Weimer, Hayden offer divergent views in Darrington school race

Their views on levies differ sharply. On a mask mandate and sex education, their differences are more nuanced.

DARRINGTON — Disagreement on money, mandates and curriculum form the major fault lines in the contest between Maggie Weimer and Randy Hayden for a seat on the Darrington School Board.

At stake in the Nov. 2 election is a four-year term guiding the district, which has an enrollment of roughly 420 students.

Weimer is on the board now by way of an appointment to the vacant Position 4 seat in January. She’s a mother of two high school-aged students in the district and works part-time at River Time Brewing in Darrington, where she and her husband are part-owners. This is her first run for elected office.

Hayden, a Darrington resident since 1999, has three grown children including a graduate of the district. He is a building inspector for Snohomish County following a 25-year career running his own general contracting business. He’s a Republican Party leader at the county and state levels, and he previously ran for state legislative seats.

Weimer said one of her focuses will be ensuring the district is on stable financial footing.

The district’s four-year Educational Programs and Operation levy expires in 2022. It’s a source of money to pay for programs and staffing that state dollars don’t cover.

Voters likely will be asked to renew it, she said. A key will be making sure they understand it is not a new tax and is a needed stream of revenue.

Darrington has faced financial challenges as a result of the McCleary decision that overhauled the funding of public schools. In response to the ruling, the Legislature and governor reduced the amount of local property tax revenues the district collected and used to pay for smaller classes, athletics and extracurricular activities.

Last year, voters twice rejected proposals for a short-term levy to make up for the lost receipts. At the time, Superintendent Buck Marsh warned of potential cuts without the funds. Marsh wound up losing his job and Tracy Franke, principal of Darrington Elementary, took on the added duties of superintendent.

Hayden isn’t committing to putting the levy in front of voters. There’s been a lot of “negativity” around what’s happening in public schools, he said. It has led parents to homeschool their children, resulting in lower enrollment and less revenue. Reversing that trend, by getting parents happy about what’s going on, would make it easier to bring the levy up for a vote, he said.

According to him, that negativity is driven by parents’ frustration with mask mandates — it should be a personal choice, he said — and their opposition to what he’s described as “an alarming” sex education curriculum passed down by the state. He said they’re also upset with how students learn about the history of racism — Critical Race Theory, in his words — that “focuses on the oppressors and the oppressed.” The Darrington district does not teach Critical Race Theory.

“Schools need to be more parent-friendly and listen to how parents want their children taught,” he said.

On masks, Weimer said the school board’s job is to comply with the state mandates.

“I’m happy to do whatever I can to keep people as safe as possible,” she said.

Regarding the sex education curriculum, she said, “There’s been a lot of misinformation about it and a lot of misunderstanding.”

The district is already in line with much of the revised law, she said.

“We have to provide all of our curriculum to our parents ahead of time,” she said. And they may opt to have their children not participate, she said.

Both candidates said an ongoing challenge is helping students catch up academically after falling behind in remote learning.

Ballots returned by mail do not require a stamp but must be postmarked no later than Nov. 2. Another option is to place them in one of the county’s 32 designated ballot drop boxes. These are accessible around the clock until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com; 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos

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