Edmonds School Board Director candidates discuss budget, student equity at primary election forum

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Edmonds School Board Director District 3 candidates (left to right) Gary Noble, Rory Graves and Jennifer Cail. (Photo by Cody Sexton).

The Lynnwood Library meeting room was standing-room only for the July 24 Edmonds School District Board of Directors primary candidate forum, where community members turned out to learn more about candidates campaigning for two board director positions. Voters came prepared with written questions about how the candidates vying for Districts 3 and 5 would work to improve the district if elected.

Ballots for the primary election have been mailed to voters and the due date for returning them is Aug. 6.

Moderating the forum was Teresa Wippel, publisher of My Edmonds News, Lynnwood Today and MLT News, which sponsored the event. Candidates were each allowed a one-minute opening statement, followed by a round of questions with one minute to answer and ending with two-minute closing statements. Many of the questions presented during the forum included topics related to issues the district faced this year — district funding, equity for students, how to better involve the community in the district’s decision-making process and the controversial use of tire crumb rubber in school playfields.

Kicking off the forum were three District 3 candidates, including incumbent Gary Noble and two of his challengers — Rory Graves and Jennifer Cail. Two other District 3 candidates, Boe Lindgren and Mary Schultz, were unable to attend. During her opening comments, Cail spoke about her experience as a parent educator at Edmonds Heights K-12 School and how her background in education accounting will help her when budgeting for the district to ensure tax dollars are being spent wisely. With three kids involved in the performing arts, Cail said she believes arts education is important for “fostering creative thought, so children will succeed in our tech future.” Also, as a parent with a child who has an individualized education plan (IEP), Cail said she knows how difficult it can be to get the extra help some students need. If elected, she said she will make helping those students a priority.

Graves also has three children in the Edmonds School District. She said she was inspired to run for board director after budget cuts led to 25 teacher layoffs in May to meet a state-mandated deadline to notify staff that they may lose their jobs in the 2019-20 school year. Graves, who has a background in digital engagement, currently works at AAA Washington, used to work as a substitute teacher and an assistant grant researcher.

“I’m running because I believe that public schools are the heart of every community and access to a good public education is the bedrock to a prosperous and equitable society,” she said.

After thanking the audience, board director Noble spoke about his 30 years of experience working and volunteering in the district, including 16 years serving on the board, where he has served as both president and vice president. Noble has also served as a PTA officer and as a trustee for the Edmonds School District Foundation. He spoke about district accomplishments including the district’s state-required test scores and graduation rates exceeding the state averages. If re-elected, Noble said he would continue to prioritize increasing student achievement, hiring and retaining high-quality teachers and teaching support staff, and reducing class sizes.

Four candidates are campaigning for the District 5 seat being vacated by Board President Diana White, who has decided not to seek re-election. Hoping to fill the position are candidates Casey Auve, Lisa Hunnewell, Nancy Katims and Rina Redrup. 

Auve began his opening comments by speaking about his leadership experience as president of both the Rotary Club of Lynnwood and the Foundation for the Edmonds School District. Auve also said he is a strong supporter of vocational education, because college is not for everyone.

“We are in the midst of a revolution in the job market, and we need to be more creative in how we prepare students,” he said.

After working for 30 years in business education and training, Hunnewell said she would like to bring new ideas to the board of directors. With three children who have attended district schools, Hunnewell said she thinks now is a good time to bring her knowledge to the board. In addition to designing educational programs for trade associations, she has worked with the community’s youth at Trinity Lutheran Church and First Lutheran Richmond Beach in Shoreline. Recently, Hunnewell served on the district’s facilities and bond committee, which she said gave her budgeting experience that she would use as a board director.

Katims said she has dedicated her entire professional career to improving learning opportunities for students through her work in early-childhood education, special education and math and science education. She was employed by the Edmonds School District as Director of Assessment, Research and Evaluation for 16 years, leaving in August 2015, and for the past four years has run her own consulting firm.

“I have seen what it feels like when one of my children is not getting their learning needs met,” she said. “And I have seen the amazing pride and joy when they achieve success in school and in life. I want that for all parents and kids.”

