Q) During your time running for office and reaching out to the public on the campaign trail, what are the most common or pressing issues you hear from your constituents? How would you address those if elected?
A) The top three issues have been school closures, dropout rate and achievement gap.
I do not support closing schools as a means to close budget gaps. We must be more strategic and data-driven when it comes to making those types of decisions. I would like to develop a long-term budget, strategic plan and action plan to identify our district’s academic and funding priorities. Investments in early childhood education will help to narrow the achievement gap and put all kids on a path toward academic success. Teachers and parents must better engage kids by helping them to understand that there is a career path for each of them and clarify the necessary classes and relevance in their pursuit of that career.
Q) During the recent teachers strike, many district officials and board members were under public scrutiny for how they handled union negotiations.
Do you think the board handled this item effectively? Is there anything you would have done differently?
A) As a parent and as a candidate, I wish that the board had remained engaged in the negotiations as an intermediary to the administration and union and not handed over their authority to Superintendent Art Jarvis.
During the labor dispute I was often asked “Do you support the teachers or the administration in the current strike.” I do not believe that a school board member should choose sides. Effective leaders are able to work with all stakeholders to reach compromise. As a seated school board member, I will be responsible for the direction and performance of the superintendent and the district, and accountable to the voters for my actions.
Q) If you are elected to the school board, how would you help foster a sense of healing and moving past any remaining resentment between the district, teachers and the community? How could you as a board member help ensure avoiding a future strike?
A) I believe that we need to immediately create policy that fosters a culture of respect and collaboration throughout the district. We must get away from the adversarial posture that pits teachers against administrators and remind them that they both have the same goal: the highest quality public education that can be provided to children in Tacoma. Disagreements should not be allowed to fester. A frank, transparent and reciprocal line of communication should be established and all stakeholders should be given a voice and a way for meaningful input. Moving forward, a collaborative model with shared outcomes is the best way for us to address problems and resolve issues.
Q) If elected, you may be part of the superintendent search for the upcoming school year. What do you believe the next head of Tacoma schools needs in order to be successful?
A) I do not understand the rush to hire a new superintendent. We have a superintendent under contract until the end of the school year. I think that it makes sense to delay the hiring and leave the responsibility of that decision to the newly seated board.
I also believe that it is a mistake to not search more broadly for candidates. A regional or national search would not preclude local candidates from applying, but it might exclude the best candidate from being considered.
Our next superintendent should be someone who has a proven record of creating high- performing schools in a diverse urban district with a large enrollment. That person must also have the fiscal management experience necessary to run Tacoma schools and be able to communicate respectively and effectively with parents, teachers and community members.