Tiffani Mondares-Riggs, left, Eliza Davis, Beth Hoiby and Sherryl Kenney

Tiffani Mondares-Riggs, left, Eliza Davis, Beth Hoiby and Sherryl Kenney

School board candidates to navigate financial woes in Marysville

Candidates say they’ll ask for more state money, as well as transparency in district spending.

MARYSVILLE — Whoever wins a seat on the Marysville school board races this November has challenges ahead.

Board positions 2 and 3 are up for grabs amid a recent change in district leadership, a wave of layoffs and a $17.5 million budget deficit, following a series of levy failures. In February, voters passed a stripped-down version of the levy, but the money won’t come until next April.

All four candidates who made it past the primary election are running for the first time.

Primary results showed parent Tiffani V. Mondares-Riggs and former language teacher Eliza Davis nearly neck-and-neck for Position 2, each with roughly 43% of the vote.

Parent Beth Hoiby earned 47.6% of the vote in the primary for Position 3. Sherryl Kenney, who described herself as a “concerned grandmother,” followed with 36.9%.

Mondares-Riggs and Davis didn’t respond to multiple interview requests before The Daily Herald’s deadline. Kenney declined an interview.

Position 2

Tiffani V. Mondares-Riggs

Mondares-Riggs has six kids in the district and a background in finance. She thinks the district should be more accountable for its spending.

“My family has seen many changes in our school district in the last nineteen years,” her voters’ pamphlet statement reads. “We can do better and we should.”

Tiffani Mondares-Riggs

Tiffani Mondares-Riggs

Mondares-Riggs said board members should know more about district finances.

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

Mondares-Riggs has lived in Marysville since 2004. She volunteers with Marysville Little League, the YMCA and her local church, according to the voters’ pamphlet.

Eliza Davis

Davis, a member of the Tulalip Tribes, was a Lushootseed language teacher for seven years and Native American liaison for the Marysville School District for eight. She also served as treasurer for the Tulalip-Marysville Football League and on the state’s Indian Education Association board.

Davis has created school curriculum, worked with school budgets and lobbied for state funding, according to her campaign website.

Money should be “carefully and equitably distributed,” according to her statement in the voters’ pamphlet.

Eliza Davis

Eliza Davis

The district disburses money equally without addressing specific needs, she wrote. Her example: The district would disburse the same amount for wheelchairs to schools with eight or fewer wheelchair users as it would to schools with 40 or more wheelchair users.

Davis wants to change the way the state allocates money to schools.

“Funding cannot be achieved through local levies alone,” she wrote.

Davis is the only Marysville school board candidate to document her campaign contributions. She had raised over $3,400 as of Monday, mostly from the Tulalip Tribes.

Position 3

Beth Hoiby

Hoiby has deep roots in Marysville.

Her great-grandparents were farmers who established a connection with the Tulalip Tribes, and her mom helped open Liberty Elementary School, she said at a candidate forum in August.

The district should do more to support the tribes, she said. The Tulalip Tribes announced plans last year to break away from the district and build their own K-12 school within the next three years.

“They’ve made a lot of steps in teaching the history of the Tulalip Tribes, like the boarding schools,” she said in an interview Monday. “The tribes have struggles that have been overlooked.”

Hoiby said she wouldn’t support the district teaching Critical Race Theory, which analyzes how conceptions of race and ethnicity shape society.

“Teaching about the tribes comes from a place of empathy for what happened to them and how it’s affecting them now,” she said. “I don’t see the connection with CRT.”

Beth Hoiby

Beth Hoiby

Hoiby, mom of two Marysville Pilchuck High School graduates, said parents should have more involvement in curriculum, especially when it comes to sex-ed.

She’d be a “diplomatic and open-minded” board member who asks the public what they think, she said in the candidate forum.

“My concerns might not be the same as theirs,” she said.

A property appraiser for 20 years, Hoiby understands how struggling schools affect property values. She wants to help people understand school levies and related taxes.

“People are just really misinformed,” she said.

Hoiby said she would research grants and “pester” lawmakers to get the district more money.

“You have to be a squeaky wheel,” she said.

Hoiby volunteers at her church and local elementary schools, according to the voters’ pamphlet.

Sherryl Kenney

Kenney’s Christian beliefs and patriotism inform her campaign.

“Do you believe in getting back to basic education, teaching traditional American values (love of God, family and country), and providing skills your child needs to make a living as an adult?” her voters’ pamphlet statement reads. “Then I am the candidate for you.”

The two biggest issues facing the district are curriculum content and “unconstitutional” diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, she said in August’s candidate forum.

Sherryl Kenney

Sherryl Kenney

Like Hoiby, Kenney is also against Critical Race Theory, and wants to give parents the ability to opt their kids out of lessons related to sexual orientation and gender identity. She said students exploring their gender identity have mental disorders.

“These kids need help mentally, not (to be) mutilated,” she said at the forum.

Kenney has lived in the county over 20 years and has a granddaughter in the district. She wants to do away with classroom decor involving “political fads,” such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ Pride.

“Children belong to parents, not the government,” she said. “Teach and prepare students for real life, not for the life of activism and political discourse.”

Kenney suggested new trade programs in schools such as firefighting, journalism and TV production programs.

Kenney, a senior business analyst at Elevance Health, said the district could save money by tossing out “all that DEI stuff” — in reference to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — and pausing staff raises. Money would be better spent on school safety, she told The Herald in July.

Kenney said she’d consider other perspectives and have an “open door policy” as a board member.

“If you can give a good argument backed by facts, I can change my mind,” she said.

Ballots were mailed Thursday and are due Nov. 7. A complete list of ballot drop boxes can be found on the county website.

Sydney Jackson: 425-339-3430; sydney.jackson@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @_sydneyajackson.

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