Tabitha Baty, left, Rob Serviss, Sarah Adams and Sherri Larkin.

Tabitha Baty, left, Rob Serviss, Sarah Adams and Sherri Larkin.

Snohomish school board candidates focus on success, parent involvement

Tabitha Baty and Rob Serviss are competing to represent District 2. In District 4, incumbent Sarah Adams is facing Sherri Larkin.

SNOHOMISH — Student achievement, parent involvement and COVID recovery are the biggest issues for Snohomish school board candidates this year.

Two seats are on the ballot.

In District 2, which represents Snohomish High School and the northern reaches of the school district, Tabitha Baty and Rob Serviss are competing. The position comes with a four-year term.

As the only two candidates in the running, they were not on the ballot in the August primary. Neither has reported any campaign contributions.

Incumbent Sarah Adams is facing Sherri Larkin in District 4 — which covers downtown Snohomish to the west, the Snohomish Golf Course to the east and the crossing of Highway 522 over the Skykomish River to the south.

In the primary, a close vote triggered a recount to determine whether Adams or Monica Weber would go up against Larkin in the general. Adams won out with 32% of the vote.

Larkin led the primary with 35.77% of the vote.

Larkin received over $8,000 in campaign contributions. Adams reported none.

District 2

Tabitha Baty

Tabitha Baty

Tabitha Baty

To help kids achieve at school, Baty, 49, believes the district needs more data about what’s going on with students outside the classroom. That data would determine whether students aren’t getting enough food at home, for example, or whether they are neurodivergent.

“I know this sounds simple, but students are humans,” she said, “and they’re impacted by all of the things that are going on in their lives.”

With the data, the board can see “are there trends that we’ve not considered?” Then, they can start looking at how they can help students with the challenges they’re facing.

Baty, president of anti-racism advocacy organization Snohomish for Equity, says supporting a diverse student body is another priority.

“My children are biracial, I graduated (from) Snohomish, I had a great experience there,” she said. “But then when they came to school there, their experience wasn’t the same. And it was really shocking to me, because my experience was great.”

The district could better support a diverse group of students, for instance, by ensuring school staff have the training to quickly respond to harrassment based on race, gender identity or neurodivergence, Baty suggested.

She also wants to see more community discussions about issues facing Snohomish schools.

“Ultimately, the community is a significant portion of the support for our district,” she said. “And it’s important that we can have conversations, be it about funding, be it about achievement, be it about safety.”

Baty is a customer service manager in the aerospace industry. She ran for Snohomish City Council in 2021.

Rob Serviss

Rob Serviss

Rob Serviss

For Rob Serviss, 46, more parent involvement in schools is a main priority.

“There’s a sentiment among parents that things are being presented without parents’ knowledge and some of those things are sensitive,” he said. “And parents should have a voice in what’s happening with their kiddos at school.”

In particular, he feels the district needs to communicate with parents about sexual education curriculum.

Schools should give parents a chance to review the curriculum and give them the opportunity to excuse their child from those lessons, as state law requires, he said.

“It’s important that parents trust educators to do what they do best, which is develop and implement curriculum and deliver that curriculum,” Serviss said. “It’s also important for parents to be able to trust educators to communicate that curriculum openly and honestly.”

He also wants to update aging school buildings, understanding that doing so requires working “within the economic reality of the school district.”

As far as the district’s finances, “it really is just about taking a look at the budget in its totality and prioritizing things and making sure that the things that are the most important receive what they need for funding,” he said.

Serviss, who is a real estate agent, has years of experience coaching swimming in the district and managing programming at the district-owned Snohomish Aquatic Center. He has five kids, one of whom is in the district.

“I just have always felt a calling to serve and to try and help young people,” he said. “I believe that education is the bedrock for opportunities that people are going to have throughout their life. And I want all the kids where I come from to have great opportunities and I want our community to be empowered because we have a strong education system.”

District 4

Sarah Adams

Sarah Adams

Sarah Adams

Adams, 39, hopes to help students “recover academically and socially and emotionally to ensure that they are thriving” in the aftermath of lockdown.

In her professional life, she manages a team of trauma therapists who work with kids, so she’s seen the impact of the pandemic on children. She’s also seen it with her own two kids, who are both in the district.

She feels the district has been successful at providing “targeted interventions” for students who need extra support. For example, schools have been able to provide summer school for kids struggling due to COVID at no cost thanks to a Snohomish Education Foundation grant, she said.

“When you help the kids who are most struggling to succeed and to catch up,” it “benefits all students,” she said.

Adams, who was appointed to the board last year, was on the planning committee for the district’s latest Strategic Plan. The plan sets the district’s goals for the next five years.

“I’m really excited about the focus on providing high quality education to students and making sure that across the district we are more similar than different,” she said, adding she is also interested in taking care of student and staff wellbeing and working harder to engage the community.

She also highlighted the district’s Student Advisory Council, formed last year.

“I think it’s really critical that we get that student voice,” she said. “We need to be hearing their feedback and ensuring that we are incorporating their input into all of our decisions and trying to do what’s best for all students.”

Sherri Larkin

Sherri Larkin

Sherri Larkin

Larkin, 54, wants the district to stay focused on academic excellence.

“Everything that we do as a district needs to be through that filter,” she said, meaning district programs, policy and curriculums should all be advancing that goal.

One example is the district’s reading curriculum. Larkin thinks it should incorporate more phonics instruction, a method that teaches kids how letters and sounds are related.

“A strong phonics program will help even readers where it does not come easily,” said Larkin, who used to teach at a private elementary school and now substitute teaches. She sees her teaching experience in private school as a benefit she can bring to Snohomish schools because she can bring different techniques with her.

Larkin’s five children, all out of school now, attended a mix of private and public school, as well as being homeschooled.

She is also concerned with the decline in student achievement due to the pandemic. Solutions could include tutoring and potentially having students retake classes, she said.

She believes the district’s communication with parents could be improved. Parents in the district may not know what’s happening when they send their kids to school, she said, though she qualified this isn’t true in all situations.

One way the district could better communicate would be to spread the word more widely to parents when they have a new curriculum and are soliciting feedback, she said. She also suggested the district look into how to keep parents informed about work their child is doing online.

“What I’d like to do is change the culture where teachers are expecting parents to want to be involved and parents are expecting to be invited, to be involved,” she said.

Ballots are due Tuesday.

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

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