The final opening statement was from Redrup, who said that if elected, she will make informed decisions on behalf of the community. With 10 years of teaching experience — and five additional years as part of Meadowdale High School’s parent resource group — Redrup said she hopes to bring a positive change to the district, Her primary goal, she added, would be to help all students reach their full potential by promoting an inclusive and diverse curriculum.

The forum included two rounds of multiple questions for each candidate position. The forum was broken into two parts — District 3 candidates and District 5 candidates. (All of the candidates’ responses have been put together under the questions asked.)

Edmonds School Board Director candidates for District 5 (left to right) Rina Redrup, Nancy Katims, Lisa Hunnewell and Casey Auve. (Photo by Cody Sexton)

Question 1: As a school board director, how would you address the concerns that no matter how many levies voters approve, there never seems to be enough money to meet the district’s needs? How can voters be assured their money is being spent wisely?

Graves stressed the importance of transparency when working on the budget and said she did not agree with the way the board handled its decision to lay off teachers. Instead of staffing reductions, she said the board should have reviewed the budget to make cuts in other areas. However, having worked with state legislators in the past, she said she understood the challenges the board faced.

Noble began by reminding everyone that school funding is a very complex issue that changes each year and making long-range plans can be difficult. He said the first step when addressing funding is working with the state Legislature. However, in spite of the recent difficulties the district faced with funding, Noble said the funding going forward should be more stable, making it easier for the board to make long-range predictions to accommodate the district’s needs.

Cail agreed with Noble that the first step is working with the Legislature to ensure schools have the resources to better serve students. Due to budget restrictions affecting staffing, Cail pointed out that some schools are not able to meet state-mandated staffing requirements. “Going back to the Legislature and asking ‘how are we supposed to meet our state-mandated requirements’ is imperative,” she said.

Like Graves, Hunnewell said the district should be transparent with the community when discussing the budget to ensure that parents and educators are aware of how the money is being spent. Also, Hunnewell suggested changing the allocation model used by the district to determine teachers’ salaries. A change to the model could allow the district to receive more state funding, she said.

When considering the budget, Katims said that the district should consider all factors like enrollment projections, the district’s fund balance and how they can work with the state Legislature to change how the district can spend money made from local levies. “I think it’s very important that we advocate to make sure that the funding is equitable,” she said.

Redrup suggested making spending cuts at the district level that would not directly affect students and teachers. Instead of allowing teachers to continue working on special assignments for the district, those teachers could have taken a year or two off until the budget stabilized, she added.

Like Noble, Auve reminded the audience that the district’s budget will soon stabilize, and the district will be in a better position in two years. He also pointed out that because of new state financing, district staff are now receiving their health benefits through the state, which he said is costing the district a “significant” amount more. 

Question 2: Name your top priorities should you be (re)elected as a school board director?

Noble said his highest priority is decreasing class sizes, which he stressed was a funding issue. He said as funding becomes available in the next few years, the district will be able to work toward improving large class sizes. Another priority would be improving students’ achievement goals. With such a diverse district, Noble said it is important to pay special attention when identifying the needs of each student.

While listing her top three priorities, Cail said communication is her first priority and that she would hope to improve communication barriers between the district and community with a more active social media presence for the district. She also said the process for students and parents to access an IEP should be easier, which she said should be easily accessed from the district/school’s websites. Third, Cail said she would prioritize funding for the arts.

Restating the importance of transparency in the school district, Graves said she would reach out to community stakeholders for their input in board decisions. While speaking about prioritizing equity, she agreed with Cail that schools should work to improve meeting the needs of all students, including those with IEPs and students in special education. “There’s a lot of disparities between our schools,” Graves said. Finally, she said the district should work to improve all measures of student success.

In responding to the question, Katims said she would encourage “measurable student goals,” which the district does not have. “You have to have to have goals to allocate your resources effectively,” she said. Also, she listed equity as key to ensure that students receive the same opportunities and improving the lines of communication between the district and the community in the decision-making process.

