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State Superintendent reflects on school challenges in 2020, hopes for 2021

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman
Posted at 3:07 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 20:18:30-05

PHOENIX — A new semester is now just days away for many Arizona schools and ABC15 is getting exclusive insight into the state of education.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman sat down only with ABC15's Danielle Lerner to reflect on this unprecedented year and what it will take to help schools rebound in 2021.

Like so many of us, State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman is ready to say goodbye to 2020.

"I'm hopeful for a better 2021 but yeah, this year has just been incredibly challenging," she said.

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Hoffman lays out the many challenges our school communities have endured in a recent opinion piece for the Arizona Republic.

She also shares her own experience with loss and isolation, revealing she suffered a miscarriage this summer.

"First and foremost, I wanted to be out there as someone that other women could look to for support and to know that I could relate to that experience," Hoffman said. "One of my hopes is that we all take a breath and understand that this year has been hard for each and every one of us in so many different ways."

Hoffman says empathy and kindness will be vital going forward as districts deal with ongoing turmoil and divisiveness surrounding remote and in-person learning, especially now that public health benchmarks recommend virtual learning for every county in the state.

"If we didn't have those flexibilities, the alternative is really a mandate to open," said Hoffman, "but I recognize that it has not worked for every district."

When asked if schools should be offering in-person instruction given the current metrics, Hoffman said, "I think you could have a situation where a school could have zero cases... and if everyone is wearing a mask, which is required, then I think that is a very low-risk environment."

The former speech therapist has always maintained she is not a politician, however this year she found herself toeing that line.

"There were definitely times where I faced pressure to speak out more, to just straight up like, why aren’t you attacking Governor Ducey on X, Y, and Z, and especially being an elected Democrat," she said. "My biggest priority since March has been how do we maintain school funding... I needed the governor's partnership and collaboration to make sure the funding was going to our schools."

Hoffman says her partnership with the governor will still be key in 2021 as her office continues to advocate for school communities across the state.

"Let’s all come together with an open mind, solution-focused, with hope and optimism to work together to move our state forward," said Hoffman.

Hear more from Superintendent Hoffman on Monday, January 4, as districts across the state kick off the second semester. ABC15's Danielle Lerner will have more on Hoffman's legislative priorities for 2021, concerns over funding and student learning loss, and how the state will handle standardized testing in the spring.