3 seek open District 4 school board position

Jul 21, 2017
From left: Cindy Sackett, Deborah Kilgore and Cathy Baylor

Three candidates are running for the District 4 director position in the Edmonds School District. Incumbent director Susan Phillips decided not to run for re-election in District 4, which includes Edmonds schools.

The candidates, all seeking elected office for the first time, are Cindy Sackett of Edmonds and Cathy Baylor and Deborah Kilgore of Lynnwood.

Since there are three candidates, the two with the most votes after the Aug. 1 primary will run for the open position, a four-year term, during the general election Nov. 7.

How do they stand on important issues?

The Beacon sent the candidates a few questions. Here are their replies:

CINDY SACKETT, 47

b As a parent of two teenagers, a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old, I’ve been deeply involved in our schools for over 12 years, when my kids started school at Chase Lake Elementary. I have lived in Edmonds for 14 years and cannot imagine calling anywhere else home.

I am a former PTA president and treasurer, after-school math coach, as well as district paraeducator, and I’ve supported our students and teachers in classrooms, at school functions and field trips. I served on the board of the Edmonds Schools Foundation and proudly served as their first executive director.

I am currently director of operations and expanded learning for Washington Alliance for Better Schools (WABS). I joined WABS in 2012 after 20 years of accounting experience in the for-profit sector. I worked with $100 million-plus budgets for many years, and feel very comfortable reading and analyzing complex budgets. I transitioned to nonprofit work in 2010, as well as spending time working as a paraeducator in the Edmonds School District.

I am also a former councilmember of United Way Snohomish County’s Kids Matter Vision Council, PTA president and treasurer at Chase Lake Community School (for multiple years), auction coordinator, Math Olympiad coach, and volunteer for Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Why are you best qualified for the position?

I am best qualified for this position for a couple of reasons. First I have over 25 years experience working with multi-million dollar budgets and feel that I can understand the impacts of these budgets on our community best. I also have worked within in our schools and have seen firsthand the hard work by our teachers, the perseverance by our students and the dedication of all of the staff within a building to help all our students learn every day.

Finally, in my current role, I work with 11 school districts to help over a quarter of a million students graduate career- and college-ready. This role always helps me to look at what others in our region are doing and gives me connections that others do not have.

Thoughts on McCleary and school funding?

Fully funding education is the foremost issue facing our school system. The reality is that public education in this state remains underfunded. Given this reality, the district must allocate its limited resources wisely, in a manner that best benefits all children.

As a state, we still have a long way to go, even with the new budget plan recently approved. Given that the funding of education hinges solely on property taxes, Washington state is not guaranteed that funding will be in place going forward, as we have seen in our most recent recession.

The state, in its most recent budget, is still not fully addressing the lower class sizes for K-3 as mandated by voters, and this is an essential part giving all our students equitable opportunities.

Thoughts on diversity, changing demographics in district?

I’ve seen tremendous progress made towards increasing equity for all students in our schools. I’ll work to continue this progress with an increased focus on educating and accountability.

This means to me that we work on educating our staff and students on what diversity is and how we can celebrate it to make our community stronger.

There have been some unfortunate incidents lately that leave me feeling that there is much work to do in the area as a community, and I believe it should start in the schools.

Edmonds School District must recognize that all students come to the classroom with different backgrounds, sets of experiences, cultural contexts and world views.

While many discussions concerning diversity focus on talking about the importance of diversity and recognizing difference, it is equally important to move to educate teachers and students in addressing differences and how they play out.

This is a role that I see the school board having an impact in helping to create an inclusive school district with rich diversity celebrated by all.

Thoughts on biggest challenges?

Student achievement is a main focus for me. Highly skilled teachers and staff are keys to improved student achievement. I believe the board’s role is to foster an educational environment where students thrive, and therefore believe that investing in our educators creates that environment.

We must leave no stone unturned to support our educators in reaching all students. Our current graduation rate is 81.9 percent. I find this unacceptable. Our children deserve better. I know we can do better. Let's strive to increase this number well beyond the national average of 83 percent and look to have all of our students graduate high school and be prepared for college, career and life.

DEBORAH KILGORE, 53

Background: I have lived with my husband Rick and three children in Lynnwood for 11 years. Our children – Michael, Connor and Jesse – currently all attend Edmonds schools and are active in sports, music and/or drama.

I have a passion for education, both as a volunteer and as a professional. I’ve volunteered in my neighborhood elementary school for the last eight years, including serving as president of the Parent Teacher Organization for three years.

I’ve also been involved in youth sports for more than a decade in our community, as a soccer coach, parent volunteer and, for one year, on the board of the Terrace Brier Soccer Club.

Professionally, I have worked in education for the last two decades. I was an instructor at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and earned my doctorate in education from Texas A&M University in 1999.

I was an assistant professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at Iowa State University for five years before coming to the Pacific Northwest in 2004. I worked for six years as a research scientist in engineering education at the University of Washington before taking time off for my busy family.

