Top (L-R): Roman Rewolinsk, Charles Adkins. Bottom (L-R): Ryne Rohla, Janelle Burke

Top (L-R): Roman Rewolinsk, Charles Adkins. Bottom (L-R): Ryne Rohla, Janelle Burke

Facing $28M deficit, candidates for Everett school board offer answers

Charles Adkins, Janelle Burke, Roman Rewolinksi and Ryne Rohla are in a four-way race for Everett Public Schools’ Position 5.

EVERETT — Safety, youth homelessness and a major budget shortfall are top of mind for candidates in advance of the August 1 primary election for Position 5 on the Everett Public Schools Board of Directors.

This year, a $28-million budget deficit led the school district to pass its Reduced Educational Program in March, which projected 142 positions would be cut.

The budget cuts are due to a host of factors, including the end of federal pandemic aid.

Charles Adkins, Janelle Burke, Roman Rewolinksi and Ryne Rohla see varying issues facing the district and have different plans for tackling its financial difficulties.

Charles Adkins

Charles Adkins

Charles Adkins

Youth homelessness, overcrowding, mental health and safety at school are key issues for Adkins.

He’s got experience addressing some of them. A policy analyst for the Tulalip Tribes, his other public service roles include vice chair of the Everett Planning Commission and member of the state Advisory Council on Homelessness and the Snohomish County Children’s Commission.

He also founded the nonprofit Best Schools Marysville, which advocated for this year’s school levy.

Adkins grew up on and around the Yurok Indian Reservation in California before attending Chemawa Indian School, a boarding school in Oregon.

As a teen, he was homeless for a time before finding a place to stay at the youth shelter Cocoon House and attending Everett High School.

Adkins is running to ensure kids don’t have to struggle the way he did.

He praised the district’s Kids In Transition program that supports homeless students and suggested expanding it.

Beyond that, Adkins said, “we need to be thinking radically.” The school district could partner with nonprofits to build housing for students on its surplus land, for example.

When it comes to budget cuts, “we’re at the point where there’s no good answers,” Adkins said. School leadership should consult teachers and parents to figure out a plan, he said.

The bigger picture in Adkins’ eyes is schools need to get more funding from the state, particularly funding that isn’t tied to property taxes.

Janelle Burke

Janelle Burke

Janelle Burke

For Burke, Everett schools “need change.”

“They need a mother, a person that’s gonna stand up, a person who’s not gonna be quiet,” she said.

Burke, who has run in past years, has seven children with three in the school district. In 2021, she lost a bid for an at-large position on the school board with 18.2% of the vote, compared to her opponents’ 46% and 22.5%.

She’s the main person behind WakeUp SnoCo, which she calls a citizen journalism website.

In 2019, the website’s board voted to endorse a County Council candidate, Willie Russell, who had been convicted of multiple sex offenses.

Burke said Monday she wasn’t concerned by the criminal record, as the offenses occurred so long ago. She said she’d read court documents related to the candidate’s case and believed he had been treated unfairly in the criminal justice system.

As a parent, Burke saw her kids struggle with bullying and issues with school resource officers. It made her feel like the district was “a prison system.”

In Burke’s view, more communication with parents could address bullying. Officers aren’t needed in schools, she said. If they are present, they should be unarmed and act as mentors instead of disciplinarians.

Parents should also have the power to opt their kids out of sexual education, Burke said.

Burke, who is bisexual, took issue with students being taught about LGBTQ+ topics without parental input, which she argued could put kids in danger if they disagree with their parents. She also feels current sex ed isn’t age appropriate.

As for the budget, Burke feels “the school district isn’t living within their means.” Volunteers can take over some duties from paid positions, she suggested.

“Stop giving in to all to all these demands for more wages,” she said.

Roman Rewolinski

Roman Rewolinski

Roman Rewolinski

Rewolinksi is motivated to run for the school board because of his kids. All three attend Everett schools, with one each in elementary, middle and high school.

He first started looking into the district’s policies because he was curious about school boundaries. In doing so, he learned about its financial problems.

Rewolinski has an accounting background as controller for Athira Pharma, so he figured he could pitch in.

“It just takes somebody that’s willing to help out and get in the weeds,” he said, noting that ultimately it’s “a group effort.”

School safety is another big issue for Rewolinski. He said he would advocate for police to patrol more frequently around schools.

Threats within the school are concerning, too, and Rewolinski suggested a review of lockdown protocols and access to school buildings.

He also supports hiring more school resource officers, who he says could deter the “absolute worst situations imaginable.”

“Our kids should not be afraid of the police,” he said, but should feel police are there to help them.

In the classroom, Rewolinski wants more training so teachers can “stay on top of the cutting edge.” He also thinks teachers should be aware of what resources exist for vulnerable students.

He is also against banning books in schools.

“If we want our kids to be capable of critical thinking, we shouldn’t be sanitizing,” he said. “Kids should have an opportunity to see all the sides of a complex issue.”

Ryne Rohla

Ryne Rohla

Ryne Rohla

The way Ryne Rohla sees it, “fewer students are actually learning than ever before” in Everett schools. He feels students failing to meet state learning standards is the biggest issue facing the district.

Allowing students to graduate who aren’t meeting standards is “setting students up to fail in college or their career,” said Rohla, who ran for state representative as a Republican last year.

Rohla is an economist for the state Department of Social and Health Services and for the state Attorney General’s office, according to his campaign website. He was unavailable for a phone interview and provided answers to questions via email.

Rohla has a daughter entering the school system this year and two younger children. He is “greatly concerned for the quality of schooling my daughters will be receiving.”

He also stressed the importance of safety, mental health and support for struggling students.

He has a personal connection to those issues.

“I lost my younger sister to suicide two years ago,” Rohla said, “and my half-sister never graduated high school due to our mom’s persistent homelessness and my stepfather’s substance use.”

As an economist, Rohla said, he is prepared to deal with the budget deficit.

“If creative accounting between budgets or deferring capital expenses is not sufficient,” he said, “cuts should be kept as far away from students as possible, starting first with administration, technology purchases, substitute use, and lesser-used services.”

And as a parent, Rohla said, “what the school board does actually affects my family and I directly.”

Ballots are due 8 p.m. Aug. 1.

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035;; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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