MARYSVILLE — Two Marsville School Board members are facing primary challengers, both for the first time.
The top-two vote candidates in the Aug. 6 elections will face off in the November general.
In District 2, incumbent Mariana Maksimos is facing 2016 Marysville Getchell graduate Kona Farry and union carpenter Paul Galovin.
Maksimos, 37, is an assistant manager at a Chase Bank branch. She was appointed to the board in 2013 and elected after running unopposed in 2015.
She said she’s running to provide a better experience for students by improving school buildings and engaging more with the public.
She and her colleagues are working hard on finding room in the budget to renovate schools, she said.
The district has a population of about 11,200 students, a number that’s slowly decreased for years.
Increasing enrollment is a focus for Maksimos, she said.
“We’re trying to find out why (it’s dropping),” she said. “For me, I’m always talking to community members about the problems they face and changes they want to see in the schools.”
One of the board’s biggest decisions in recent years was consolidating Marysville Getchell into one standard high school, doing away with its four smaller schools. The move drew the ire of some who like the choices it gave to students.
“People don’t always like to see change,” Maksimos said.
Farry, 21, is a senior at the University of Washington in the community, environment and planning program. He said he’s running to provide a student voice on the board.
After graduating from Getchell, Farry helped launch Achieving Student-Centered Education Now through Discovery, a collection of students, teachers and parents focused on modern solutions to schooling.
“Much of education comes from the top down,” Farry said. “I hear it from our teachers, I hear it from district administrators and I certainly hear it from our students.”
Renovating schools and rebuilding a sense of community between the board and teachers and families are his priorities.
Farry said failed bond measures are a symptom of a larger issue of trust in the school district and he’d work to build foundational relationships with the community to fix that.
“I’ve heard that the committee that put together the bond kept telling the board, ‘This is too much.’ But they just went with it anyway and of course it failed,” Farry said.
Getchell’s restructure was a bad choice, he said. But, “to go back on that is just going to do more damage.”
Galovin, 41, is a delegate for the Snohomish County Labor Council and member of the National Guard. He has a son in the district.
He said the current board has active and progressive ideas which he wants to continue.
“It’s important to me that the future generations coming up in Marysville receive a proper education,” he said.
Trust, said, is a “lingering issue” for the board.
“Unfortunately, I’ve heard a lot of stories of people reaching out to the district with emails or phone calls and not hearing back from anyone,” he said.
Galovin said improving facilities has to be the first step to increasing enrollment.
“Nobody’s bringing their young families to the Marysville School District,” he said.
When broaching bonds or levies to voters, Galovin said virtual walk-throughs of new schools or improvements would be a cost-effective way to give voters a better chance to see the finished product.
He said trying to sell a tax hike to voters without an increase in trust is a “tough sell.”
In District Five, incumbent Tom Albright is facing primary challengers for the first time since joining the board in 2010.
The retired Methodist pastor is opposed by substitute teacher Halleh Stickels and local business general manager Ryan Muri.
Albright, 72, was appointed to fill a vacant seat in 2010 and ran unopposed in 2011 and 2015.
He said he was asked to apply because of his experience as an administrator for his church and in setting policy and making decisions.
Updating old schools, improving equity and increasing communication with the public are Albright’s priorities, he said.
“One of the good things about the board is no one is satisfied with how things are going,” Albright said. “(School buildings) are not up to standard and they are not helping us achieve our educational goals.”
In 2016, a $230 million bond measure failed to pass.
Albright said he’d do more to engage with the community to promote any upcoming bond.
Declining enrollment is an issue for the district, he said. But, he added, restoring school facilities and the city’s growth will fix that.
Right now, the board is looking at how it can be a more welcoming place for underrepresented populations. The diversity of students, Albright said, is a major asset.
Stickels, 50, moved to Marysville in 2004. She has two children in district schools and one who graduated.
She has served as president, vice president or treasurer on several local PTAs. Additionally, she’s sat on district committees and worked as a para-educator at Pinewood Elementary.
“I have felt over the years, this growing need to do more to help the district,” she said.
A lack of transparency is the board’s biggest problem, Stickels said.
“I’ve been on several committees where it feels like the board is going through the motions of asking for community input when they’ve already made their decision,” she said. “That’s frustrating.”
Stickels was on the committee for the 2016 bond.
“The bond that came out did not align with our final recommendation,” she said. “There were things on there that were never discussed by the committee.”
While working on the bond proposal, she and her colleagues visited a district school each month.
“Our older schools would not meet current code,” she said. “They don’t look safe and frankly I would be concerned about having my children in them. Those schools need to be addressed.”
Muri, 44, is a longtime volunteer for the Getchell and Pilchuck Life Skills program, which works to get special education students involved in school activities. His step daughter is a Like Skills graduate and he has a daughter who graduated from Marysville schools. He’s been attending school board meetings for four years.
Additionally, Muri’s coached several local baseball teams at different age levels.
He said he’s running to improve school buildings and create a better relationship with the Tulalip Tribes.
“I think we need a change in the district,” he said. “Our facilities are falling apart.”
Muri added he often hears about students’ frustration with the state of the schools.
To a pass a bond measure to pay for those renovations, Muri said he’d do more to get teachers and families involved in the process.
“You can’t just rely on a small group to get something like this done,” he said.
Muri is married to a Tulalip tribal member.
He said the district needs to make a bigger commitment to incorporating the tribe and its practices into the community.