Top: Caroline Mason (left) and Jeannie Magdua. Bottom: Traci Mitchell (left) and Charles Mister, Jr.

Top: Caroline Mason (left) and Jeannie Magdua. Bottom: Traci Mitchell (left) and Charles Mister, Jr.

A clash of approaches in contest for Everett School Board

Incumbent Caroline Mason touts experience. Challenger Jeannie Magdua wants pay cuts for some and changes in sex ed curricula.

EVERETT — Contests for two seats on the Everett School Board pit a pair of incumbents against first-time candidates with far different approaches to leadership.

In the Nov. 2 election, Director Caroline Mason, the current board president, faces Jeannie Magdua for Position 3, while Director Traci Mitchell is challenged by Charles Mister for Position 4.

Mason and Mitchell joined the School Board via separate appointments in early 2014, then got elected to a full six-year term in 2015. Now each is seeking a second term on the five-person board that guides a district that serves roughly 21,000 students and employs an estimated 2,500 people.

Position 3

Mason holds a master’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s in speech communication. She is the former owner of Motion Marketing, a communications company.

She had not planned to run again until the pandemic changed her mind. Practical knowledge gained while helping guide the district’s response has given her a greater understanding of what will be needed going forward, she said.

“Now is not a good time to walk away. There’s been a lot of damage done in this pandemic,” Mason said.

She said she wants to see federal COVID aid used to protect the health of students and keep staff safe in classrooms, provide tutors for students to regain academic footing, and access to mentors and counselors to cope with social and emotional impacts of the pandemic.

State-imposed mandates for masks and vaccines shouldn’t be needed, but they are, Mason said.

“If more people get the (vaccine), we wouldn’t be in this position,” she said. “I don’t think anyone wants to return to remote learning full time.”

She disagreed with her opponent’s description of the district’s sex ed curriculum as explicit, saying instruction is age-appropriate. While critical race theory is not taught in the schools, she said, the district can improve how the history of race and racism is taught in social studies classes.

Magdua, who has a master’s in Asian studies and a bachelor’s in global studies, formerly worked as an administrative assistant for high school and international programs at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology.

She did not answer specific questions from a reporter. However, material she provided, combined with postings on her campaign website, outline her views and plans.

She entered the race “to counter the Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the explicit comprehensive sex education that our students are subjected to in our public schools,” according to her blog. She wrote that she is “perfectly aware” critical race theory is not taught in public schools but it is “the lens through which we’re teaching our children to view the world.”

Magdua vowed to amplify the voice of parents in the decision-making process and press for greater academic accountability, as too many students are not meeting grade level standards in math, English and science. She has called for reducing salaries of the superintendent and veteran teachers before asking voters to approve any levies in 2022.

A lack of diversity among the district’s faculty needs addressing, too, Magdua said. She told the Everett Parent Teacher Student Association that while 89% of the district’s teachers are white, half the students are not. A more “intentional effort” to hire teachers of color is needed.

“I am against teaching students to view themselves and others through the lens of critical race theory,” she said. “That does not mean, however, that I am against hiring practices that help our teaching and support staff to better reflect our student population.”

Position 4

Mitchell, a pharmacist and volunteer in the medical reserve corps for the Snohomish Health District, is also pushing the value of her experience as the district continues to deal with the effects of the pandemic.

She wants to make sure the district assists students who struggled academically during a year of remote learning. Looking beyond the pandemic, improving student performance in math and ensuring students are reading by third grade will be critical, she said. She wants to make sure graduation rates continue to climb.

A major challenge in 2022 is getting the district’s four-year educational program and operations levy renewed by voters. It generates revenue for programs and staffing not covered by state funds. This covers such things as hiring additional teachers for smaller classes and athletic teams.

Also, she said, she’s supportive of putting a capital levy in front of the electorate next year. Money raised from such a levy — levies are typically in place for six years — would fund capital improvements at schools across the district. The board is expected to make a decision on the amount of that levy and how to spend it in early November.

Mister has served as a Democratic Party precinct committee officer in Everett and briefly as an executive of the 38th Legislative District Democrats.

He is making his first bid for public office. He claims to be a former cop, a foster parent to more than 60 children, a holder of two master’s degrees and a one-time councilman in “St. Louis, MI,” the postal abbreviation for St. Louis, Michigan, a city of 7,000 people northwest of Detroit. None of those claims can be documented. Mister steadfastly refused to provide verification for his claims or discuss his campaign.

Ballots are due by 8 p.m. Tuesday. They can be returned by mail postage-free or deposited in one of the county’s designated drop boxes.

Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com; 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos

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