Yulonda Boutte

COCHISE COUNTY — Yulonda Boutte has been appointed to the Arizona School Boards Association board of directors to represent Cochise County.

“I think it is important that the county has a seat at the state level with the Arizona School Board,” said Boutte about her reason for applying for county director. “And so, I put in a letter of interest to do that because no one had volunteered after Keith (Guin) did his term.”

Cochise County Superintendent Jacqui Clay congratulated Boutte on her new position.

“We are proud and honored to have Mrs. Boutte serve Cochise County in this capacity,” said Clay in a Nov. 24 press release. “She believes in taking an active role in the education of our children and policies. She is passionate about the education system, our students and community. We are fortunate to have such a high caliber representative with integrity and passion to represent Cochise County.”

Boutte, president of the Sierra Vista Unified School District board, began her term on Dec. 17.

“What’s really important is the desire to advocate on the behalf of the children, the community and the state, and to be willing to continue to learn and to lead other school boards members,” said ASBA Board of Directors President Ann O’Brien. “She’s (Boutte) got a strong desire to get involved and (has) done good work on her school board.”

Boutte said she’s looking to bring the local perspective and advocating for the interests of the rural communities at the state level in her new position.

“A lot of times the school board association, most of the people are from the inner city,” said Boutte. “So, I just wanted to make sure that us out here in the rural areas were included in the conversations and decisions.”

According to Boutte, one of the main obstacles school boards in rural areas face is the lack of representation.

“A lot of us out here are not able to belong to that association because of the cost and because the districts are so small,” said Boutte. “I’m looking for something to do because Jacqui Clay, she did bring some of that information that we get from that — which is very valuable information — to the county.

“And I’m looking to partner with her to do that so that those districts that we have that don’t belong or can’t afford to go to that (ASBA) will be able to get some of that important information from that to be successful school board members.”

According to the ASBA bylaws, county directors serve a two-year term and have a term length of three consecutive two-year terms on the 17-member board. Each county in Arizona is allocated one county director with the exception of Pima and Maricopa counties, which are each allocated two directors.

All 17 of the county directors must be active school board members in order to serve on the ASBA board of directors.

In addition to the county directors, there are five ASBA executive officers, president, president-elect, treasurer, secretary and immediate past-president.

O’Brien said the appointment process for a county director begins with a recommendation from a currently sitting county director.

“I went to Tadeo De La Hoya (Yuma) and asked for some recommendations, and he talked to some folks and then provided me with Yulonda’s name,” said O’Brien. “Yulonda and I had a conversation — discussed her interest and desires. And she submitted a letter, and then it goes to the ASBA board of directors for review and vote.”

Heidi Vega-Otero, ASBA director of communications, said the decision to appoint Boutte was made during a special meeting hosted on Zoom on Nov. 9. Boutte said she was contacted about her appointment on Nov. 18.

Boutte has served on the SVUSD school board since 2016 and was re-elected in 2018. In January 2021 she became the president of the school board after Barbra Williams finished her term in December 2020.

Boutte said that she is unsure if she will run for re-election in 2022.

“In the beginning, my idea was just to do it like as a one-term thing,” said Boutte. “I’ve had a lot of people that had encouraged me saying ‘I think you should do it’ or ‘I’d think you would be good for it.’ So I thought ‘OK, I’ll do it for one term to see what it’s like.’

“I kinda went into it blindly ... This was not my navigation to do anything like this at all. I feel like that this was the direction that I guess God wanted me to go. He’s definitely brought me through this, because it hasn’t been an easy job. But I think I’ve learned a lot, and I’m hoping to continue to do as much as I can for our students, our teachers, all of our staff — just to make us be the best district ever.”