School board provides superintendent search update, hears from students about LGBTQ policies

The board of directors at the Tuesday night board meeting.

Edmonds School Board President Nancy Katims updated attendees at the Jan. 10 board meeting on the school district’s search for a permanent superintendent.

The application deadline is Friday, Jan. 13. After that, Katims said, the strongest applicants will be selected, and the board will choose a group of semifinalists by Jan. 20. Semifinalists will be interviewed Feb. 2-3. This round of interviews will be closed to the public since many applicants are not yet ready to go public with their decision to apply for the superintendent job, Katims said.

A panel of eight people from the school district who have diverse backgrounds will sit in on the board interviews Feb. 2-3 to provide their feedback on the candidates. That panel will include two students, two parents, two teachers and two administrators.

On Feb. 7, the board will hold finalist interviews. A community forum will also be held that night, where finalists will speak publicly, give presentations and answer community members’ questions.

In addition, the board will be accepting written feedback from audience members after the forum, which will be taken into consideration before the board makes its final decision Feb. 8.

The directors will announce the district’s new superintendent by the end of the day Feb. 8, provided the individual selected accepts the offer.

Katims said she is looking forward to meeting each candidate and receiving community feedback on each of them.

“I want to make sure we’re as transparent as possible, as we said we would be,” she said.

In addition, the board received a legislative update from Director Carin Chase. This year’s session of the Washington State Legislature will last 105 days. 

The board also approved the district’s updated policy on board norms and protocols. New amendments to the policy include a clause for reconsideration of this policy every time the board changes, proper communication when a board member plans to visit a school, and an updated protocol for how board members should ask questions about agenda items prior to a meeting.

An interlocal agreement between the State of Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and the school district to develop procedures and engage in formal collaboration for students in foster care was also unanimously approved. In addition, the board approved a policy for emergency waiver requests for school closures and a contract award to Nor-Pac Seating for purchase and installation of new telescopic bleachers at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

The board also welcomed a new student advisor Tuesday night: Kayla Apostol. Apostol was invited to be an advisor in the fall, but due to a busy sports schedule, could not attend school board meetings until now.

Brier Terrace seventh grader Meadow Wasserman talks about LGBTQ students in the district.

During the board’s public comment period, a group of people who have commented during past board meetings continued to express their concerns about the district’s policies regarding transgender students. Several students and parents then offered their perspectives on those comments, speaking about the amount of time they say is being wasted on hateful remarks about the LGBTQ students in the district.

“Why are we stuck on LGBTQ?” asked Meadow Wasserman, a seventh-grade student at Brier Terrace Middle School. “We are spending too much time on anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and not enough time on real problems that affect students every day… Instead, people waste our time telling others that they shouldn’t be what they are and who they are.”

Wasserman said the constant negative comments at board meetings “dehumanizes [her] queer friends.” She talked about the number of fights that happen almost every day at her school and asked why that was not being made a topic of priority at the meetings instead of debating district policies that are unlikely to be reversed.

The seventh grader also said that the school district is not using LGBTQ ideas to indoctrinate students but is rather simply encouraging them to be who they are, and she doesn’t understand why that bothers so many people.

“The Edmonds School District has made the decision to be an inclusive school district, a supportive school district,” she said. “We support people’s personalities. We support who they are. We support them unconditionally.”

Another student from the Edmonds School District, Samara Lynch, said the mistreatment of LGBTQ students in the district is out of hand and urged the board to do something before the situation gets worse.

“We are hearing that we are supported, yet we are told to kill ourselves by people who get off with warnings,” Lynch said. “‘We’re allies,’ they tell us, then turn a blind eye to this behavior. ‘We support you,’ they preach, but even staff treat LGBTQ students badly.”

Lynch agreed with Wasserman that students are not being indoctrinated but are instead fighting every day to be seen as equals in the district.

“We are people, and we deserve to be ourselves,” she said. “We have always fought for a better future for our young people, so why do we stop here?”

Lynch begged the board to stop turning a blind eye to the issues in the district and to work to make schools a truly safe place for all students regardless of how they choose to identify themselves.

Loni Rogers, a parent of a district student, asked why so many residents feel it is okay to waste the board’s time each meeting when they don’t have students of their own in the district.

According to Rogers, most students don’t have a problem with the inclusivity policies in the district and wanted to know why it was a problem for so many adults who are not personally affected by these policies.

“Listening to some of you talk, I’m not surprised that people from previous generations hid who they were,” she said. “As an actual parent of an actual student in this district, I’m ecstatic that the board is focused on ensuring all children are supported … and that they clearly care about the kids that they work for. Because at the end of the day, that is who they work for; not a bunch of cry-baby community members who scream, ‘My taxes!’ when they don’t have a horse in the race, or a child in the district. You do not get to decide how my child is educated and I support this board and this district.”

Many of the student advisors and board directors thanked the students for being brave enough to speak at the meetings, as student voices are imperative for the board to make well-rounded decisions.

Peter Garcia, one of the student advisors, agreed with the students that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is taking up too much time during the school board meetings when more important topics could be spoken about.

“I don’t know why we are stuck on this problem,” he said. “It’s not even a problem.”

— By Lauren Reichenbach

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