Two aiming to upset Lakewood incumbent

LAKEWOOD — Incumbent Lakewood School Board Director Oscar Escalante is running on his record, he says, and doesn’t plan to campaign for re-election, at least before the primary. He is challenged, however, by two of his neighbors who say Escalante’s 12 years on the board are enough.

Michael Blank wants to see more Lakewood High School students steered toward trade schools to become plumbers, carpenters and truck drivers. Pete Espinoza wants to see a Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Lakewood and wants school board meetings to start an hour later, so more people can attend.

All three candidates support the proposed February ballot issue regarding the sale of bonds to fund a remodel of Lakewood High School. Blank also would support having one large building for all Lakewood students, he said.

Escalante owns his own company, which provides computer hardware and software to disabled people so they can live independently. He said he is proud of the collaborative work accomplished by the school board, the district’s administration and its teachers.

“I believe that we have a strong relationship,” Escalante said. “We are always open to listen and have an open mind to explore things really impacting our kids’ education. We need to continue to invest in computer technology for our students and teachers. Our community deserves to have state-of-the-art classrooms. We want to provide an environment that is attractive to our kids.”

Espinoza, a retired career Navy veteran, works at Naval Station Everett and manages the dental program for the local fleet. He is a longtime volunteer in Lakewood schools, and his youngest child will be a senior at Lakewood High School this year. The school district needs a new track, among other things, he said.

“Our schools need upgrades. I believe I have the leadership skills and tenacity to help the district achieve its goals,” Espinoza said. “Oscar is a friend of mine, and I have no complaints, but I think it is time for a new face on the board. It’s time to get more veterans from our neighborhood involved in volunteering as we prepare for population growth in our district.”

Espinoza said he has been knocking on doors and asking people in the district about their concerns.

“I want people to know that their ideas are important to me and that I would plan to be available to the people I represent,” he said.

Blank, a driver for Community Transit, doesn’t believe every Lakewood graduate needs to go to college. In fact, he isn’t sure the state should fund its universities.

“Kindergarten through 12th grade should be fully funded and if only the rich kids go to university, well so be it. All kids should be taught how to cook and manage their finances. And we need a pilot program to let the teachers figure out how the money should be spent so that all the kids pass the tests. Parents need to volunteer more in the schools, and we need 100 percent graduation rates,” Blank said. “It’s not rocket science. I want a Social Security check when I retire, so I want our kids to make money.”

Blank said he has never attended a school board meeting, but if elected he would be able to adjust his job schedule to make all the meetings.

“Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to have a say in our schools,” Blank said. “And I am a union guy, but I have issues with the way some bad teachers are retained.”

Blank said he realizes that some of his concerns are outside the jurisdiction of the local school board.

The race

Lakewood School Board director, District 1

At stake is a nonpartisan, four-year seat on the Lakewood School Board representing the Smokey Point neighborhood. The job pays a maximum of $4,800 a year. Ballots are due Aug. 6.

The candidates

Michael Blank

Age: 43

Experience: High school diploma; Marine Corps veteran; Community Transit bus driver

Website: None

Oscar Escalante

Age: 58

Experience: Incumbent Lakewood School Board director, having served three terms; self-employed with own computer company; Navy veteran; bachelor’s degree in psychology, training in finance, computer technology, career counseling and mental health counseling; grandfather of Lakewood students

Website: None

Pete Espinoza

Age: 48

Experience: Retired Navy; civilian job at Naval Station Everett; associate degree in general studies; father of a Lakewood graduate and a current student; longtime school volunteer; attends school board meetings

Website: None

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