Wiess unlikely man for Roosevelt job
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 17, 2004
Ex-board member has tips

Betty Reid

William "Wink" Wiess served a short, whirlwind term as the only non-minority and Republican on the Roosevelt Governing School Board, and he offered this jewel about his service: "I was so wrong for that district I was right."

Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Sandra Dowling appointed Wiess to replace Carlos Avelar who resigned in July. Wiess began in August with a goal of bringing "calm" to a controversial school board that often split its high-profile decisions based on whether key issues benefited Hispanics or African-Americans in south Phoenix.

Wiess lost the seat in November when voters elected Reyna Polanco, returning Hispanics to the majority on the board, which overseas a district that is overwhelmingly Latino. The south Phoenix businessman turned Realtor recently shared his insights on the board with The Republic.

He isn't bitter and said he enjoyed his experience, but added that the district still has work to do.

Even though he served less than half a year, he believes his mission was accomplished because of two unanimous decisions recently voted on by the board. They were the naming of two schools scheduled for construction before 2008 and hiring Grace Wright as permanent superintendent.

"It was a wonderful and an enriching experiment," Wiess said. "A lot of the problems I found at Roosevelt . . . the problems are more institution rather than people."

Wiess called longtime board member Ben Miranda "his shepherd," guiding him through intricate board policies. Miranda said that before Wiess, board members seemed to battle over issues.

"Wink's personality: He wasn't defensive, and he was also a regular, all-around guy to work with," Miranda said. "I think, more than what he did is what he showed us. If you open dialogue among board members, a lot of problems get resolved. He helped us find common areas of agreement."

Norma Muñoz, president of the Roosevelt board, said Wiess was "optimistic."

"He really wanted to work with us, blend in and do the right thing," Muñoz said.

Wiess said he learned about the workings of an education system. He also learned about bilingual instruction, immersion and finances at Roosevelt.

Wiess had some parting advice for Roosevelt board leaders. Among his suggestions:

• Hire an outside consultant armed with a big-picture view of where the south Phoenix district stands when compared with other schools with similar demographics.

• Hire a public-relations consultant to help improve the image of the district.

• Apply for grants but create a strict accounting to ensure those funds reach classrooms where instruction happens.

Reach the reporter at betty.reid@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8049.