This year, I returned to UW part time to continue research and writing about engineering education.

Why are you best qualified for the position?

I am an engaged mother of students in the district, a longtime, hardworking parent volunteer and leader in our schools and community, and I have made it my business for the last 20 years to understand how diverse people learn and what works in education.

I am uniquely qualified to be school director because of this “triple perspective”: mother, parent volunteer and leader, and educational scholar.

I’m also committed to our neighborhood schools. I bring firsthand knowledge of how the board’s policies affect our neediest schools, and I have a track record of working with parents, teachers, staff, and children, to fill gaps in funding by reaching out to our community and building capacity.

I also have been able to increase family engagement by thinking creatively about how to make it possible for people with diverse talents and experiences to participate in our school community as parent volunteers.

I’ve learned over the years that you can’t make good educational policy without including on-the-ground perspectives, and you must have a willingness and develop the skill to reach across differences and take into account the needs and interests of diverse stakeholders.

\I think it is extremely important to have someone on the school board who is currently engaged in and committed to our diverse neighborhood schools.

Thoughts on McCleary and school funding?

I agree with the state Supreme Court’s decision that Washington has underfunded all our schools for years, leaving it to our local communities to make up the difference. In Edmonds School District, we’re a bit better equipped to make up some of the difference with local levies than many poorer districts, but I don’t think any district is well-served without a stable stream of funding from the state that we know we can count on.

Budget constraints and uncertainty have an uneven effect on schools within our district. At my childrens’ neighborhood school, over 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

When there is no budget for library books, or the district falls short providing updated curriculum and basic supplies, or when there’s a very limited budget for transportation, the kids at our school get less than kids at other schools.

Our families can’t always just whip out a checkbook to cover the difference. Further, the latest budget will be funded by a big state property tax hike that will be only partially offset by a limit to how much we can collect with a local property levy. This will put even more strain on working families.

At schools like ours, there are more families in crisis and more children with social-emotional challenges, and we do not have support staff in line with our need. All our kids are shortchanged when there is not enough trained staff or quiet space to accommodate a child with a behavioral disability.

We are facing this issue at many schools in our district. We must ensure that every child has a fair chance at the same excellent education.

The increased state revenue will provide some relief. It will better cover teachers’ base salaries, and will provide additional funding for special education, learning assistance for high poverty schools, bilingual education, highly capable programming, and career and technology education.

However, I feel that the budget deal doesn’t go far enough. It does not fully fund class size limits, which is one of the most prominent concerns I hear from teachers and parents.

It only partially addresses changing demographics and an increasing need to help students who are struggling or have special needs with additional support staff. It’s a step in the right direction, but more work must be done.

Thoughts on diversity, changing demographics in district?

As I said, I’m committed to our diverse neighborhood schools. I see these schools as centerpieces around which communities are grown, and I’ve never wanted my children to be enrolled anywhere else.

I think the diversity of our neighborhood schools is a strength and an opportunity for all our kids to learn how to live, work and serve in an increasingly interconnected society.

At the same time, we have to look at fairness. I support parents’ rights to choose “choice” schools and challenging programs to accommodate their children’s interests and needs, but we must ask why these exciting programs that are theoretically equally available to all kids are not nearly as integrated as our neighborhood schools.

Furthermore, there are not enough spots in these programs to accommodate all the families who want to participate, and we must look to meeting that demand in the future.

How do we provide a fair chance for an excellent education to every child, “choice” opportunities to many more families, while building on the strength of our diverse neighborhood schools?

One answer is to think more locally. Let’s do more to promote and support project-based learning and other challenging and significant learning opportunities to children within our neighborhood schools, rather than creating whole schools apart from them.

Thoughts on biggest challenges?

I think the biggest question is always going to be about doing the most we can with the limited resources we have. The state is coming some of the way toward funding education, and hopefully it will come further in the future. But we can’t wait. We need to think about how to build capacity in each of our schools, even if we don’t get fully funded.

Bargaining is going to be important in the coming years. We need compensation packages that attract and retain high-quality teachers. We need to make sure that class sizes and caseloads are manageable, and that teachers have enough planning time so that our children can get the most benefit from their talents.

We need to have enough trained support staff to work with children and families in crisis, because teachers cannot adequately teach all students in the class while also providing intensive support to one or more children with significant social-emotional challenges.

These ideas obviously are dependent on funding, but they also have to do with how we allocate money. Are we doing the very best we can to make sure that the vast majority of our budget is used to positive effect in the classroom?

We also need to better tap into the wisdom of our teachers. Instead of hiring outside consultants, let’s look at the success stories in our neighborhood schools.

Many of our teachers have designed significant learning experiences for their students, and I would like to see infrastructure by which teachers systematically share their experiences with one another other, build on each others’ successes and revisit and reflect on their approaches.

Also, a mentoring program that matches new teachers with more experienced ones would be a good model for spreading expertise around.