In her response, Redrup said her primary goal would be to create an environment where students can reach their full potential by starting to improve communication between the district and the community in making decisions. Additionally, to meet the needs of all students, Redrup said she would work to build an inclusive curriculum by establishing trade and apprenticeship programs and to advocate for zero college-credit fees for high school students.

Describing himself as a “passionate” advocate for career and college readiness, Auve said he would prioritize ensuring that students have access to information to prepare them for life options after graduation.

Hunnewell said she would use her experience serving on the district’s facilities and bond committees to prioritize passing a bond levy, to ensure the district can build two new middle schools. The new schools would help to alleviate overcrowding in elementary schools and prepare the district for the proposed switch to a 6th-8th grade middle school model, she said. Also, Hunnewell advocated for working with the district’s homeless students and reviewing the budget to find ways to increase the equity while funding necessary programs. 

Question 3: How would you suggest as a board member ways the district can better engage and empower citizens in the process of decision making?

Jennifer Cail

Again, Cail said she believes a larger social media presence will help parents and other community members have a better understanding of what is going on in the district. In addition to emails, newsletters and fliers, Cail said the district could post updates and agenda items across social media platforms like Facebook. She also suggested posting such notifications in multiple languages to ensure the messages are reaching those who do not speak English.

Speaking again about transparency, Graves said the district has failed to keep parents informed about important decisions made that affect them — like the Right at School before- and after-school program the board recently adopted to replace other child care programs. “There are concerns with stakeholders that are going to be impacted by those decisions who weren’t even a part of that process,” she said. 

Noble agreed that the district could improve how it communicates with the community. He also said an improved social media presence and more detailed newsletter could help in instances like the decision to adopt the Right at School program. “That would have been a big plus if we’d have had community meetings to talk about it before we made decisions,” he said.

Redrup suggested outlining school board agendas and decisions on each school’s weekly newsletter, as well as in news publications. Regarding the district’s Right at School program decision, Redrup voiced her support for the Boys and Girls Club, which she said was a “fine institution.”

Auve echoed his disappointment about the Boys and Girls Club losing its partnership with the district when it was replaced with Right at School. He pointed out that some parents had already registered their children for other programs — like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club — before they even knew the district had adopted a new district-wide program for the 2019-20 year. “The district made that decision seemingly hastily,” he said.

If elected, Hunnewell said she would focus on posting board meeting agendas on the district and school websites and ensuring the community was aware of key decisions being made by the board. When making decisions, Hunnewell suggested the district send out surveys and focus groups for community input. “I do think engagement is a two-way street and it’s important for parents to be involved, just as it is for the district to communicate,” she said.

Referring back to communication being a top priority, Katims advocated for a more consistent line of communication between the district and the community. Additionally, she advocated for community outreach that extended past social media and online surveys to reach parents who may not have access to the internet. Katims suggested reforming the Citizens Planning Committee, which used to have representatives from each school act as a liaison between the district and the community.

Question 4: How would you work with district staff to encourage and promote fairness and equity for all of the district’s students?

Rory Graves

Citing disparities in high school graduation rates between certain racial demographics, Graves said the district is not meeting all the needs of its students. When trying to access resources like financial aid, she said students should also be able to rely on staff’s help to get the aid they are entitled to.

Noble said the district has made efforts to promote equity, from policy making that he said has become a landmark for other school districts in the area to hiring an equity director. However, while the district has made efforts to improve the equity at a district level, he said more could be done in schools like higher more counselors to help reach more students. “It’s like a thousand solutions for a thousand individual students,” he said.

As a member of the Edmonds Heights K-12 equity team, Cail said she would like to take the model used at that school and bring it to a district level. She also said that while looking at inequity in the district, the board should consider restructuring the budget to help schools that are not as fortunate as others so they can fundraise for new resources.

Auve spoke about his work with the Rotary Club of Lynnwood and the Foundation for Edmonds School District and advocating for Nourishing Network — a weekend meal program that has since expanded to include a summer program, a holiday program, pop-up pantry and emergency preparedness. If elected, he said he would work with other district staff to continue advocating the work of Position 5 predecessor Diana White.

