Among the races to be decided in the Nov. 2 general election is the District 2 position on the Edmonds School District Board of Directors. To help voters make an informed decision, MLTnews sent a questionnaire asking candidates about a range of issues facing the school district. We are posting these as we receive them.
Melissa Stepp is a local business owner seeking the District 2 seat being vacated by longtime board director Ann McMurray, who is not running for re-election. Stepp is campaigning against Keith Smith. While each school board director position represents a specific district (District 2 covers Mountlake Terrace and Brier), they are elected by all voters.
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?
I am running for school board to ensure both students and educators in the district are supported by our education system. One of the messages that has stuck with me over the last two national election cycles and local elections in between is that if I want to have a tangible impact, I have to be involved at a local level. I chose to run for the Edmonds School Board director position for just that reason. I also have a vested interest in giving back to my community and helping children get a high-quality education.
I hope to be part of fundamental changes to how the Edmonds School District is locally funded, starting to shift away from reliance on property taxes. I also want to ensure we adopt the best curriculum for our students, specifically ones that encourage questioning established systems.
I hope to accomplish furthering the education of our community as to how and why strong public schools are in the community’s best interest. Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas shared with me that helping the community understand that excellent, equitable education is a priority for him and I intend to be a part of that effort.
Q: What experience would you bring as a board director and how is it relevant to the position?
I know two things for certain from the past 20 years of leading teams – listening to understand is more valuable than listening to respond and change is inevitable. I intend to bring those lessons with me to the school board.
I run MoltenWorks Glass Studio, where we’re building a business with the intention of nationwide expansion, developing policies and procedures from scratch, building training and operations modules, and focusing on the creative experience like no other business. Every day I confront the statement, “I am not creative,” and my response is to challenge the system that led that person to believe that. I will bring this same instinct to challenge systems to the school board.
Q: Remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on many inequities across the district (access to food, internet, housing, etc.). What plans do you have to address these issues?
My immediate plans involve calling my elected representatives and letting them know I support the Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better Bill at the federal level. I encourage everyone to do so, especially the students in our K-12 system, because they will benefit the most from this legislation.
Unfortunately, the remote learning over the past year highlighted that schools are central to the health and well-being of our families and communities. Schools provide child care, meals, school supplies and internet access. If schools are going to provide all these other services in addition to education, schools must have funding and resources. Until child care is affordable for more of our families in the Edmonds School District, we should support the children and families who rely on the school as child care. It’s the responsibility of the board to ensure the money is in place to support a student’s growth, not just a better test score.
Q: What ideas do you have for addressing the hundreds of homeless students in the Edmonds School District?
Having social workers or other employees who can actively assist parents in finding affordable housing on site and available when parents are available is a good start. I know this also takes money, so ensuring funding is available is important.
I also know that I alone don’t have the answer to ensure every student in the district is housed. I have a responsibility to listen to children, parents, teachers, administrators and the communities around our schools. I will also look for other districts who are also addressing the issue of unhoused students.
I also think that, regardless of housing status, every student should be able to come to school clean, well fed and in different clothes than they wore the day before. Schools can be a source for a clean change of clothes, provide a space to bathe and provide meals.
Q: The Edmonds School District plans to return to in-person learning this fall. In your opinion, what is the best course to keep schools open and students in classrooms? If elected, how would you work to support school faculty and staff during the 2021-22 school year?
If there’s one thing I heard from all my friends in education this past year, it’s that the mandates coming down from governments at every level, including by some school boards, didn’t reflect any understanding of the realities teachers were addressing every day. As a school board director, I have a responsibility to know how new policies and procedures, or changes to existing ones, will affect a teacher’s classroom. This means I will listen to faculty and staff, and know which administrator to talk to about the concerns I hear.
In my opinion, our schools can stay open if we are a source of reliable, trusted information for our students, their parents, and our community. We can provide vaccine information, be locations for vaccination sites, and continue to communicate health and safety information to our various communities. This also means information is available in as many languages as is necessary to communicate with our families. Translation services must be available.
We can also make sure our buildings are well-maintained with high-quality ventilation and thorough cleaning and sanitation. After listening to the school board meeting on Sept. 28, I know the Edmonds School District is following local health guidelines, taking the time to understand those guidelines and how they will impact the students, teachers, staff and administrators in each school at every level.
Q: How would you work with district staff to encourage and promote fairness and equality for all of the district’s students?
Again, let’s listen to teachers and provide them with resources to support their work in their classrooms. It’s time to address some of the systemic issues and move for long term change. I don’t want to hear, “that’s the way it’s always been.”
Q: Where can readers go to learn more about your campaign? (website and other contact information if applicable)
Mailing Address: PO Box 322, Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043