Another area where we can build capacity is through increased family engagement. Maplewood Parent Co-op requires parents to commit to volunteering in the classroom every week, and the school gets remarkable results in terms of test scores and academic achievement.

But many parents are unable to be engaged in this particular way for a variety of reasons.

How can we think creatively about what family engagement can look like in our diverse neighborhood schools and achieve some of that academic success?

CATHY BAYLOR, 60

Background: I’ve lived in our school district for 49 years. I graduated from Lynnwood High School, then the UW, where I got a bachelor’s of art with emphases in education, music and Spanish language/literature.

I married Robin French, my high-school sweetheart, in 1979, and we have two daughters. Both graduated from the Terrace Park Challenge and Edmonds-Woodway international baccalaureate programs.

Since becoming a parent 30 years ago, I have been president of five different organizations dedicated to improving education in south Snohomish County; a highly involved classroom volunteer; a district organizer for the creative collaborative problems solving program Destination Imagination; a program director employed by the district; and a professional collaborator with staff, parents and students throughout the district on music and theater projects.

I currently am an independent piano teacher with 30 full-time piano students. I continue to be active in many of the activities I’ve listed.

Why are you best qualified for the position?

My specific life experiences make me qualified for this position in a unique way.

As an active, long-term resident, I am familiar with our community's residents, resources, businesses, history and changing demographics in a way that few who seek this type of position are.

As an educator and volunteer who has worked side-by-side with our teachers and administrators for many years, I understand their points of view, needs, goals, and the barriers that make their jobs difficult.

I have been employed by the district’s Indian Education program as a program director and tutor. My children were also enrolled in the program. My father was a two-term tribal council member for the CS & K Tribe in Montana.

As a member of a minority population, I am in a position to understand and advocate for the people of color in our district, who are quickly becoming the majority population.

I take potential school board work seriously. Since hearing of Susan Phillips’ retirement, I’ve attended all but one of the school board meetings and open study sessions.

I attended an open school tour at Alderwood Middle and Martha Lake Elementary schools with the district superintendent; done a class observation and teacher interview at College Place Elementary; attended Equity Alliance for Achievement meetings; attended a Special Education department open meeting; and conducted interviews with school district personnel in several departments.

I have read the district’s capital projects forecast.

Thoughts on McCleary and school funding?

The McCleary case established the fact that Washington state has not been fulfilling its paramount duty of fully funding basic education for the residents of Washington state. This year, the state legislature passed a budget that began to fix this problem.

It was a step in the right direction, but there are problems – the funding source (property taxes) is regressive, and while additional money has been allocated for our schools, many predict that the amount allocated falls short of the full funding goal.

While there is much speculation as to the effect of the many changes that were made this year, no one will really know what the full effect will be for several years. It will be the job of our board of directors to craft a vision that takes these changes into account, as well as the needs of our specific community.

Thoughts on diversity, changing demographics in district?

When I first moved here in 1969, the population was probably 98 percent white. Now, fully 50 percent of our school district’s students self-identify as nonwhite.

This has brought to the forefront issues with our social studies curricula that need to be addressed. Many of our history classes, for instance, are still taught from a Eurocentric point of view.

The contributions to our civilization of the people from Africa, Latin America, China and North and South America are minimized, if they’re mentioned at all. This doesn’t do service to any of our students as they enter a world with a globalized economy and workforce.

I have had good reason to visit the individual homes in my community lately, as I've been going from door to door to promote my campaign.

What has struck me is how colorful our neighborhoods have become. On just two or three streets I have visited families from Russia, Vietnam, China, Africa and Ireland, mixed with second generation or later American families of European descent.

In my own neighborhood, on my own cul-de-sac, there are families from Ethiopia, Korea and Mexico. Two kids have parents who are Navajo and Cambodian.

By and large, we live together peacefully. There have been regrettable instances such as the derogatory and racist graffiti incidents at Madrona K-12 this past year. As a community institution, it is imperative that we take immediate action to stop hatred in its tracks.

But we have a great opportunity here. With different cultures come different life perspectives. If we work together and listen to each other, we have the chance to build a community based on highly creative and innovative solutions.

Let's do our best to take advantage of these fortunate circumstances. With the right type of vision, we can be a model of change for communities across the country.

Thoughts on biggest challenges?

For some years, the school board will be navigating the upheaval wrought by the Legislature’s actions in response to the McCleary decision. If diversity issues are not addressed properly, a divisive environment can be created, harming our students and our community far into the future.

But one thing that isn’t often talked of is our school district’s capital projects plan. In the ’60s, 11 new schools were built in response to extremely fast population growth. Those schools now need to be replaced.

In the next five years, the school district will be building six new schools. This is a tremendous amount of work.

The business and operations staff and individual school administrators will be reporting frequently at board meetings, and the board will be awarding contracts, listening to concerns, advising staff, keeping open communication with the community and doing a certain amount of project facilitation.

There are many things that the board would like to accomplish, but this huge undertaking will simply take a great deal of time and attention.

 

 

 

 

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