In addition to encouraging the hiring of more people of color in the district, Hunnewell said she would advocate for more education in schools about respect and inclusion. To provide equal access for all students, Hunnewell said she would also work to provide access to scholarship funds. By partnering with neighboring school districts, she said the district could learn from them and model their methods for equity.

Though the district staff has spent a lot of time being educated on equity, Katims said not enough teachers and staff who work directly with kids are receiving the same training. If elected, Katims said teachers, counselors and paraeducators would receive the same training. Additionally, she said every school should set goals to be more inclusive and regularly monitor if the goals are being met by asking for student feedback.

To meet the needs of all students, Redrup advocated for a diverse curriculum to include literature, history and sex education so students can see representation in what they are being taught. Redrup suggested removing barriers like student fees that some parents are unable to pay, which would allow for more equity in student involvement. “We want to remove those barriers and make people feel like they can be involved in all the programs and not feel like they have to ask for those fees to be waived,” she said.

Questions 5 and 6: How do you decide how to prioritize different school choice programs to ensure fairness and equity, using as an example the Maplewood Cooperative and Madrona K-8 choice schools. This question from the audience was combined with another question regarding determining equity for arts programs vs. sports programs. 

Gary Noble

Noble began by pointing out that as arts programs are part of the schools’ curriculum and because sports are extracurricular activities, they receive funding from support groups, like boosters. To make arts programs more equitable, Noble said he wants to see student fees required to sign up for arts programs eliminated.

Cail expanded on Noble’s statement about arts programs being part of schools’ curriculum and said that when looking at funding for both, she supports fully funding arts programs. “Arts is part of the curriculum, as Mr. Noble said, and I think that’s important to remember in terms of how we’re looking at equity between sports and arts,” she said. When it comes to extra-curricular activities like sports, Cail said there are more opportunities for students both in and outside of school than there are for arts.

Next, Graves said it is crucial for arts programs to be funded, because they help students learn valuable skills in a fun way. “Even just learning to read music they’re using math skills, they’re using all sorts of skills that are academic in those art courses,” she said. Understanding the crossover between arts programs and academia could help improve student learning, she said.

Coincidentally, all three of Hunnewell’s children went to Madrona K-8, for which she said she is grateful. However, because students are chosen through a lottery system, she admitted she did not understand that as an example of inequity. Regarding the funding for sports vs. arts, Hunnewell said it is important to continue to fund arts and music programs and remove barriers — like fees for instruments — to allow access for all students.

Katims acknowledged there was a disproportionately low number of low-income students who attend choice schools and said the problem might be a lack of communication about the availability of choice programs. Katims suggested reconfiguring the lottery selection to require that a percentage of the students chosen are from low-income families. Instead of just addressing arts and sports programs, Katims expanded it to include all programs, which she said should be offered at all schools.

In addressing the question, Redrup said that if a high number of students want to be in an alternative program, like a choice school, the programs should be expanded to offer more students the opportunity. Also, she said another thing to consider would be scheduling conflict with students attending choice schools and their after-school program schedules. “It becomes a choice then for the families — it’s a balancing act,” she said. As a proponent of both arts and sports, Redrup said it is important for students to have outlets for expressing themselves outside of the classroom.

Casey Auve

After working with multiple district organizations, Auve said he believes the money is available to fund all of the arts and sports programs for the district. If elected, he said he would encourage the district to “seek funding from any number of sources.” Addressing the controversial district decision to lay off popular Meadowdale High School drama teacher Katy Powell-Mitchell – a topic of several audience-submitted questions — Auve said the district “could have saved (Powell-Mitchell’s) job if only we’d reached out to our own community.”

Question 7: According to the National Institute of Health, 1 in 5 people struggle with dyslexia. Parents of dyslexic students in the district are paying thousands of dollars to get a private diagnosis to get dyslexia-specific tutoring, even special education advocates, to help them navigate the special education process. There is a new bill that was passed in the Legislature that requires that by 2020-21 school year all Washington school districts screen kindergarten and second graders for dyslexia and provide interventions. What is your plan to support families and train teachers for these new screenings and dyslexia-specific interventions?

