MUKILTEO — Two seats are open on the Mukilteo School District board, and the outcome could unmask some new dynamics.
This is the first run for office for three of the four candidates.
A candidate for each seat believes masks and COVID-19 vaccines should be up to the parent or the teacher. Both of those contenders are running on a “back to basics” platform. One wants to eliminate sex education from the curriculum.
Their opponents advocate following public health guidelines.
The district encompasses Mukilteo, parts of south Everett and unincorporated parts of Snohomish County.
Candidates were asked about challenges, the pandemic and what they would add to or subtract from the school curriculum.
Responses are from emails and phone calls.
This is the first run for any office for Peter Swardstrom, a district manager for Heilind, a global electronics distributor. His two children are students in the district. In the past he volunteered as a youth sports coach as a Young Life leader.
Judy Schwab was first elected to the board in 1997 and has served six consecutive four-year terms.
“Public education is a lifelong passion,” she said.
She has a background in education and raised a son in the district.
“I feel like I have 14,000 kids in the district,” Schwab said. “I get out to many school events, games, everything. It’s not just to be seen, it’s to build trust and to engage with kids and families and find out what’s working and what challenges they might be facing.”
On the topic of mask and vaccine mandates, Schwab replied, “I support masks for staff and students, and vaccines for staff allowing for medical and religious exemptions. I hope that there will be safe vaccinations for all students soon and would support the same accommodations as staff.”
Swardstrom wrote: “I am neither pro- or anti-mask and vaccine. I believe both should be a choice left up to the teachers/staff to decide for themselves, and the parents for their children.”
As far as reaching students who have fallen behind during the pandemic, Schwab said the results of state tests, along with classroom assessments, will give schools the data they require to determine which groups or people need support.
“Each building will work to ascertain root causes and design interventions for our kids,” she wrote. “We are also committed to addressing social and emotional issues that may create barriers to academic achievement by providing access to resources and support for students and staff.”
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would wish for universal preschool for all of our students,” she added. “We want all of our kids to come to school ready and eager to learn.”
Swardstrom said he is for getting “back to teaching the basics.”
“The basic way of teaching math, not the common core method. Back to teaching American history and remove the bias filter and political agenda,” he said. “We need to teach our children how to think, not what to think.”
He wrote: “Half of the students are not proficient in math, science, reading comprehension and over 13% are not graduating.”
“We should encourage the use of existing as well as add additional learning resources before, during and after school for children to be able to receive instruction with the subjects that they might be falling behind in,” he continued. “We should also make the lessons and curriculum available/recorded for the parents so they can also help the child at home.”
Jayme Lee Vail is a long-term care worker in assisted living and dementia care. She has two daughters in the school district and served as a PTA board member and volunteer.
“I will help to acknowledge and work towards equity for each and every student across the district,” she wrote.
“I believe that we should be following the science and data along with our local health departments and state and local officials. We all want to move on from COVID but we have to work together and follow the science and guidelines.”
Asked how to ensure kids who fell behind in the pandemic catch up, she replied, “Each student will need to be assessed for where they are both academically and emotionally. I believe adding resources and additional support is paramount right now. Using the additional funding from the government to assure our kids have all the support they need.”
As for the curriculum, “I’d like to see more work on diversity, equity, and inclusion being taught to students. I think it reduces bullying if students are taught to disagree respectfully and understand one another,” she wrote.
Opponent Charles Hauck, a real estate broker, has grandchildren in the district.
He said masks and vaccines for students and teachers should be the choice of the parent or individual.
“I don’t think it is something that should be mandated by the authorities,” he said. “Students and parents can determine their choices. Teachers are adults and are responsible for their own decisions. It’s not up to the school district or the government to make those determinations.”
He said this applies to all required immunizations, such as the MMR vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella.
Hauck said he did not get a COVID vaccine.
“I don’t get a flu vaccine, either,” he said. “I take care of myself.”
He said the academic challenge is “to increase the proficiency rate for math, science and reading comprehension” and to increase the graduation rate.
“I will eliminate critical race theory, sex education, common core math, back to the tried and proven method,” Hauck said.
“I don’t want some teacher to teach my children sex education,” Hauck said. “It’s my responsibility. Not a teacher. The school needs to teach them to be competitive in the world market. It’s not their responsibility to teach them about sex. I didn’t get taught sex in school and I’ve turned out fine.”