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Published: Friday, July 29, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Six candidates seek single Everett School Board seat

  • Everett School Board candidates. Top row (from left): Mary Ann Elbert, Pamela Key and Cris Larson. Bottom row: Pam LeSesne, Casey MacPherson and Rodma...

    Everett School Board candidates. Top row (from left): Mary Ann Elbert, Pamela Key and Cris Larson. Bottom row: Pam LeSesne, Casey MacPherson and Rodman Reynolds.

  • Everett school board candidate Pamela Key

    Everett school board candidate Pamela Key

  • Everett School Board candidate Mary Ann Elbert.

    Everett School Board candidate Mary Ann Elbert.

  • Everett School Board candidate Pam LeSesne.

    Everett School Board candidate Pam LeSesne.

  • Everett School Board candidate Cris Larson

    Everett School Board candidate Cris Larson

  • Everett School Board candidate Rodman Reynolds.

    Everett School Board candidate Rodman Reynolds.

  • Everett School Board candidate Casey MacPherson.

    Everett School Board candidate Casey MacPherson.

The Everett School Board has a reputation as one of Snohomish County's most controversial elected bodies.
Nevertheless, six candidates are vying for one open seat, a vacancy created when Kristie Dutton decided not to seek re-election after 12 years on the board.
Issues being discussed by the candidates include $4 million in cuts to the school district's budget, which have resulted in increased lunch prices and could result in larger class sizes during the upcoming school year, and the school board's recent decision to approve a new $23 million administration building.
Added to these more recent debates over budget are a long history of other battles. They include the censure of school board member Jessica Olson and the board questioning her right to videotape board meetings.
The candidate who ultimately is selected in the November general election will help oversee an 18,000-student district that includes the cities of Everett and Mill Creek and parts of unincorporated Snohomish County. School board members are paid $50 a day for school board work, or a maximum of $4,800 a year.
Pamela Key seeks to use her background in accounting to help bring sound fiscal practices to the school district. "It is a public trust and I think there needs to be sound fiscal practice, transparency and accountability," she said.
Key said she has no issues with the decision to build a new administration building, in part because the current administration buildings are old and spread throughout the district.
However, she said, she thinks that some classes need more space, such as the kindergarten cooperative program. Parents want to expand the program, but there's no room, she said.
"Why wasn't there a thought about combining the administration building with a school or additional classroom space?" she asked.
Mary Ann Elbert said she feels board members should have final authority over school district policy and its implementation. "It appears the majority of the board views their job to end at policy decisions," she said. "It does not allow for adequate accountability to the public."
Elbert, who has degrees in engineering, said that this background would enable her to make logical decisions based on facts.
She said she would like to see changes to allow more public input to the board "not limited to hand-picked individuals or surveys written to assure the desired feedback."
School board meetings should be changed to be more welcoming, she said, which could include more informal, "meet the board" events.
This is the second try for Pam LeSesne, a retired Navy captain who lost a close race to school board member Jeff Russell in 2009.
LeSesne said she wants to ensure that all students are challenged to meet high academic standards, whether they're English language learners, or average, special needs or high achieving students.
"I will diligently listen and respect the views of teachers and staff so we're working together for student learning," she said.
LeSesne said would like to strengthen core education skills, such as reading and writing, math and science. "It's not to say athletics, arts and music take second fiddle," she said. "They go hand in hand."
LeSesne said she believes the school board's squabbling has become a distraction. "We need to be moving on to do the best we can for our students," she said.
Cris Larson, a retired middle and high school teacher in Everett, said he would like a better system to track and advocate on behalf of youth at risk of becoming dropouts, such as students with grade point averages of 2.0 or less. "The job is not being done," he said.
Larson said he would like to see more accountability from students, parents, principals, administrators and school board members.
He said he also thinks that academic achievement can be raised through increased funding and participation in sports, noting that students must make progress with their academics to continue to participate on teams. "We need to ... expect great achievement from all our students," he said.