Graves said it is crucial that all students get the support they need and if parents are expected to pay out of pocket for testing, the district should expect to see inequity between students with parents who can afford tests versus those with parents who cannot. Citing a district-wide memo regarding inequity for students with neurological learning disabilities, she said neurodiversity should be outlined in the district’s 2025 Blueprint for long-range planning. 

Noble agreed that funding for special education is a priority in the district, which uses money from local levies to compensate for the state not fully funding it. “It’s not going to improve in the near future unless state funding changes,” he said. If re-elected, Noble said he would continue to work to improve the budget for special education funding.

Speaking from personal experience, Cail said she understands how hard it can be to schedule testing for a child who may have learning disabilities. Cail reiterated that removing barriers for parents and students to get specialized help with learning is one of her primary goals. Additionally, she pointed out that “it is demonstrably less expensive for us to diagnose earlier in a child’s school career.”

After taking his son to the Alderwood Early-Learning Center to be tested by a speech pathologist, Auve said he was impressed by the center’s work and he supported the idea of establishing a similar facility in the district for other special needs. He added that he was surprised the district does not already do this.

To recognize early signs of learning disabilities, Hunnewell suggested training teachers to identify signs of learning issues so testing can be done as soon as possible. Should the state be unable or unwilling to fund the training, she said the district should fund it. Repeating an earlier point made by Cail, she reiterated “loss of time for a student at an early age is not good in the long run.” 

Nancy Katims

Due to multiple developmental differences that young children experience, Katims said testing kindergarten-aged students for dyslexia would be difficult. However, she supported an effort for teachers and counselors working together to recognize signs. She suggested bringing back a screening process in classrooms that would have teachers meet with learning support staff to monitor for students who may require further help with learning disabilities. If elected, Katims said she “would ask those hard questions about what’s being done now and what could we do?”

Although teachers and parents should be mindful of potential learning disabilities, Redrup stated that children in kindergarten are still developing both mentally and physically and testing for dyslexia is not necessary until children reach the age of about 8 years old. For younger students, she suggested other interventions like reading specialists. “They need to be given the tools to discover more about what interests them instead of being pressured to learn basic skills earlier,” she said. 

Question 8: Do we need more cops or counselors on our campus? Explain your choice.

With such a diverse district, Noble said more counselors are needed to help the students who quality for free and reduced lunch, students of color and students from troubled homes. Citing Cail’s earlier comment about schools not meeting the state-mandated requirement for staffing, he said it is important to bring in more counselors to meet the needs of students who may be suffering from unknown issues.

Cail agreed that the district needs more counselors; however, she also said there is more the district could do that does not require them. Anti-bullying treatment programs and making sure all students feel included could also be effective, she said. She cited a program used at a Seattle school that teaches students how to include their peers, like sitting with kids who are alone in at lunch. She said with students, “one of the biggest problems we have is not just bullying, it’s feeling a disconnect with peers.”

Graves responded by suggesting that “the school-to-prison pipeline is real” and bringing in more police will not help break that cycle. Also, while speaking about police in schools, Graves said there is a lack of clear oversight from school officials when it comes to School Resource Officers (SROs) who patrol the campuses. Bringing in more counselors would help alleviate the caseload of the district’s understaffed counselors, she said.

Katims agreed the district needs more counselors to help provide a safe climate for the social and emotional wellbeing of students. She suggested annual surveys for students who are part of marginalized groups to determine if there are students who do not feel safe or included.

Rina Redrup

Though the schools need more counselors, Redrup suggested that schools learn from each other to promote a healthy school community internally. She suggested the district incorporate more programs like Meadowdale High School’s Link program, which pairs upperclassmen with freshmen during the school year. She disagreed with the idea of surveys, saying they are “a premature step” and there are other options.

Auve said he would like to work with the district on assessing the needs of its homeless population. He said he was shocked to learn through his work with the community that the district “does not have a real good handle on the realities of the kids in our district as far as their living circumstances.”

More counselors would help students with problems who come from all types of families, Hunnewell said. Having known students from “good families” who are still dealing with self-harm and anxiety, Hunnewell said she could not imagine the added difficulty of coming from a “broken home.” She also suggested the district staff step back and consider if they are creating a hazardous environment for students by having unrealistic expectations.

