MARYSVILLE — Four of five seats on the Marysville School Board of Directors are up for election this year, with transparency at the forefront of candidates’ promises.
But only one — the battle for District 4, which covers much of the east side of the school district — is on the primary ballot because it has drawn four candidates. There are only two candidates in the other races so they will head straight to the general election.
In District 4, incumbent director Vanessa Edwards, the current board president, is being challenged by Clarence Shaw, who served on the school board and city council in Monrovia, Calif., Jim Ross, a telecommunications professional, and Wade Rinehardt, a volleyball coach at the Marysville Boys and Girls Club.
Ross, Shaw and Edwards participated in a candidate forum moderated by Tulalip Youth Councilmember Evelyn Vega-Simpson and Marysville Pilchuck High School Black Student Union President Josiah Frank on July 20.
During the forum the candidates expressed similar priorites for the district, including building a stronger partnership with the Tulalip Tribes, and increasing transparency and accountability.
Edwards, a former secretary at Cedarcrest Middle School, wants another term to continue to lead the district in fufilling the goals outlined in its strategic plan. Those goals include incorporating student voices in board meetings, studies and leadership conferences, increasing financial accountability through putting the district’s money where its priorities are, and making sure staff throughout the district receives equity training, she said.
As a former staff member, Edwards said she has a deep understanding of how the district directors’ decisions impact employees at every level.
“Because I’ve been in this role, I’ve learned what I can’t do and what I can do — and to get creative with what we can do, so that we can move our district (forward),” Edwards said. “I’ve been around enough in our district to have seen the change and the change that we need to do.”
Edwards has been on the board as directors navigated multiple changes in command at the superintendent level, responded to the pandemic, and to calls for racial justice following racist threats directed toward students of color.
“Moving forward we have to be as prepared as we possibly can be,” Edwards said, speaking about pandemic recovery. “What that means is just having a lot more empathy, because we don’t know where our students are socially, emotionally and mentally.”
Shaw ran against Edwards for the seat in 2017 and said he has remained active in the district.
He said he became increasingly involved in seeking solutions when the racist death threats surfaced, meeting with parents, police and the mayor.
Shaw said he hopes to hold community forums that reach parents of all backgrounds and interests and streamline communication between the board and the community.
“I do want a place where parents can come and speak,” he said. “What’s wrong with Mr. Shaw saying, ‘Hey guys, let’s have a meeting… let’s go down to Liberty (Elementary School)… let’s do meet and greet, sit down and talk — get the translator in there let’s talk.’ That’s how — to me, that’s how you practically start moving your culture. Now the parents start thinking ‘at least they care about me.’”
During the student-led candidate forum , Shaw said that being a leader is one of his defining traits.
“I am a very, very strong leader,” Shaw, a retired Army commander, said during Tuesday’s forum. “I want you guys to know that OK there’s five seats, there’s only five seats. And one of those seats can be a very strong military officer that has been very, very, very successful in a lot of aspects in life.”
Shaw is backed by the Marysville Education Association.
Ross, a father of five Marysville School District students, said conversations with educators motivated him to run.
“I had a few educators in the district who actually kind of tapped me and asked me if I would run… and a lot of it has boiled down to transparency,” Ross said.
He said if elected, he hopes to integrate years of experience in leadership roles at AT&T in his tenure on school board.
“In my job, and in my personal life I’ve always dealt a lot with accountability,” Ross said. “As a project manager, in addition to making sure things run on time and get done by a certain date, you want to know that the job is to ensure that it was done appropriately… in evaluating your success, you’ve got to measure it, it’s got to be something that, that is measurable, and you’ve got to hold yourself to account to it, and if you’re missing the mark, you’ve got to make adjustments. And I think, you know, I feel like I have a lot of experience doing that in in a day-to-day basis.”
Ross said if elected he would work to ensure that educators have access to sensitivity and equity training, especially concerning LGBTQ issues.
“The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that a huge percentage… like 30% of kids are bullied because of either their identity or their sexual preference and that’s just way too high,” he said. “There’s a long way that we have to go… as society gets more diverse we’ve got to diversify our own kind of understanding of it as well.”
During the candidate forum, Ross said that students too should have access to a cross-cultural education.
“It’s never too early to introduce someone to an idea,” he said, suggesting that affinity groups such as Black Student Union and the Tulalip Youth Council should speak to elementary students.
Rinehardt, a father and coach, said his primary goal is to enhance transparency and restore trust in the district.
He said, if elected, he hopes to manage the budget in a way that diverts more money to positive outcomes for students including higher graduation rates and improved test scores.
Rinehardt said he believes some of the district’s issues could be better resolved through open forums, rather than the one-way parliamentary dialogue allowed in board meetings.
He is a vocal opponent of Critical Race Theory.
“I mean everybody’s asking me about critical race theory and per the state superintendent it is currently not being taught — and I think that’s a good thing,” Rinehardt said.
He elaborated on this in a recent blog post on his website, “the problem is that the definition of equity has suffered from ‘add ons’. Critical Race Theory is an add-on that wishes to have race be a disadvantage that the above definition of equity covers. So now those of certain skin colors are to be supported more or differently than others. This creates a larger divide between races. Would we support one low-income family more than another low-income family just because of their skin color? I hope your answer is no, because mine is.”
The two candidates who receive the most votes will appear on the general election ballot in November. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 3. Ballot drop boxes and in-person voting are available until 8 p.m. on election day.
Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.
This article has been updated to reflect that there are four seats up for election.
Experience: Marysville School Board, President, 2017-current.
Experience: Snohomish County Arts Commission, commissioner at-large; Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee; former member Monrovia School Board, Monrovia City Council.
Experience: Boys & Girls Club Coach.
Experience: Parent Advisory Council for Marysville School District, 2019-2020.