything, especially any challenge, you always learn,” Knorr said. “I think we’ve learned a lot about effectively communicating to the community and to the parents and students.”
She is also excited to continue her work with the board on some exciting projects like the second high school which was recently approved.
“We are fortunate that we are a growing district,” Knorr said. “We’re continually seeing our enrollment increase, and that is an advantage because it helps increase our funding, but it also gives us the ability to offer new programs and new opportunities for our students.”
Before this election, she held a “meeting” with her kids, Robert, 14, Jake, 11, Averie, 8 and Juliette, 5, asking them seriously if they would be OK with their mom working long hours for the school district.
“They all said yes, that they appreciate what I’m doing, and they support me,” Knorr said. “They understand the sacrifice of mommy having to go to school board meetings — and it’s not just school board meetings. I mean, there are calls and workshops and different time demands.”
Her time on the board has not gone unrewarded however. She has been elected by other board members for president three years in a row, and was proud of the board’s accomplishment in bringing back all-day kindergarten.
One of the challenges she has faced while with MUSD is the bond election in 2019, when she tried to propose a more conservative measure but failed to get a second motion. The bond chosen by the board ended up not passing.
Knorr came under fire earlier this year for her alleged romantic relationship with State Rep. David Cook. Knorr was a lobbyist for Western Growers Association and was scrutinized for legislation sponsored by Cook and backed by Knorr that may have benefited her farm.
“I don’t think I need to go into any of that,” Knorr said. “I’m just thankful that the House Ethics Committee chose to dismiss the complaint. That was the result of that, and that has cleared me of, you know, any wrongdoing.”
The chairman of the House committee voted to drop the matter, but another member of the panel said they were “deeply troubled” by the investigators findings.
This year has been particularly taxing for board members, who have frequently scheduled special sessions to work with the public and create solutions. With the board’s vote to reopen schools last week 3-2, Knorr voting yes, she hopes to get kids back in school as soon as possible.
“I understand the concerns of everybody and I believe that we need to be safe and ensure a safe environment for our students,” Knorr said. “Now that the data shows that we can safely open schools, it is critically important that we provide the in-person education.”
Knorr said though the learning curve this year was steep, she feels they are now more prepared than ever before for future crises that may arise. More than anything else, though, Knorr believes in the resiliency of MUSD’s students and looks to the bright future of what the district could become.
“We believe (MUSD) can be the top district in the state,” Knorr said. “We believe that education is vitally important to the future of our city, and that these kids are our future. We need to give them the absolute best we can to prepare them.”
Editor's note: This article originally said Knorr was fired by Western Growers. While she no longer works there, it is not clear whether it was the organization's decision or her own. We have removed the reference.