Question 9: Some parents are concerned about the possible health and environment effects of tire crumb rubber used on school playfields. Should the district continue to use tire crumb rubber in playfields, or should it consider other options?

Graves said that although there have been no conclusive studies that have linked tire crumb rubber to cancer, the district could still look into other alternatives for playfields that are better for the environment. “I think it’s worth putting in research to see what the other options are,” she said. She also pointed out that removing and replacing the crumb rubber fields would be “an incredible expense” for the district.

Noble echoed Graves’ point that there is no research yet that points to crumb rubber having negative effects to people’s health. He pointed to the added expense of alternative forms of synthetic turf. Earlier this year, the board approved an alternative infill option to crumb rubber at Edmonds-Woodway High School — due to a temporary moratorium on crumb rubber in the City of Edmonds — which cost an additional $100,000. Also, Noble reminded the audience that because crumb rubber is the standard infill option on playfields at Washington schools, the students would still end up playing on it at school playfields in other districts.

Pending further research, Cail said the district should not install any more crumb rubber playfields at district schools. However, she said she agreed with Graves that removing crumb rubber from current playfields would be an unnecessary expense. Should studies show that crumb rubber is a health hazard, Cail said she would like to see requirements and funding from the state Legislature to provide alternative infill options.

Lisa Hunnewell

After attending the school board meetings regarding the crumb rubber discussion, Hunnewell said she agrees with the current evidence that there are no more cancer-causing agents in crumb rubber “than in our own dirt.” However, she said the district should monitor the studies and if there are alternative infill options at the same price, the district should consider switching to them.

Katims still expressed concern and said, “because we don’t know for sure, if there’s any chance at all that this could harm our students I’m really not in favor of it.” She said the discussion sounds like a money issue, which she said she understands, but the district should not continue to use crumb rubber infill “just because other districts have all done it,” she said.

Years ago, while researching crumb rubber for the Meadowdale High School playfields, Redrup said she supported the crumb rubber infill, because there was “no measurable risk of using crumb rubber at that time” to support it was harmful. Though her opinion has not changed, she said she would be open to exploring other options. She also acknowledged the benefit of using recycled rubber from car tires.

Avue said the district should always continue to monitor materials used by the district, not just crumb rubber. “Obviously, the health of our students is paramount,” he said. Should studies show that crumb rubber is hazardous, Auve said he would support changing to another material.

Question 10: What can you do to ensure our school district is not a revolving door for teachers?

Cail stated that learning about the budget issues that led to the staffing reductions brought to light the fear of not being able to retain quality educators in the district. If the district cannot stabilize the budget and offer teachers stable employment opportunities, then the district needs to restructure its hiring process, she said.

Graves said that when hiring, district staff should consider the cost of living in the area and ensure that teachers are able to afford to live here. She also said that other expenses that potential teachers may have — like student loans — should be considered. Also, Graves said the calculation the district uses to determine teachers’ pay — and also determines how much funding the district receives from the state for teachers’ salaries — should be adjusted to reflect similar calculations used by surrounding districts.

Noble agreed that though the layoffs were bad, the district has been working to recall teachers since the decision was made to make staffing reductions. Also, in response to Graves’ suggestion that they adjust the district’s regionalization calculation, Noble said the district has to offer competitive salaries, because the surrounding districts hire from the same pool of applicants. 

If the district pays teachers competitive salaries that make them feel like they are valued in the community, Redrup said she believes they will stay. To avoid staffing cuts and to raise funding, she suggested canceling fees for high school students taking college classes. Doing so would bring students in Running Start back into high schools and increase district funding, she said. “We need to be looking at more things like that to keep the funding in our schools,” she said.

Auve agreed that because the district is an expensive area to live in, teacher salaries are an important consideration. “As far as paying a livable wage, that’s absolutely ideal,” he said.

Hunnewell admitted that at the time, she is unaware why teachers are leaving. If elected, the first step she said she would take was data collection from exit interviews. She also suggested the reason teachers are leaving might not be because of money. “I think we’re making assumptions and there could be another dissatisfying moments in their day,” she said.

