Every now and then we catch a glimpse of what’s real and we are awakened from our slumber to new, bright possibilities. My time with Amy Carney started like most of my other interviews, with the background. I pulled up Amazon and typed into my search Parent on Purpose, and up popped Ms. Carney’s book.
Three days later, highlighter in hand, I poured over the book’s content, neatly arranged in make sense outline: Lead…Love…Launch. It looked simple enough, it wasn’t. As I devoured the content of each chapter, my clock was reset. I was catapulted back to a more simple time in my own life, where growing up was more-or-less a common sense, uncomplicated proposition, and pretty much based on a set of general principles that worked and made sense.
What our kids watch us do, not what they hear us say, is what they will know to be true about life. – Amy Carney
Wait a minute…that’s the old principle of intentional modeling, resurrected. It’s the most powerful principle in parenting, regardless of time or place. In Amy’s mind, there is a deliberate way parents can shape their children for future success. Parents primarily, and all adults in general, are the models for the next generation.
As I flipped through Parent on Purpose, I kept asking myself, why these principles don’t apply to schools. Well, in fact, they do. Let’s get back to education in our schools with teachers as partners in a culture of transparency, trust, and respect.
In America today we have 14,000 school districts and 60,000 schools, educating 58,000,000 children ages 4 to 18 for 6-10 hours per day. If modeling is the all-powerful principle in parenting, and it is, why then would we blindly turn our children over to a monolithic education system run from Washington, DC, and think everything will just work out fine?
Something happened in the past two years that grabbed parents, mostly moms, by the throat. Our COVID experience ripped open our schools to expose a culture that has frightened many parents. While we labored away with careers, paying our taxes, and being compliant citizens, a silent transformation was underway. Our schools, we discovered, are Petri dishes, where social, gender, and race experimentations were underway.
It’s my fault and yours. We trusted the people and the system to do their job, educate our children, treat them and us with respect, and be an extension of the dreams all parents have for their children. Now we know a lot…too much to stand by and allow strangers to create learning environments predicated on political and social constructs many parents do not approve of.
I have two glass jars on my kitchen windowsill. They greet me every morning and speak a difficult truth. Nine hundred thirty-six pennies are split unequally between them. What may look like an odd choice of decor is a purposeful reminder of the fleeting nature of childhood. Lord willing, parents get approximately 936 weeks to raise a child from birth until the age of eighteen. Each week, parents purposefully remove one penny from the original jar and drop it into the spent one. – Amy Carney
As is true with the limited opportunities as parents, so too is our child’s time in his or her school. We can no longer put our kids on the bus or drop them at the curbside to allow others to manage the pennies in our education jar. The stakes are too high. We, according to Amy Carney’s philosophy, must own the outcome of education just as we do with parenting.
The truth must be trumpeted for all to hear. Public education is not neutral, and not always a partner to parents and their values. For decades we bought the lie that instruction could be neutral, that educators were unbiased purveyors of pure academics within the vacuum of neutrality. That is rubbish!
It’s time to come clean. Nothing about America’s vast education monopoly is benign. The myth of neutrality in classrooms is just that, a fairy tale. We need to pay attention. We can no longer afford to perpetuate our decades of trust and apathy, hoping our schools will do what’s right. They won’t always do what’s right.
We need sound local parental leadership on our school boards that will monitor the culture, put parents first, not teachers and their DC mandated theories. Our school boards need to rediscover and focus on academics, parental partnerships and operate with transparency and trust. They haven’t been, and now we need to change that by electing people like Amy Carney to the Scottsdale Unified School District.
This is the first school board interview conducted by my company, iVoteAmerica. I can’t ignore the call. After all, nothing in America is more important than the care, feeding, nurture, character, education, and future of the next generation of citizens. These are our children!
Yes, Amy Carney is the first candidate for a school board I have interviewed and iVoteArizona is proud to partner with her by endorsing her candidacy for the Board of Directors of the Scottsdale Unified School District for 2022.
Plunge into the interview and ponder what has occurred, what we need to change, and why our local education leadership is vital to the strength and future of Arizona and indeed, all of America.
Q: In your mind what is the urgent need in education today?
AMY: The most urgent need in education today is refocusing on academics. We have gotten away from the real purpose of why we send our children to school in the first place, an education. We need to refocus on giving them what they need academically. Back to the basics.
