Top (L-R): Nina Kim Hanson and Brett Rogers. Bottom (L-R): Vildan Kirby and Carolyn Bennett.

Top (L-R): Nina Kim Hanson and Brett Rogers. Bottom (L-R): Vildan Kirby and Carolyn Bennett.

Strong resumes, strong views in Lake Stevens School Board races

As elsewhere, the contests feature candidates clashing on curriculum, spending and COVID-19 mandates.

LAKE STEVENS — A former college instructor, a substitute teacher, an administrator for the Seattle Police Department and a granddaughter of a former district superintendent are vying for two seats on the Lake Stevens School Board.

Curriculum, COVID-19 mandates, student academic performance and district spending are among the issues. At stake are four-year terms guiding the district of roughly 9,200 students.

Candidates Nina Kim Hanson and Vildan Kirbyresponded to interview requests. Their opponents, Brett Rogers and Carolyn Bennett, respectively, did not. All four have campaign websites to help illuminate their positions.

District 4

Hanson, who holds a doctorate in women studies, taught at the University of Washington and was the founding director of Multicultural Life at Northwest University. She, her husband and two young children moved to Lake Stevens a year ago, and she’s been active in several groups including the Lake Stevens BIPOC & Allies organization.

She said her administrative experience and passion for education will help the district contend with budget challenges and the academic demands of a growing student population.

She supports finding resources, maybe through a bond measure, to fix up existing campuses and build a new one to ease overcrowding. “The need is absolutely apparent. I do think it will be something voters will have to vote on sooner than later.”

Hanson said she wants to strengthen and expand arts, music, civics and foreign language offerings. At the same time, the district must ensure students who struggled during a year of remote learning have tutoring and counseling needed to catch up.

On the topic of critical race theory, she and Kirby both noted it is a theory discussed in colleges at the graduate level and is not taught in public schools. Hanson said teaching about “our dynamic cultures” is important and must be done at age-appropriate levels.

“I do see teachers trying to teach accurate history,” Hanson said. “Teachers need to be brave and review curriculum closely and not give in to fear.”

On another hot button issue, Hanson endorsed the state’s mask mandate “to be sure our kids are as safe as possible.”

Rogers, who did not reply to emails or phone calls, has a law degree from Seattle University. He is parking enforcement operations manager for the Seattle Police Department, according to his LinkedIn page. He formerly handled internal investigations for Seattle Public Schools, according to his candidate statement.

This is not his first run for office. A conservative Republican, he ran for state attorney general in 2020, finishing third in the primary. School board directors are non-partisan.

In his campaign materials, Rogers says district spending is increasing but too many students are not meeting state standards in English and math. “Why should we continually spend more money on a broken system that is failing too many of our children?” he writes.

He vows to involve parents more in making decisions about curriculum.

“Parents have the right to know what their child is being taught in the classroom,” he says on his campaign website. “The curriculum must NOT include social agendas, partisan politics or personal beliefs. Government schools must not override family values or parental rights.”

On Facebook, Rogers has said he opposes mandatory masks and vaccinations for school district staff “and especially for our children.”

District 5

Kirby holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and is a substitute teacher in the district. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, she arrived in the United States in 1988 and became a citizen in 1996. She, her husband and their two middle-school-aged children have lived in Lake Stevens for eight years.

Jarred by the suicides of Lake Stevens students in recent years, she said, she entered the race to work to bolster the availability of mental health resources.

“I want to see more mental health services in our schools so we don’t lose another kid to suicide or anything else,” she said. “I want to see positivity in the classrooms. I believe deeply in passion, empathy and kindness.”

With increasing numbers of students, the district will need to raise money, possibly from a bond, to buy land or build schools, she said.

Masks and vaccines are important to protect the health and safety of students and staff against coronavirus infection, she said. Preventing infection is crucial to ensure students’ in-person learning is not derailed and they are forced back into remote learning, she said.

“We should look to science and we should follow science. Science shows masks are working and vaccines are working,” she said. “To me, masks and curriculum are not a partisan issue but a science issue.”

Earlier this year, Kirby garnered criticism on social media after she drove by a group of people protesting the mask mandate and flipped them off.

“They were screaming the f-word at me. I was in my car. My hand was not outside. I got really upset,” she said.

Since then, Kirby said, she’s received hate messages and threats, but voters have not brought it up with her.

Bennett, who did not reply to emails or voice mails, grew up in Lake Stevens and attended public and private schools. Her grandfather, Donald D. Oates, served as the superintendent of the Lake Stevens School District from 1957-74.

She attended community college and University of Washington Bothell, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps, according to her campaign website. She works for a valve manufacturing firm in Redmond. Bennett serves on the Lake Stevens Salary Commission and backed the $80,000 annual salary for Brett Gailey, the city’s first full-time mayor. At the time she said she thought it should be higher.

On Bennett’s website, she said she is “committed” to “create better transparency” between the school board and families. And she cited several issues she wants to address, including “non-objective teaching of subject matter in classrooms, need for careful and common sense spending of taxpayer dollars, a more balanced school board with diverse professional backgrounds and perspectives that better represent the community.”

Ballots are due by 8 p.m. Tuesday. They can be returned by mail postage-free or deposited in one of the county’s designated drop boxes.

Jerry Cornfield:; 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos

Talk to us

More in Local News

A car breaks and waits for traffic to pass before turning onto 123rd Avenue on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Can roundabouts, lower speed limit make 84th Street NE safer?

Maybe, but transportation and disability advocates want design features to make crossing safe.

Two brother bear cubs, burned in a fire last summer, were recently reunited at PAWS in Lynnwood. (PAWS) 20211129
Bear cubs, burned in wildfires, reunited in viral video in Lynnwood

The brother cubs are being treated at PAWS Wildlife Center. They were injured in a wildfire near Lake Chelan.

Madison is one of three aging elementary schools that would be torn down and replaced if the Everett schools bond is passed next year. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Everett school leaders have 2 big levies on February ballot

The district is asking voters to renew a levy for programs and operations, and to pass a $325 million capital and tech levy.

Everett officials have questions about a 125-room hotel shelter

City Council members say they weren’t aware of the county’s proposal until it made headlines.

A fatal crash prompted closure of West Mukilteo Boulevard between Forest Park and Dogwood Drive Friday afternoon. (Everett Police Department) 20211126
2 identified in deadly T-bone crash in Everett

Otila Retel Azanedo de Jones, 67, and William Jones, 85, died at the scene.

Reagan Dunn to take on U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier in 8th District

The Republican is challenging incumbent Democrat Kim Schrier in a district which could include a slice of Snohomish County.

A man died after he was found with gunshot wounds Saturday in downtown Everett. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Man dead after shooting in downtown Everett

The man, believed to be in his 40s, was found near California Street and Rockefeller Avenue.

Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander of Puget Sound-based Carrier Strike Group 11, in Bremerton on Nov. 23, 2021. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Justin McTaggart)
From Everett, this rear admiral commands a Navy strike group

Christopher Sweeney leads Carrier Strike Group 11, a force of aircraft and ships stretching from here to San Diego.

A rainbow appears in front of Andy Huestis and his girlfriend Alisha Garvin as they and other families gather to remember the victims on the third anniversary of the Oso mudslide on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 in Oso, Wa. Huestis' sister, Christina Jefferds, and her baby granddaughter, Sanoah Violet Huestis, were among the 43 people killed in the mudslide.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Funding secured: Mudslide memorial will be a place to remember

Since 2014, families have mourned at a roadside shrine near Oso, but “we knew we needed something bigger.”

Most Read