Katims agreed with Hunnewell’s suggestions to conduct exit interviews. However, she also said the issue may not be money. In the past, she said the district did not have a problem hiring teachers, even when salaries were not as competitive as today’s are. Katims suggested it is because the district has lost its goals, direction and focus. “We need to think beyond the money,” she said.

Question 11: There was incredible frustration from students and parents when Meadowdale High School drama teacher Katy Powell-Mitchell was laid off due to budget cuts. Is there anything you would like to add to that discussion?

Though the situation was unfortunate, Noble said part of the decision to layoff Powell-Mitchell was determined by not having enough students sign up for one of her career and technical education (CTE) classes. Additionally, Powell-Mitchell was a “junior teacher” who had to have endorsements in every subject she taught, which she did not.

Cail partially attributed her decision to run in the school board election to the dedication of the students who have been lobbying for Powell-Mitchell’s reinstatement. “As a mother of three performing arts students — and as a performer myself — it is heartbreaking to have them lose their drama teacher,” she said.

Graves said she was also inspired by the students’ dedication who came to speak on behalf of Powell-Mitchell. The students’ turnout during the board meetings following the teacher layoffs was an example of the importance of community input regarding decisions made by the district, she said.

Restating his earlier point, Auve said he wished the district had reached out to the community more to try to raise funds to keep teachers employed. Having voted as a board member of outside organizations for past grants to provide district funding, he said Powell-Mitchell would have been a “good candidate” for grants.

After hearing what Noble said earlier about the class-enrollment requirement, Hunnewell called the situation an “unintended consequence.” She said this instance should give the district an opportunity to review how it prioritizes funding for classes. “The unintended consequence was we potentially lost an entire program,” she said.

Katims disagreed with Auve that a grant would have saved Powell-Mitchell’s job — a decision which was based on teacher seniority. If elected, she said she would work with human resources to adjust how different types of teachers are ranked with each other. “I think we can think more innovatively about our HR practices,” she said.

Redrup reminded the audience that 300 students were affected by Powell-Mitchell being laid off. Also, she said she appreciated Auve’s offer to find funding for Powell-Mitchell and wondered if he or the Foundation for Edmonds School District could also find funding for all of the teachers who were laid off.

During her closing statement, Graves said as a young parent, she could bring a different perspective to the board. “I think it’s important that we have someone that understands what parents of this generation are facing,” she said.

After acknowledging that this has been a challenging year, Noble reminded the audience of the district’s strengths, like surpassing the state average in areas like diversity, growth in subjects like math and English, and the number of teachers with master’s degrees.

In her closing statement, Cail said that after earning her master’s degree in English, she did not intend to become a teacher. However, after becoming a parent educator at Edmonds Heights, her eyes were opened to how education works, and she wants to bring that knowledge and experience to the board of directors.

After thanking the audience for attending, Redrup said the district should not continue to teach kids just to pass a test, but inspire them to love to learn. She passionately recalled a story about a former kindergarten student whose fascination with bridge building instilled a fascination and love for learning everything he could about them. Redrup warned the audience that spending too much time stressing students about studying to pass a test will diminish their desire to create.

Auve repeated his work with the Rotary Club of Lynnwood and the Edmonds School District Foundation, as well as his support for vocational training. “I wouldn’t be where I am without vocational education,” he said. “It is important to set our students up for the next phase of their lives and often times that does not include a four-year university.”

If elected, Hunnewell promised to work hard for the district, and if she did not have the answers in advance, she said she would work and involve others to solve the problem. As “a community engagement type of person,” Hunnewell said she would provide opportunities for community engagement in the district’s decision-making processes. She closed her comment with a quote from the Greek biographer Plutarch: “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited.” Then she added, “I would like to ignite the fire in the students of Edmonds School District.”

When speaking about her love for the district, Katims likened her affection for every school in the district to the way teachers feel about their students. With 20 years of experience and relationships with the district, Katims would be able to bridge the gap between the district staff and the teachers and staff who serve students. “I am prepared on day one of being school board director to hit the ground running and do what I can,” she said.

A full video recording of the forum can be found here.

–By Cody Sexton

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