Q: So science, history, civics, math, and geography are things you think are important?
AMY: (laughter) Yes, that’s what is important, and it’s why most parents send their kids to school. They want their kids educated in the core subjects. We need to strengthen that before we think about getting into the cultural and social issues.
Q: Our daughter came home one day from the 7th grade and said, “I’m bored…I don’t do anything and I get A’s in my subjects…I want to read more, know more, study more.” She went on to say a lot of her school time wasn’t school at all. Most parents I know don’t want the schools tampering with their child’s psyche, they would prefer that the school teach their child to read, thank you very much!
AMY: Yes, and I love what you’re saying because I do not believe we are doing enough in the education system to develop a child’s individual passions and interests. Education is so much more than sticking to simply academics, it’s helping each student develop their interests from the academics. I became a writer in high school because that was nurtured in me, and I am still a writer today.
I have a son who experienced the same thing. He was nurtured in middle school through a science olympian club, and he fell in love with it. Who even thinks they want a kid who competes in science (laughter!)…but it happened with him…and he’s studying in the area of his own passion in college today. It came from his academic interest and a teacher who hosted an after-school club that helped him develop his interest.
So often today in our schools, we are focusing on our kids’ identities instead of their interests, academically.
Q: In that equation, you have just described the job of every parent and I think, educator…help our children discover who they are as a result of what they learn.
AMY: That’s right.
Q: Tell everyone and me who you are…who is Amy Carney?
AMY: I am a wife of 24-years…my firstborn were triplets! Then, a year and a half later we had a baby girl. So in eighteen months my husband and I had four kids! that was a crazy way to start our motherhood. And then we adopted two sons, recently, from the Arizona Foster Care system. That’s who I am as a mother.
Professionally, I am a writer who used to be a journalist. I am a freelance writer. I have written a couple of books. Parent on Purpose, being the book you have been referring to. My other book, One Hundred Questions for Mom was released last year. I have landed in the space of writing about intentional parenting, how we raise our children and how it matters, and how we can improve as parents in our primary role in life, being great parents.
I have been a champion for kids, parents, families, and the importance of a good education for many years.
Q: My favorite chapter of your book, Parent on Purpose, is chapter 9. In that chapter, you talk about a trip to Mexico with your children. You made a statement about the importance of “redefining the meaning of success” for our families. What did the Mexico trip do to help your family redefine success?
AMY: Well, I think culture has us distracted and has us believing that success just means achievement. Performance. We are so busy with our kids, running them around. They go to school all day, followed by organized activities, we have them involved in everything, it seems, and there are so many opportunities for kids today. We find ourselves taking advantage of all of these opportunities. If we could just slow down. At the end when we launch our kids into the work of adulthood, what will success mean to them? What makes a successful 18, 19, or 20-year-old?
I thought about this a lot. We were running our kids around to activities a lot. I started asking myself, is this what “success” is to me? A really great hockey player, a straight “A” student…not necessarily. That is not what success is to me. Success to me and my husband is our character, and as parents how we raise children who are compassionate, caring, and hard-working. We started taking our kids to Mexico. We walked through a diabetes clinic and I saw my big, rough-and-tumble hockey-playing son on his knees washing the feet of an elderly woman. To me, that moment defined success with my son. He was on his knees, serving the needs of a stranger in an impoverished village. To me, that is a success as a parent.
The question is, are we preparing our kids for that kind of definition of success in society today?
Q: Let’s chase that. Do you think we need to redefine the meaning of success in our schools?
AMY: Absolutely. We can talk about the decline of achievement, and I can look at the scores and become really bothered by it. We do need to be worried about the academic achievements and test scores of our students, but sometimes we can fail to help them become well-rounded individuals who love life and learning. If our children are only going to school to hammer it out, I think we can do a better job at creating a love for learning, passions about life, as well as good test scores and academic pride.
Yes, we need to redefine success in our school. It doesn’t always mean going off to college. We sometimes focus on the idea that everyone needs to go to college, and that’s not always the best path for everyone. I ended up not finishing college because my passion for writing helped me get jobs with newspapers and magazines right away. U was able to jump into jobs where I received on-the-job training.
In education, I think we need to go back the helping kids discover and develop their own passions and interests. For those who do not go on to college, we should be dedicated to helping them with a different path to success. Are we raising kids who want to be a handyman?
