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 so readers can learn more about the candidates.
Note that while each school board position represents a specific area, all voters living in the district get to vote for all positions.
Rena Redrup is running for District 5 against three other candidates — Casey Auve, Lisa Hunnewell and Nancy Katims
Q: Why are you running to be an Edmonds School Board Director? What do you hope to accomplish during your time on the board?
Redrup: Ever since I was a teacher in public schools, I knew that I wanted to serve on the school board. When I first started teaching kindergarten, I integrated arts into the curriculum and children learned through play. Later, success was measured by whether kindergarteners — many of whom did not speak English — could read words rather than if they’d had an enriching experience. I believe that memorization without meaning is detrimental to children’s self-esteem and develops the kind of anxiety that we are seeing in children in greater prevalence today. The standardized goals for testing kids should not mask the real purpose of education — to bring out the potential of our children. There should be alternative routes of demonstrating success; strong partnerships with vocational training options to provide direct routes to skilled occupations upon graduation for those students not on a collegiate route. An important factor in achieving success is a connection between each student an a mentor. Smaller class sizes and more trained para-educators provide a better chance for us to meet every student’s needs.
Q: What experience would you bring as a board director and how is it relevant to the position?
Redrup: I have both the experience of being a teacher and the perspectives of a parent-leader, community member who has business experience managing my two rental properties, and the understanding of the importance of health as a surgical nurse.
I am avid supporter of the Edmonds School District; as a parent of three ESD graduates, former President/VP of Meadowdale High Schools Parent Group for five years and member of MHS Sports and Arts/Music boosters.
I have the perspectives of the teachers and respect their opinions on the issues they experience first hand, having taught in public schools for 10 years in Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington. I have maintained my preK-12 teaching certification through these years, having taken online courses to update on the latest topics and techniques.
I also have the experience of alternative parent-involved cooperative education, having been the president of Columbia Kids preschool co-op in Battle Ground, Wash. for two years and leading a successful site search for a new location.
I have written three successful grants, one in college through the National Foundation for the Arts to bring live music to college radio in Massachusetts where I served on the board for four years. Upon moving to Vancouver, Wash. in the 1990s, I was the president of the North Sifton Neighborhood Association and collaborated with another neighborhood group and Clark County to write a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, “East Orchards Safe Sidewalks.” While teaching kindergarten in 2005, I won a grant to purchase books to initiate a take home book program.
My degrees include a bachelors of arts with a double major in economics and history, and a minor in early childhood education from Brandeis University in 1987; a masters in creative arts in learning and early childhood education from Lesley University in 1990 and a bachelors of science in nursing from Oregon Health Sciences University in 2010, which I attained while working as a research assistant for an autism study there. I believe that if I could graduate from honors from nursing school while being a single mother raising my three elementary-, middle school- and high school-aged children (with my oldest being on an IEP) and working part time as a research assistant, that I could certainly serve on the school board as a married women with adult children while working full-time as a staff operating room nurse at Providence Hospital — where my job affords me the opportunity to trade shifts with other nurses and opt for low census as meetings and needs arise.
My goal is for students from all backgrounds to realize their value, reach their dreams and achieve social and economic independence. I have the desire for making our schools the best for kids and the education, capabilities, leadership and energy to do the job with integrity and efficiency.
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?
Redrup: The decision to switch after-school daycare programs was implemented before all stakeholders were able to iron out their concerns and have their voices heard. I think that including advanced electronic communication of all school board agendas and holding an extended comment period is important. I have been hearing similar concerns from the community at recent forums on other topics. I will advocate for such information regarding possible changes to be included in electronic school newsletters and to have adequate time for public engagement. If elected, I will listen to all ideas and go through the necessary steps of community input prior to decision making.
Q: What plans do you have to ensure financial stability given the $17.7 million budget shortfall the district is facing?
Redrup: As a school board member I will do everything to ensure that we have the proper resources necessary to retain teachers and programs and to give our kids the best education possible. In the instance of funding shortfalls, I will always prioritize budgets that are tightened from the top down — starting at the district level. With a bachelor’s degree in economics, I am willing and able to read and understand financial plans. I fully intend to research the feasibility and benefits of all district financial and personnel decisions as well as district initiatives that do not directly impact students and teachers such as a Blueprint 2025, the science adoption (as opposed to the current science curriculum, which well prepared my youngest child to be a physics major in college with a 4.0 in college chemistry and physics her freshman year at Oregon State University) and the second assistant superintendent position. I will not rubber stamp the recommendations without input from stakeholders, reading the actual studies and reports, and applying critical thinking.
Q: What ideas do you have for addressing the more than 500 homeless students in the Edmonds School District?
Redrup: Issues surrounding homelessness are important to address, as they have a powerful, negative, intergenerational impact. Working with social service agencies to coordinate safe housing is key to stabilizing their lives, providing resources to heal and building networks of support. As a teacher and a nurse, I recognize the importance of supporting the mental health of our students. In order for schools to be safe, we need to provide the necessary resources and mentors to not let anyone fall through the cracks. I believe that in the United States of America, that students from all backgrounds should realize their value, reach their dreams and achieve social and economic independence.
Q: How would you work with district staff to encourage and promote fairness and equality for all of the district’s students?
Redrup: As a woman with native-Hawaiian roots, I seek to empathize with the intersectionality of marginalized groups. I believe that the current curriculum for history, literature and sex-education lack the perspectives of diverse groups and identities. The sex-education curriculum should be inclusive of non-heteronormative, non-cisnormative identities in order to promote safe behavior amongst our students. As a school board member, I would advocate for a more comprehensive program of study so that marginalized groups see themselves reflected in what they are taught. It’s important to address the disadvantages that marginalized groups face when “success” is given such strict guidelines. I will work to have an open mind and open ear to those who have first-hand experience with the effects of the board’s policies. By hearing a wide range of perspectives, I can better understand where certain policies fall short and come to an informed conclusion on how to improve them.
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?
Redrup: I would advocate for early childhood education that has an optional day care component. I would advocate for federal funding for students that financially qualify for early childhood education assistance. By incorporating the needs of the staff and community for high quality daycare and early childhood education, we could attain a self-sustainable program with a mutual benefit for our community. This can be accomplished by having a competitive tiered payment structure for the day care component, while lowering overhead costs by having the daycare located at district high schools while providing interested students the opportunity to train in early childhood education.
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 ensure teachers’ job security in times of financial stress?
Redrup: It is very important to take care of our teachers who give so much to our students. By destabilizing their lives with threats to their job security, we run the very real risk of losing them and their their value to our children and our community. Budget cuts should never result in laying off teachers.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Redrup: My platform — proper resources to retain teachers and programs, helping students realizing their potential, curriculum inclusive of diversity, providing school and personal safety and making informed decisions where the community’s voice matters.
Q: Where can readers go to learn more about your campaign?