The Aug. 6 primary election includes multiple people running for Edmonds School District Board of Directors positions. To help voters learn more about the candidates, the My Neighborhood News Network sent a questionnaire to each candidate appearing on the primary ballot.
We will post these as we receive them.
Note that while each school board position represents a specific area, all voters living in the district get to vote for all positions.
Incumbent Gary Noble is seeking re-election for Director District 3. He is campaigning against three other candidates — Jennifer Cail, Rory Graves and Boe Lindgren.
Q: Why are you running to be an Edmonds School Board Director? What do you hope to accomplish during your time as a board director?
Noble: I am running because I want to continue to expand on the improvements the district has accomplished over my last 16 years on the board. From modernizing our aging schools to providing high quality curriculums to our teaching staff, each step is focused on our real target — improving student achievement and providing the most equitable learning environment possible so all students have the opportunity to achieve.
Q: What experience would you bring as a board director and how is it relevant to the position?
Noble: I have 16 years of experience on the Edmonds School Board and I am also a trustee for the Foundation for the Edmonds School District. Prior to being elected to the school board, I was a PTA officer, tutored middle school math and was Chairman of the District’s Citizens Planning Committee. My children attended K-12 in our district and both graduated from Lynnwood High School.
Q: In light of the decision to sign a contract with Right at School, which many parents felt they didn’t have time to comment on, how do you think the school district could improve its public engagement process?
Noble: Although the decision to work with Right at School could have been better communicated, most of the concerns were from families satisfied with their current after-school program. Unfortunately, before- and after-school programs were only offered at a few of our schools, making it an equity issue for those at schools without programs. None of the current providers were able to expand to include all of our schools. Some providers had waiting lists so not all parents were able to use their services. We chose Right at School because they could equitably provide programs at all of our schools without limitations on the number of participants. They also provide a quality active program aligned with our Common Core standards.
Q: What plans do you have to ensure financial stability given the $17.7 million budget shortfall the district is facing?
Noble: During my time on the board, through the recession and through changes due to the McCleary decision, we have always had a balanced budget with a minimal, but adequate fund balance each year. True financial stability would mean stable funding and, unfortunately, the state has changed the rules for funding schools nearly every year I have been on the board. The current shortfall is the result of the state severely reducing the amount school districts are allowed to collect in their local levy without a corresponding increase in state funding. The legislature had a bill to correct the problem, but at the last minute they changed the rules so it only applied to Seattle and not to us. That left our district with a greater shortfall. We anticipate that next year’s funding will be more stable.
Q: What ideas do you have for addressing the more than 500 homeless students in the Edmonds School District?
Noble: Most people don’t realize the extent of homeless students in our district and county. The McKinney-Vento Act requires schools to transport homeless students to their home schools no matter where they are housed. That means that we transport students to our schools daily from as far as Arlington and Renton. This provides needed stability for these students, but costs our district over half a million dollars each year. The Foundation for Edmonds School District’s Nourishing Network provides weekend meals and toiletries to 250 of our homeless students. They also provide pop-up pantries to homeless and other families that are unable or unwilling to use food banks.
Q: How would you work with district staff to encourage and promote fairness and equity for all of the district’s students?
Noble: This has been a huge focus of the board and the district for several years. Virtually all staff members have received equity training and many have attended the Undoing Institutional Racism workshop. The board recently passed a new Policy 0600 “Race and Equity” which has become a model for equity for other school districts in the state. We hired Kimberly Armstrong to be executive director of equity. Recently the board sponsored a staff/citizens committee to explore inequities in district and ASB fees throughout the district, resulting in many changes to improve equity.
Q: A 2017 Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families study showed that the Edmonds School District is serving only 28 percent of students eligible for early childhood education assistance. What ideas do you have for expanding the District’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program to accommodate more students?
Noble: That 28 percent figure is actually a combination of our district’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and Head Start. We were approved the 60 ECEAP slots we currently have at Mountlake Terrace Elementary school. We applied for 60 more slots for the 2019-2020 school year, but due to state funding issues, the expansion slots were not granted. Our plan is to apply again this year for expansion in the 2020-2021 school year.
Q: The district has received feedback from the community that it should have handled the staffing reductions due to budget cuts differently. What ideas do you have for helping to assure teachers’ job security in times of financial stress?
Noble: Although any reductions are painful, of our 1,500 certificated staff members, the equivalent of only 14.5 staff members were terminated, and we expect that some of these will be re-hired as additional retirements are announced. One of my biggest priorities has always been retaining a highly qualified teaching staff.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Noble: In times like these we tend to concentrate on budget issues, staffing, the stability of state funding, etc., but it is important to step back and look at what we are all here for — the students. By most measures, we are doing exceedingly well. Our graduation rates and standardized test scores continue to exceed state averages. We maintain a quality teaching staff whose experience also exceeds state averages. Whether it is a kindergarten teacher welcoming a shy five-year-old into the classroom or a principal handing a diploma to a proud senior, we are doing well.
Q: Where can readers go to learn more about your campaign? (website and other contact information if applicable)
Noble: They may contact me directly at [email protected].