By Corinne Murdock |
Mesa Public Schools (MPS) board member and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) East Valley chapter president Kiana Sears says more discussions about race need to occur.
Sears issued the remarks in an interview with The Mesa Tribune regarding the recent Supreme Court decision effectively ending the practice of affirmative action in college admissions. Sears advocated for the use of equity in policy, rather than equality, to make up for systemic racial inequalities. She acknowledged that people may have the same capabilities, but that circumstances should be mitigated to equalize outcomes.
“There is a local angst about the [ruling], especially in the climate where you have seen,” said Sears. “There’s no difference in the capacity of people to learn and to grow and to actually learn[,] but you have unnatural and man-made barriers and institutional barriers that make it harder for some people.”
According to Sears, avoidance of prioritizing race in conversations is due in part to the demonization of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and related concepts like “inclusivity.” Upon taking office in January, Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Tom Horne disavowed the presence of CRT in schools and launched a hotline for parents to report inappropriate lessons on racial, gender-based, sexual, and social and emotional ideologies.
Over the summer, ADE reported receiving numerous valid complaints of inappropriate materials at schools, including MPS. Horne reported at the time that MPS was working with ADE to resolve the complaint.
“A teacher reported through the hotline that the Mesa school district has a training program for teachers that clearly states that certain Americans are ‘living under a system of white supremacy.’ That is a divisive and bigoted statement that has no place in education,” said Horne. “We are individuals, entitled to be judged by what we know, what we can do, our character, and not the color of our skin.”
During this most recent interview, Sears accused the hotline of creating a climate of “fear and intimidation.”
Sears also implied that race-conscious interactions and practices result in a greater good for everyone.
“[It’s important] to make sure if we have a population that is not doing as well, for whatever reason, we remove those barriers,” said Sears. “We know we’re as strong as our weakest link. No matter who, what, when, why, let’s remove all of those barriers.”
Sears was twice chosen as the MPS representative to attend the National School Boards Association (NSBA). MPS opted to remain with NSBA despite the national controversy over their 2021 letter to President Joe Biden requesting a federal investigation into parents attending school board meetings.
In addition to attending the NSBA events, Sears was elected the secretary/treasurer of NSBA’s National Black Council of School Board Members Board of Directors. Two other Arizonans serve on that board: chair Devin Del Palacio with the Tolleson Union High School District, and regional director Lindsay Love with Chandler Unified School District.
Following the SCOTUS decision, Sears’ NAACP branch held an event, “Affirming Black Brilliance,” to discuss strategies for ensuring racial equity in education. It appears that Sears runs the publicity for the branch as well, since she is the only point of contact for all press, media, and public comment requests.
Sears became the NAACP branch president in 2021. Last January, STN featured Sears for her roles as an NAACP president and MPS governing board member. Similarly to her recent call to action, Sears called for a greater focus on race.
Arizona List, a committee for pro-abortion Democratic women, endorses Sears in her role as an MPS Governing Board member.
In addition to her role as an NAACP president and MPS board member, Sears serves as the program director for Arizona State University (ASU) Faith Based Outreach and Community Partnerships.
Sears was the 2018 Democratic nominee for the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). The Arizona Attorney General’s Office launched and later dropped an investigation into Sears for failing to disclose dormant businesses when she launched her campaign, upon a referral by the Secretary of State’s Office. Sears said at the time that these were name-only businesses, meaning she and her husband filed for business names to reserve them with the intent to one day turn them into actual businesses.
Last year, Sears’ campaign was again mired in controversy. Sears faced bribery accusations for her hire of former Democratic State Rep. and Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, through his political consulting firm “Blue Wave Victory.” Sears paid Bolding’s company over $18,000 in a contract that Bolding’s then-opponent, now-Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, alleged was influence peddling.
Bolding managed the firm alongside the former first vice chair for the Arizona Democratic Party and former congressional candidate, Jevin Hodge, to provide services for Sears’ campaign. In a complaint letter to former Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Fontes’ campaign accused Bolding and Hodge of having “sold their positions as a means of access to others in exchange for monetary gain.”
As Fontes’ letter noted, Bolding’s political consulting firm operated out of the same building and suite as his controversial nonprofits.