Q: How did you transition to politics?
AMY: [more laughter!] I’m still wondering that! During the season of COVID entering our lives, our kids were all home, and I started wondering, what’s going on here? I watched neighbors rush their kids off to private and charter schools, and mine were still at home. I asked, “why are things so different at Scottsdale Unified Scholl District than they are two miles away at another school?”
During this time I started diving into a lot of questions about who is making the decisions for the District. I had no idea how powerful the school board was I didn’t have any idea who was even on our school board, or who our Superintendent was. I just trusted that I was in a good school district where I could trust the leaders to make good decisions for our families. Then I discovered that wasn’t necessarily the case. I teamed with some national organizations, such as Arizona Women of Action, to learn more about what was going on. This all led me to where I am today, running for the school board.
Q: You were actually targeted in some sort of digital dossier scandal connected to the SUSD. What happened?
AMY: I, and a lot of other parents, started showing up at the school board meetings, speaking out and asking questions, and talking to the media. I don’t think our Board President appreciated what we were doing. He sent personal emails to me and other moms, intimidating us, and telling us to stop what we were doing. Our position was we were asking questions, wanting to know what was going on. For which we were shamed in our inboxes and social media.
It came to our attention that there was a Google drive that continued information on about 52 parents in the Scottsdale District that they were watching and compiling information about. We found the Google drive before they had a chance to do much with the information they were compiling. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I decided to run. That is not the kind of leadership our community wants or deserves.
We were not paying attention. We allowed a 24-year-old, single man to walk unopposed onto our school board our years ago, and who knows, I probably voted for him, I don’ know. The School Board is supposed to be non-partisan, and no one really cared or paid attention before this.
Q: For decades we have bought the notion that school boards were non-partisan, people who defended parents and cherished their children. Are they non-partisan, blank slates?
AMY: No, not at all. The problem with this is the voters just see names, and few of us knew who we were voting for unless you do research. And these school boards don’t just affect the students, they impact all of us. We are now trying to educate people that we need to know who we are voting for and how important these positions of leadership are. We can no longer allow people to use our school boards as a political stepping stone. We cannot allow these people who have no interest in our students and community to get on this board and make terrible decisions for our students and families.
Q: In many ways, over many decades, school boards have become local administrators of viewpoints parents don’t agree with. We assumed like we do so much of the time in politics, and that’s what these boards are, that we can be passive spectators whose job is to trust them. Sometimes people in power can’t be trusted, am I correct?
AMY: Yes, that’s exactly right. WE have learned that, and not just here in Scottsdale, but throughout Arizona and across the country. This, however, is a positive result that has come out of the season of COVID. We now have parents, like myself, who are stepping out of their comfort zones to turn things around in our communities and on our school boards.
Q: Let’s go back to the book, Parent on Purpose, and your decisions to make parenting deliberate, as illustrated by 936 copper pennies. Can you talk about that?
AMY: Oh, yes. I was just racing through raising my kids, having four kids close to the same age, and was focused on getting the things done on the calendar. So I put 936 pennies to help me slow down. I put 936 pennies in one glass jar and every Sunday, I moved one penny from the full jar to the spent jar and pray and reflect on the week I had spent with my children, how much time did I spend with them, did I do a good job. I wanted to get to the end of the pennies knowing I wasn’t going to have too many regrets, that I had proactively raised them, and spent quality time with them. That visual really helped me and it’s why I continue to recommend others do it.
We can get so busy, and we mean to do certain things, like having dinners around the table…but we don’t get to those things sometimes if we don’t slow down and use a visual like the 936 copper pennies to slow us down. It’s about deliberately living out a set of decisions about parenting.
Q: Amy, what was your first job, and what did you like about it?
AMY: My first job was at Burger King (giggles)…I was 15 years old. And what I like was it taught me a great work ethic at $3.35 per hour. I would have rather been at the Friday night football game than making Whoppers but my parents were willing to buy me the Jordache Jeans or the other things I wanted as a fifteen-year-old. So I made a decision that I needed to do that myself. I think my work ethic stems from my first job at fifteen years old.
Q: Do you think that we should have value propositions within the education culture? What would they be and what would they look like for you as a Board member?
