New QC board member has lived an adventurous life – East Valley Tribune | Team Cansler

By Mark Moran

Tribune Staff Writer

James Knox has turned his life upside down and seems far more interesting than any education policy debate could be, so he could be forgiven for considering serving on the Queen Creek Unified School District Governing Board as its newest member could be somewhat mundane in comparison.

In his previous life, Knox was an Alaskan commercial crab fisherman who ventured out on the unforgiving Bering Sea with a new captain in threatening and foreboding weather.

Once his crew was miles from shore when a massive and ferocious storm swept over them.

“I told my buddies, ‘Put on your gumby suits and loosen those lifeboats, that doesn’t look good,’ Knox recalled, referring to the bulky survival suits they had on board.

“We made ice cream. We had about 2,500 pots on the boat and we were out there beating the ice,” Knox said.

“I was sure the devil had come down to get me.

“After that I was like, ‘You know, maybe that piece of fishing wasn’t really the best thing for me,'” he said.

As a member of a Northern California volunteer fire department, Knox helped save a family from a well fire in 1992.

After the Highway Patrol was unable to evacuate several families from a fire-trapped ridge, Knox and other firefighters rappeled from a helicopter down a mountainside and took the family to safety at a nearby pond.

“We grabbed a hose and cut it up

and were breathing in the pool

through the hose as the fire passed,” Knox recalled.

Those adventures made working as a roadie for a number of heavy metal bands, including one called Captain Crunch, pale in comparison.

Life didn’t betray James Knox even in his earlier years.

“I was a wild, wild kid,” Knox said. “Hanging out with a few bands, touring with them. I was really wild. Looking back, I probably wasn’t the type I would have wanted my sons to be.”

Ironically, his political and political views took shape during his wildest days.

“I was young and wild and abusing drugs and not being the person I wanted to be,” Knox said. “I started looking at what I was doing and how people were in this wild sex, drug and rock ‘n’ roll community and I expected the government to provide solutions and I remember some of my Friends got food stamps and they were like ‘mine’. Stamps are late, I can’t eat.’

“And I was like, ‘Get a job. I work you know?”

At some point he began to pay serious attention to public order and the meaning of his life in general.

After his exploits as a roadie, firefighter, and shrimp fisherman in Alaska, Knox started his own computer business and began dealing with the state regulations he had to comply with as an employer and employee, costing him time and money.

“I sort of signed both sides of the check,” Knox said. “And to realize that as an employee and as an employer I am responsible for a lot of families and how taxes really affect us and the business and really participate in the whole process of capitalism. It just seemed to me that there were many things that needed to be addressed, and if not me, then who?”

Knox largely spent his formative years

years in the Bay Area of ​​California and often visited Queen Creek, where he had an extended family.

Fast-forward through multiple stints across the United States, including one in Montana, where he served a single term in the state legislature. There he said he ran 16 bills through the House, mostly on education policy and spending.

After further travel, Knox returned to Queen Creek three years ago and settled with his wife and two homeschooled sons.

Knox said he and his wife decided to homeschool their children for family reasons while he was in the Montana legislature.

During the Queen Creek School Board campaign, he was criticized for being a homeschooling parent seeking a seat on the public school board of directors.

But he believes being a taxpayer is reason enough for anyone to run for a seat on the school board, and as a parent of homeschooled children, he is uniquely qualified to serve.

“It was a different experience than the average parent because we had to choose curricula, I had to work as a team with my wife’s help to figure out what works well for one child versus another. Not all children learn the same way,” Knox said.

Now Knox will serve his first term on the Queen Creek Schools Board after ousting 13-year veteran and five-year board chairman Ken Brague.

“The Knox crowd is very organized,” Brague told the Tribune shortly after the election. “They were very well prepared. I showed up to a gunfight with a knife.”

Knox calls himself a conservative

Republican, although party politics should not play a role in school board elections.

“There was no illusion that I was trying to be non-Republican or bipartisan,” Knox said. “Honestly, I think we need to see legislation enacted to eliminate these bipartisan races because that allows for a lot of shenanigans, people hiding their core principles.

“I would say, if anything, the bipartisan races are … a lot meaner, a lot more personal, because people can hide under bipartisan and get away with it.”

Knox has several priorities as a new school board member, which he set out in a “victory email” after the election.

“Well, here’s my game plan, but I’m very open to hearing thoughts from others,” he wrote. “First, I will hold a series of listening sessions. I’d happily try to have one before I sit down, but certainly monthly thereafter. I would like to include other members if they are willing to contribute.

“A casual environment like a coffee shop could encourage an open dialogue between me and the public with no 3-minute limit and no feedback, like in the public comment section of the monthly board meeting. The main reason is to LISTEN to the public.”

Second, Knox will also pursue portable classroom deployments following the defeat of a $198 million loan operation.

The district will use $5.5 million it has set aside for two dozen portable classrooms if the bond fails. Knox said schools should think so anyway, rather than keep asking taxpayers to foot the bill.

The third point is to “set realistic goals for Superintendent Perry Berry,” Knox wrote. “I think we need to have a three-year plan that’s like, ‘Superintendent Berry, you’ve got to sit here and in three years you’ve got to get the 80% average test scores.

“You know, right now we’re at 63

and 57 (for reading and math respectively) and who I think are a D or an F and work with him, help him reach that goal in three years or he has to get out of his contract and we can find someone there inside, who can do that.”

Knox also advocates limiting the number of students who can take advantage of the district’s open enrollment policy and said Queen Creek students should come first. He said if the district accepts too many students from other districts, local children suffer the consequences as they crowd for space.

Knox also advocates a more traditional curriculum.

“There will be no time and place to implement policy agendas, CRT (Critical Race Theory), SEL (Social Emotional Learning), etc. that address multiple concerns of the public and parents,” he wrote.

Eventually, Knox said he was against it

to place additional bonds on future ballots.

“Money isn’t the answer to anything,” Knox said. “We need to rethink how we can do some creative things and get out of the cycle we’re currently in, which tends to focus on solving the same problem in the same way it’s never been before.” has given.” 

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