ELECTION ’13 Tacoma Weekly queries the candidates on the ballot for the general election in November

// Incumbent Winskill faces Gordon for school board

With elections coming up on Nov. 6, Tacoma Weekly is getting a jump on it all with a brief question-and-answer among local candidates. Debbie Winskill and Dexter Gordon are vying for a seat on the Tacoma School Board. Here they answer questions about their views on local school issues.

Debbie Winskill (incumbent)

Tacoma Weekly: What neighborhood school issues do you see as your top concerns for your district and what plans do you have to champion them?

Debbie Winskill: The strength of Tacoma schools is the open enrollment policy. The weakness of this policy is that sometimes too many students want to go to the same school. Building leadership is the key to a successful school. A strong principal hires good staff members and inspires them to do the work necessary for success.

TW: What do you see as district-wide issues?

DW: The achievement gap is an important issue being dealt with by all of the schools and all of the students. Another issue is the graduation rates. Efforts are being made at all of the schools to increase the numbers of students graduating.  We recognize that early childhood education is necessary for a student's success. We are increasing these opportunities yearly.

TW: What do you see as your role as a district council member in regard to district-wide issues, particularly if they are at odds with your neighborhood school?

DW: Tacoma school board members are elected at-large. Every year the board rotates school assignments. Each member is assigned a high school and all the feeder schools, which keeps us informed on all the district wide issues. It is our responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interests of the entire district.

TW: What experience and perspectives do you bring to the board and how do they match (or clash) with other members of the board?

DW: All of the members bring a different perspective and interest. My particular interests are curriculum and teaching issues. We all look to one another for different points of view.

TW: What lessons do you think Tacoma Schools have learned from the recent budget struggles and how are those lessons going to benefit the district in the future?

DW: For most of my years on the board, the budget has been severely cut. The recent court decision has increased state funding and will continue to do so in the next few years. It is important to restore the arts and other programs, which have been cut over the years.

TW: What else should voters know about you? How can voters learn more about you and your political platform? 

DW: I spend most of my time on this job as a school board member. My phone number is listed and I gladly accept calls from everyone concerning school issues and problems. I visit the schools regularly and attend community meetings to be better informed on all issues that could affect Tacoma schools.

Campaign site is: http://www.debbiewinskill.com

Dexter Gordon

Tacoma Weekly: What neighborhood school issues do you see as your top concerns for your district and what plans do you have to champion them?

Dexter Gordon: I want to work to establish our schools as places where strong teacher-student relationships are fostered; all students and their families are welcome; and school and community partnerships are the order of the day. 

We need partnership models and experiments that bring families, parents and guardians together. They are the first teachers of their children and as partners with public schools can ensure the quality education that their children deserve. We have examples that bridge the gap between formal, school-based knowledge and knowledge located in different community publics. Different partnerships may be required in different neighborhoods (e.g. the way in which Tacoma Housing Authority partnered with McCarver Elementary School to address the critical unmet needs of children and their families). The School Board must set policy that supports such partnerships.

I will work with other board members to set the kinds of policies that will support such partnerships.

I will work to mobilize community support at all levels through collaboration with the city council and other civic, social, and business organizations across our community.

TW: What do you see as district-wide issues?

DG:

We must:

Improve graduation rates.

Prepare students for 21st Century jobs, challenges, and opportunities, including post high school learning.

Find creative ways to invite families to be full partners in the education of their children.

Support and scale up our best programs to improve the quality of our education district-wide.

Make sure that our approach to student discipline is fair and that it enhances their education as against moving them away from the learning environment.

Address the technology divide, issues of disparate discipline, and graduation rates, and creating multiple pathways for students to be successful.

Set clear policies at the district level that support principals and teachers at the neighborhood school level in their efforts to engage parents/guardian and students in a manner that invites them to participate in addressing challenges.

Create a fair, transparent process for teacher evaluation with the best professional practices and mentoring.

Agree on what constitutes "ample funding" in the McLeary Decision and based that measure on clearly defined outcomes for our children.

TW: What do you see as your role as a district council member in regard to district-wide issues, particularly if they are at odds with your neighborhood school?

DG: The School Board is responsible for hiring, evaluating, and when necessary terminating the superintendent and for setting broad policy. The School Board’s role is to provide leadership for the district as a whole. Against this backdrop, I am in favor of considering each issue on its own merit, but always with the awareness of the need to enhance the system as a whole for the benefit of all our children. I would work to create an atmosphere of constructive debate on any given matter based on data and meaningful input from the neighborhood school and community in question.

TW: What experience and perspectives do you bring to the board and how do they match (or clash) with other members of the board?

DG: I lead a national initiative in Tacoma exploring quality and equity in education. Appointed to the state Legislative Advisory Committee (HB 2722), examining the Achievement Gap. I have extensive experience in policy, staffing, and training. I am a teacher with more than 30 years of experience. As a senior faculty member I work collaboratively with faculty and administration. Alongside this I work with leaders across the Tacoma in my various community endeavors. I am an experienced administrator. I have worked extensively in education across the region including with the school district and my work complements that of sitting board members.

TW: What lessons do you think Tacoma Schools have learned from the recent budget struggles and how are those lessons going to benefit the district in the future?

DG: The State Supreme Court decision (McLeary) reaffirmed the state’s constitutional responsibility “to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” That it took a court order to force the state legislature to provide additional, if still insufficient, funding should teach us that we have to remain vigilant otherwise even constitutionally required state funding will be redirected to serve other priorities. We must also be astute managers of our district’s financial resources with carefully developed plans for the future. Such plans must be guided by sound fiscal analysis and data driven decisions. We must establish and execute effective policies for our children’s education with an awareness that budget struggles will be with us for the foreseeable future. Clear priorities that must be carried out. We must mobilize our entire system to support goals that include:

1) Strong early childhood education programs, particularly robust reading programs for K-4;

2) Increasing access for all students to the necessary science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) courses for all 28,000+ students in our district;

3) Increasing access to and completion of rigorous academic programs and creating 21st-century vocational education program; and

4) Keeping class sizes small.

TW: What else should voters know about you?

I will spare no effort to make our school district the best.

I strongly endorse Washington State’s requirement of education as a constitutional right for all children. Public education is pivotal to the preparation of an informed citizenry and thus a better society.

Along with my seven brothers and six sisters I attended public school. Today’s statistics would label us as “at risk students.” Our parents labeled us “possibilities.”

I am a lifelong educator because of public education. My four children all went to public schools. Our last child is a junior at Wilson.

I worked my way through college and graduate school. I will work for Tacoma’s children.

TW: How can voters learn more about you and your political platform?

Visit website at http://electdextergordon.com.

Send specific questions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Get involved in the campaign.

Attend public forums where issues and concerns are discussed in more depth.

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