AMY: I am the type of person who would insist that the Scottsdale Board of Directors respect and support the values parents are teaching at home, and that’s what isn’t happening. I will put an end to the policy of ignoring the values of parents or, worse, putting other values over the top of a parent’s desires. The Board exists to ensure that our children are taught academics, parents should teach the values they have in their home and in the community. The Board has stated core values, but I don’t think they are doing a very good job of enforcing them. The Board can’t say “we have a value of trust and of transparency” but yet have parents struggling to know what is going on within the school campus and classrooms. Parents haven’t even been allowed to be on campus in almost two years. Right now we can barely go over there to know what’s going on in our children’s classrooms. I will help the District live out the values they claim are important.
Q: You asked Arizona Legislators to provide easy access to learning materials. Why do parents need help getting access to learning materials?
AMY: As you know, there has been a lot of controversy going on across the country about what our children might be taught in the classrooms. When parents are trying to find out what’s being taught and what materials are being used, they are being ignored. They are being told they have to fill out a “public records request” in order to get that information. It’s a struggle to know what is being taught and what materials are used. It’s unfortunate, and common sense needs to be put into legislation like SB-12, which I support. I testified about my experience while trying to know what my kids are being taught. Before my child goes to Middle School, I want to look at the material, not discover it on a website. What curriculum is being used? I want to make an educated choice about how my son is educated, and right now there is just no way to know that, unless we are talking to other parents…everything is so reactive. We should be proactive in helping parents know what is being taught.
Q: In my younger days there was seamlessness between schools, culture, and parents, a kind of true partnership. There were few contradictions and almost no collision of values, or an attempt to usurp parental values and authority. There was congruity. Does that seem to have been replaced over time?
AMY: Absolutely, absolutely. But when we think back, most families raised their children with similar values. We might have gone to different churches but most parents were raising these kids with similar values. The local school was simply an extension of that, and now we are soooo missing the partnership that once existed. We need to bring back the idea that education is a part of the community that begins in the home, with the parents, and the children belong to the parents. We are sending our children to be educated, not to undergo value modifications in opposition to parents. We need to see if we can get back to this system, and that’s why I am running for the school board.
Q: How many seats are on the ballot for SUSD in 2022?
AMY: In Arizona in 2022, all school boards have two seats coming open. Then two years from now, in 2024, there will be three seats.
Q: Are you getting any opposition?
AMY: [laughtger!] Of course! It is openly hostile because throwing labels at someone is the only ammunition some people have. But I also see a lot of hope, a lot of excitement from community members. That’s the only reason why I said yes to running. I know I represent a large part of the community. being an author allows me to speak to churches and groups, and schools…I know a lot of people and they know me, and my character. When people come at me with labels that aren’t even true, I can stand firm, knowing who I am. This is part of the deal, and I will look the other way and run my life the way I always have.
Q: What was the first car you ever owned?
AMY: Ha, ha! I don’t know the year, but it was an ugly brown Dodge charger.
Q: How would you handle school board meetings differently than they have been run?
AMY: I don’t think there needs to be all the animosity. There is animosity because the community and parents are not being heard. Parents feel desperate because they feel no one is listening. Nothing is changing and there is a lack of transparency. The lack of truth is what is creating animosity. My hope is to be transparent and to fully educate the community about what is going on and not keep things hidden behind closed doors. I will be the same person on the Board while sitting on the dais that I am at home. People will be able to count on me not be afraid, to be transparent. It’s the darkness that is causing mistrust and animosity. We are bringing to light things that some people do not want to have brought to light.
Q: Is or isn’t Critical Race Theory a part of the curriculum of the Scottsdale Unified School District?
AMY: They say that CRT is not a part of our curriculum or being taught. What they say is they are engaged in “culturally responsive teaching” which is still CRT. There are absolutely divisive teachings, even pornography, being assigned to students. When the District says CRT is not being taught and yet your son is being assigned the book Ghost Boys and forced to read about Black Lives Matter, and the associated cultural issues attached to these things…
I’m on a middle school novels committee where we can vet the books coming in. I hear parents discussing what their children are hearing these things on Tic Tok. Well, that doesn’t mean we should be focusing our twelve-year-olds on cultural issues in our schools. Yes, they will hear these things, but in our schools, we should be giving them meaningful and beautiful things that should be allowed in their minds, rather than the things showing up on their cell phones.
Q: Are you a trouble maker?
AMY: Am I?!? I have never viewed myself like that. Actually, I don’t like conflict and controversy but somehow I am getting more comfortable with it.
