Horne's eyes set on final hurdle
By Kristen Go
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 11, 2002
Paradise Valley residents know Tom Horne as a stalwart on their School Board and
as a former state legislator.
But Horne wants to be known as the state superintendent of public instruction.
In the Sept. 10 primary, Horne spent $500,000 of his own money and knocked off
Republican incumbent Jaime Molera.
He now faces Democrat Jay Blanchard in the Nov. 5 general election.
It didn't come as a surprise to people who know Horne when he announced his bid
for state schools chief. Supporters say his background as a lawyer specializing
in construction law and his service on the School Board and as a legislator have
prepared him well.
Horne's detractors, many of whom are parents in his district, say they would
prefer someone other than Horne at the helm of Arizona's schools.
Horne became active in public education when his children turned school age. His
drive when he first ran for School Board was to increase academic achievement, a
theme he has stuck to for this campaign.
"We've had so much academic success in Paradise Valley that I would like to
bring that success to the state level," Horne said.
He got the idea to run for superintendent of public instruction when he wrapped
up his term as a legislator.
Tom Krebs, Paradise Valley's superintendent, said Horne has consistently shown
through his work on the board that he's passionate about and supportive of
"Being a School Board mem ber is a thankless task," Krebs said. "There's lots of
decisions that come to governing boards that are important that impact students
around the district, and a lot of those decisions don't always make people
To do that and do it while still balancing a family and a job . . . and to do it
for 24 years is pretty remarkable."
Jim DiCello has worked with Horne for 10 years. DiCello, assistant
superintendent of business services, also serves as the district's lobbyist.
The two have worked together on contract negotiations for teachers and on the
district's budget. Horne and others are proud that Paradise Valley's
administrative costs are 2.7 percent of its overall budget, while the statewide
average is 5 percent.
"His efforts to keep administrative costs that low and as lean as we can be, and
still providing a high level of service to schools, has been a high point,"
Some parents who have been active in the district don't want to see Horne in
charge of all the state's schools.
Horne has been criticized for how he interacts with parents and handles issues,
especially those involving the teaching of English to students whose home
language is Spanish.
Horne has said he will enforce a ban on bilingual education and has the support
of Ron Unz, a California businessman who has campaigned successfully in
California to do away with bilingual education.
Joetta Halford said she has tried to get in touch with Horne many times as a
parent of a Paradise Valley student and as a concerned citizen. She had concerns
about the quality of education offered to her disabled daughter. Now that her
daughter has graduated, Halford tutors students at Arrowhead Elementary School
who aren't fluent in English.
She said she had hoped to talk to Horne about what she sees as a lack of
progress among students learning English. He has yet to return a call.
"He really doesn't want to listen to the problems," Halford said.
Bernie Evans was president of the United Parent Council, a districtwide parents'
organization from 1997-99.
"I felt that he didn't always treat parents respectfully," she said.
Carmen Chenal, a longtime friend of Horne's, begs to differ.
Chenal said Horne is always willing to listen and is prepared and thorough.
"He's well-read on everything, he has lots of energy and is just a really good
person," Chenal said.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-6864.