• Age: 47
• Years in Arizona/Verde Valley: 22
• Professional (and military) history: Physical therapist (22 years)
• Education: University of Kansas, 1993, B.G.S Degree.; Rockhurst University, 1996, MPT (Master of Physical Therapy) Degree
• Elective and Advisory Experience: Cottonwood-Oak Creek Governing Board 2007-present (President x 5 years); Immaculate Conception Parish Council (2012 to 2015, Served as Pres and Vice Pres); Co-Vice Chair of the 2017-18 MUHSD & COCSD Joint Advisory Committee on School Consolidation;
• Civic Affiliations: Knights of Columbus
Question 1: How would you characterize the operations of Mingus Union High School? What are the district’s strengths and what are its most noticeable weaknesses?
Finger: MUHS is a small district that offers incredible programs to their students in a wide range of areas from its award-winning drama department to the wide range of competitive sports opportunities to their vast offerings with its CTE partnerships. MUHS is a highly rated school academically, also, and manages to offer all of these things on a very tight budget. Some of the weaker areas that I would like to see improvement in include cleaning up the campus image with stricter enforcement on policies relating to tobacco, vaping, and other prohibited practices. I would also like to see what can be done to raise the 84-percent graduation rate (US News & World Report, 2018) of such a highly performing school. Without sacrificing programs, MUHS needs to improve collaboration with neighboring districts, create a more stable administrative legacy, and a culture where student success and outcomes is of primary importance above all else. MUHS has struggled recently with shrinking public confidence over the consolidation issue. It is important to regain that trust from our community partners through greater transparency, sound decision making, and top-down implementation with buy in from all stakeholders.
Question 2: Mingus Union has had 13 superintendents (including interims) in the past 25 years, including five in the past five years. Cottonwood-Oak Creek, by comparison, has had four superintendents over the past 25 years. What do you consider to be the primary reasons for this administrative instability at Mingus and has it been to the detriment of the high school’s educational mission?
Finger: Mingus Union has been able to attract some very well-qualified candidates to serve as superintendent over the years. It is my belief that the high turnover in this position has much to do with the relationship between the governing board and the superintendent. The two must work to establish a shared vision for the future and collaborate in decision making. The superintendent needs to feel supported, and should not be in a position that is governed by fear or intimidation. As a governing board, the responsibility is to trust the superintendent to do their job and to not micro manage. Finding balance in this symbiotic relationship, I believe, has been the challenge in retaining well-qualified superintendents. I also believe that with such instability at the top, it is difficult not only to establish a shared educational vision, but also to progress toward that vision, and to encourage staff to trust in that direction and join in that journey.
Question 3: What is your present/past involvement/participation with Mingus and other school districts in the Verde Valley and how does that experience best qualify you to serve the MUHS District?
Finger: I am a parent of students who have attended, currently attend, and will attend MUHS in the future. As a parent, I see on a daily basis, very closely, both the rewards and challenges with attending this school. As a 12-year governing board member of COCSD, I have also watched thousands of our students promote to MUHS and wondered and worried whether they were prepared enough, would they be safe and supported, would they continue with the same opportunities that had been customary. I have seen the challenges of transitioning these students to high school, and know first hand what is and isn’t working cooperatively between these two districts. As a seasoned board member, I know open meeting law and school budgets. I know how important it is to be transparent in district operations and decision making. I know how important it is to engage your community in school operations and activities. And above all, I know that every decision I make should be made for the benefit of the students first. I believe I can serve impartially on this board as I have no past experience as an employee of MUHS nor do I have family members employed by the district.