Q: What’s your favorite color?
AMY: My favorite color has always been red.
Q: Is it possible for parents to see a displacement of education authority away from DC?
AMY: I think we are headed in that direction. We are seeing a lot of families moving to homeschooling, and declining enrollment in the public schools. We are heading in a direction we need to let the system crumble so maybe it can be rebuilt.
Q: How’s the campaign doing at the moment?
AMY: The campaign is fabulous. It’s hard to keep up with the momentum. It’s absolutely in our favor.
Q: What’s your favorite food?
AMY: Anything Italian. Pasta, unfortunately.
Q: Since the upheaval, has the Scottsdale Unified Scholl district improved its relationship with parents?
AMY: Oh, absolutely not. It’s actually getting worse. At the last board meeting, they were trying to revise some policies design to curb public comments from parents, to reduce their voices. It’s not heading in a positive direction since we started using our voices. This is why we need to take back these two seats in November.
The number one qualification in this election is to find a new Board member who is actually a parent in the District, who has skin in the game, who aren’t just lawyers, educators, or doctors, who want to do this as a hobby. We need parents willing to stand up, represent the parents, and make changes parents want to be made.
Q: Do you eat Sushi?
AMY: I do not. I don’t eat raw fish.
Q: Education is very important to my organization, iVoteAmerica, and iVoteArizona. What is it you will bring to the SUSD to assure parents that it is impossible to indoctrinate their children with values they do not approve of?
AMY: I will say, it will be impossible for me to allow that to happen. But what I will be able to do is educate parents with the truth about what is happening within the District. I will vote against things parents don’t want. I will bring darkness to light. Parents will be able to make educated, well-informed decisions. We are fortunate in Arizona that we are a school choice state, and I believe our public schools should and can be a good choice for families. Not every family can move their kids, so I want to be someone who stands up for parents who want family values respected in our schools.
Q: As we approach the third anniversary of COVID, there are demonstrative indicators of developmental and educational setbacks for K-8 students who have been locked down, masked up, and socially isolated. Are you seeing this?
AMY: Oh, absolutely. I have a fourth-grader who we just adopted in August, and I am seeing a lot of behaviors with him that used to be things associated with second-graders. Even teachers agree some kids are a couple of years behind where they should be, developmentally, socially, and academically. We have some catching up to do. We need to take this seriously and make our children stronger, release these mandates and get them up-to-speed.
In Scottsdale, teachers are mandating masks. This is a difficult thing for students, we don’t understand what we are doing with these policies. Under the mask mandate, our children are learning how to lie, how to coerce, how to deceive. They are being told by the teacher to take down their masks but if someone comes into the classroom, put their masks back up.
Q: What is your top personal strength you will use as a Board member to represent parents?
AMY: I am a relational person, a team player, and someone who will be responsive to parents, in an ultimate way.
Q: Where does liberty come from?
AMY: Liberty comes from God, not from man. What scares me about society today is the belief that liberty comes from society.
Q: Jann-Michael Greenberg was voted out of his position as SUSD’s Board President over the dossier scandal, and police claimed no crimes were committed. Was that enough for you?
AMY: It’s not enough. He is still on the Board making decisions, He is the one who has brought the new Board policies to the table that would squelch the voice and authority of parents. It’s unfortunate that he is still on the board, making decisions for our district. He still has influence, he got them to pass two of the five policies he wanted.
Q: Would you support the dismantling of the Department of Education in favor of state-run education systems?
AMY: Absolutely. We need a state-controlled model.
Q: We have a centralized education system with 14,000 school districts with 60,000 schools, educating 58 million students, 6-10 hours a day, from 4 years old to 18 years old, taught by unionized and state-trained instructors. That’s the structural power of the education system in America. What does this power grip mean?
AMY: I am running for these reasons. We can’t give up yet. We need to take back our schools. It is very frightening. But parents can’t live frightened lives. We need leaders to help parents work through the education issues. Not every parent can walk away. That’s why I am running for the school board.
Q: When I say, “abortion” what comes to mind?
AMY: Awful. Absolutely not. I don’t know where to go with that, it’s just such a tragedy, a cultural tragedy. We have been led t believe that it is a “choice” when it isn’t.
HOW TO CONNECT WITH AND SUPPORT AMY CARNEY:
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