Top (L-R): Keira Atchley, Tiffani Mondares-Riggs, Beth Hoiby Bottom (L-R): Sherryl Kenney, Eliza Davis

Top (L-R): Keira Atchley, Tiffani Mondares-Riggs, Beth Hoiby Bottom (L-R): Sherryl Kenney, Eliza Davis

Like elsewhere, finances a priority in Marysville School Board races

Keira Atchley is the incumbent facing three newcomers. The other race is wide open, with Paul Galovin not running for reelection.

MARYSVILLE — It’s been a challenging few years for the Marysville School District, with a superintendent resigning and a double levy failure last year as well as a wave of layoffs in May.

School board candidates reflected on the school system’s financial problems and parental involvement in schools in interviews with The Daily Herald ahead of the Aug. 1 primary.

Voters passed a four-year levy in February, but the district will have to wait until April 2024 to get that money.

Positions 2 and 3 on the Marysville School District board of directors are up for grabs this year, with at least three candidates in each race. Incumbent Kristen Michal is running unopposed for Position 5.

For Position 3, Keira Atchley is the incumbent running against three newcomers.

Board member Paul Galovin is not running again for Position 2, leaving the field open. Only Tiffani Mondares-Riggs, who emphasized financial transparency, was available for an interview.

The winner of each race will get a four-year term.

Position 2

Eliza Davis

Eliza Davis

Eliza Davis

She has worked as a Lushootseed language teacher and a Native American liaison for the school district, according to the voters’ pamphlet. Currently, she’s the general services director for the Tulalip Tribes.

Her statement in the pamphlet says she has experience developing curriculum, organizing programs and “fostering community between staff, students, and families.” She wrote about the importance of “carefully and equitably” distributing money to schools and getting more state funds for the district.

“While funding is always a necessity, education that fails to create meaningful bonds leaves our students without vital emotional and social development, and our communities weaker,” she wrote.

The Tulalip Tribes, the 38th Legislative District Democrats and incumbent Paul Galovin, who is president of the school board, have endorsed Davis.

A reporter was unable to reach her for an interview over the past week.

Tiffani Mondares-Riggs

Tiffani Mondares-Riggs

Tiffani Mondares-Riggs

Mondares-Riggs wants to see more accountability about the district’s finances.

She has a finance background, doing bookkeeping for her event planning business and tax preparation for Jackson Hewitt. Four of her six kids are in the school district.

The district’s finances first got her attention when the district cut Marysville Online, a remote-learning program two of her kids were a part of.

She feels board members haven’t asked enough questions about district finances.

The school system is still “in survival mode,” Mondares-Riggs said, but COVID can be an “excuse” for things that were already going on in the district.

“I’m not afraid to question things,” she said.

Brian Nelson

In response to an email inquiry from The Daily Herald, Nelson wrote: “Brian not an election candidate.”

He did not respond to followup questions.

He provided no statement for the voters’ pamphlet.

Position 3

Keira Atchley

Keira Atchley

Keira Atchley

Atchley has weathered some controversy in her time on the school board, from protests of pandemic safety measures to outcry about a proposed policy requiring parents’ permission for students to join clubs.

Critics said the policy, which Atchley helped create, targeted students wanting to join LGBTQ+ clubs without coming out to their family. Proponents said it empowered parents.

In the end, the proposal was tabled.

The measure was meant to signal support for parents, Atchley said, noting the policy could have made exceptions for students who didn’t want their parents notified.

Despite the controversies, she said, most people can “agree on finding a happy medium for what’s best for children.”

Atchley is the parent of three kids and the general manager of an aerospace company, which she said comes with financial know-how that helps her as a board member.

However, there are “a lot of misconceptions” about what the board has the power to do, she said. State money is allocated for specific purposes, so the board isn’t free to redistribute.

Beth Hoiby

Beth Hoiby

Beth Hoiby

Hoiby has deep roots in Marysville. Her grandparents graduated from Marysville schools and her mom was in the first cohort to attend Liberty Elementary School, which Hoiby also later attended.

She also has roots in Tulalip, where she spent her childhood until she was 13. Her great-grandparents taught farming on the reservation and her grandfather grew up around the community there.

“I have a deep respect for the tribes and what their history is and what they went through,” Hoiby said, “and how much respect that they deserve from Marysville.”

Though she knows the tribes plan to break away from Marysville schools in the next few years, Hoiby wishes that wasn’t the case. Instead, she’d want the district to do more to support the tribes so the relationship between Marysville and Tulalip could continue.

Hoiby learned all about school levies from her daughter, a communications specialist for the district.

And as a real estate appraiser, “I understand taxes,” she said.

She hopes to educate others in the future on how levies work.

When it comes to tough decisions about budget cuts, Hoiby would start by hearing people out.

“Knowing what’s important” to people in the area is key, she said. “Because it’s not always gonna be what’s important to me.”

Sherryl Kenney

Sherryl Kenney

Sherryl Kenney

Kenney is a “concerned grandma” of a middle schooler in the district.

For Kenney, parental control over what kids learn is one of the biggest issues. She finds lessons about LGBTQ+ identities “extremely offensive,” saying they go against her Christian beliefs.

She is also against diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, calling them “nothing more than affirmative action on steroids.” Hiring practices aiming to increase staff diversity, for example, are “discrimination,” she said.

“Schools seem to be producing a lot of students that hate America,” she said, noting there should be a stronger focus on patriotism in schools.

Throwing out “all that DEI stuff” could save the district money, said Kenney, a senior business analyst at Elevance Health. Other cost-cutting measures could involve evaluating staff salaries and halting raises for a couple of years, while trying to avoid layoffs.

Money could be allocated toward school safety instead, she suggested, like hiring private security.

Elora Wykes

In the district, “there’s just this frustration because parents feel powerless,” Wykes said.

That’s partly because parents can’t control things like school boundaries that determine which school their child is assigned to, Wykes said.

“If a child lives next to a certain school, the child should be able to go to that school,” she said. “They chose to live next to that school for a reason.”

Another issue for Wykes is parents’ ability to opt their kids out of sex ed. She’s looked at sex ed curriculums for all grade levels and feels “it’s a very worldly view of sexuality.”

Sex ed should be modified to include more education about sexually transmitted diseases and sexual exploitation, she said, noting parents could create the curriculum.

More involvement from parents at school could also help the district with its budget issues, Wykes suggested, as parents and former educators could volunteer their time.

Wykes wanted to run for school board because she saw a lack of input from the community.

At board meetings, she said, it seems like if “something’s a hot button: everyone’s there. It’s not: no one’s there.”

She noted big decisions are sometimes made at meetings no one attends.

Her teaching background also motivated her: Wykes has taught all ages from preschool to college.

Wykes has five children, with one still in the district. Her kids went through a combination of public, private and homeschooling.

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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