Rodman Reynolds said he would like to see the board's ongoing issues over open government settled. The issues began with Olson's election and have continued since, he said. "I would like to ... get back to more important things."
Reynolds said he favors requiring school uniforms. "It takes (class distinctions) out of the picture and the kids don't have to worry about what they're going to wear. The parents don't have to worry about going out and buying expensive clothes," he said.
Reynolds said he would like to see school board meetings videotaped and available to the public. High school students could be used to record the meetings, he said, and they could be broadcast on Everett TV. "The cost would be almost nothing," he said.
Casey MacPherson said he would like to see more checks and balances between the school board and Superintendent Gary Cohn in implementing school policies and evaluating their effectiveness.
The board "seems to be rubber-stamping the superintendent; they're trusting his judgment way too much," he said.
"It's not about them working with the superintendent, but about them telling the superintendent what needs to happen and what's best for their constituency and their children," he said.
He questioned the need for a new administration building, saying it is one example of the overall issue of administrative costs that he feels could be trimmed. "It seems we have a lot of fat we need to trim before we cut any more money that directly affects the kids," he said.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or
Mary Ann Elbert
Age: 43
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom (former Boeing engineer)
Education: Master's degree in mechanical engineering, Stanford University; bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan
In her words: I think the elected school directors should have final authority over policy and its implementation within the district.
Priorities: All of our children deserve learning opportunities to allow them to perform to their full potential; accountability, decisions based upon facts and data where options have been prioritized in an open manner; more public input to the board.
Pamela Key
Age: 49
Occupation: Accountant
Education: Bachelor's degree in hotel administration from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Currently taking classes at the University of Washington, pursuing a degree as a certified public accountant.
In her words: Basically I think education is the key not only to our children's future but our community's future as well.
Priorities: Sound fiscal practice, transparency and accountability.
Basically, two out of the last three years (the district) has been budgeting with a negative budget, meaning they're expecting to spend more than they take in. It's not a sustainable practice.
Cris Larson
Age: 44
Occupation: Retired Everett school teacher.
Website:!/pages/ Cris-Larson-for-Everett- Schools/ 160811020658262
Education: Bachelor's degree from Western Washington University in English education; master's in education from Antioch University Seattle.
In his words: My number one priority is to lower the district's dropout rate.
Priorities: To bring more alignment to all the schools and create a consistent program across the board that tracks, advocates and intervenes on the behalf of at-risk youth.
Pam LeSesne
Age: 55
Occupation: Retired as a captain from the Navy in 2004.
Education: Bachelor's degree in general chemistry from UCLA; master's degree in mechanical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.
In her words: I have the experience and the compassion to serve our students well. I will strive to maintain proper balance between transparency, diversity of opinion and governance.
Priorities: Excellence in education, strong partnerships with teachers, staff and community and strengthening our core education.
Casey MacPherson
Age: 34
Occupation: Software engineer for Microsoft
Website: for-Everett-School- Board/ 232246856791709
Education: Henry D. Sheldon High School, Eugene, Ore.
In his words: The superintendent seems to have a lot of leeway to do what he wants to do. The school board seems to rubber-stamp what he wants to do.
Priorities: Change the process by which the board evaluates the superintendent, creating a procedure that gives them power again over the superintendent; accountability of the school administration to the school board; fiscal responsibility.
Rodman Reynolds
Age: 42
Occupation: Laboratory coordinator/data manager
Education: Bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia and master's degree from the University of Washington, both in classic Greek and Latin
In his words: I'm flexible in my opinions; I can see often see both sides of an issue. But if you're going to convince me, I have to see the evidence.
Priorities: I'd like to get our open government issues settled. I'd rather spend time discussing what obviously is school district business, curriculum, maintenance, all the basic nuts and bolts and not argue whether or not a transcript of a meeting should or should not be published.

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