By The Herald Editorial Board
While most school districts in Washington state have struggled financially and academically following the covid epidemic’s impacts and the workarounds of remote and hybrid classes, the path has been especially difficult for the Marysville School District, including the failure of a capital levy to replace two aging elementary schools in 2020 and the rejection of two maintenance and operation levies in 2022.
The district won voter approval of a levy this year, but the back-to-back levy failures hit its schools hard because the district can’t begin collecting revenue from the levy that passed in February until May 2024, leaving it about $17.5 million in the hole for the budget it adopted this summer. That funding gap, in turn, forced it to make deep cuts to teachers and other staff positions and seek a loan through the county treasurer’s office and placed the district, along with two other school districts, under additional financial scrutiny from the state superintendent’s office.
The district’s challenges place additional importance on its two school board races for Districts 2 and 3.
District 2: An open seat for the position pits Eliza Davis, a general services director for the Tulalip Tribes and a Lushootseed language teacher, against Tiffani Mondares-Riggs, a bookkeeper and tax preparer. Mondares-Riggs did not respond to emails requesting an interview with the editorial board.
Davis, a member of the Tulalip Tribes and a 1998 graduate of Marysville Pilchuck High School, taught Lushootseed in a tribal program for several years before working nine years for the school district as a Native American liaison, working with students in kindergarten through fifth grade and their families.
Her son is a recent graduate of Marysville Pilchuck
Among other duties, Davis was responsible for assisting students with absentee and academic issues, but she also encouraged a cultural exchange among all students.
“One of the things that I’m really proud of, that I did in that role was starting a Heritage Day … a day before Thanksgiving, where we invited everybody to celebrate their heritage no matter what it was,” she said.
Currently, her work with the tribes calls on her to assist in organizational and team development, planning of the tribes’ general services budget and the forecast of the tribal government’s staffing and resource needs.
David outlined several areas of concern and necessary attention for the school board. She said she intends to focus on securing additional state and other funding for the district to reduce reliance on school levies for basic education needs and reserve the use of levies to increase support of extracurricular and other programs; improving the emotional and social health of students; ensuring equity in distribution of funding; and addressing the districts building and facilities needs by working for passage of bonds.
“I think that’s a huge thing for me is how can we get our citizens to vote for bonds and levies. And part of that, specifically with a bond, is we have schools that need to be replaced,” she said.
Among her past experience that would be of particular use to the board is work in lobbying state and federal lawmakers for financial and other support and testifying on behalf of legislation. Davis’ past and current work with the school and with the Tulalip Tribes could make her an effective advocate for both before lawmakers.
Davis’ family has strong connections with the tribes and the school district; the Francis Sheldon Gym at the Marysville Tulalip Campus is named for her grandfather, and Davis said she hoped to continue the legacy of other tribal members’ service to the district and the community.
Davis’ past work with the district and her work throughout the community speak to her dedication to both and have prepared her to provide skills and perspective on the Marysville School Board.
Voters should elect Davis to the board.
District 3: The August primary election reduced a field of four candidates to Beth Hoiby, a real estate appraiser and a Marysville Pilchuck graduate, as are her two daughters; and Sherryl Kenney, a business analyst in health care management and the grandmother of a middle school student.
The position is currently held by Keira Atchely, who did not advance in the primary.
Kenney declined to participate in an interview with the board.
Hoiby, a fifth-generation Marysville resident, volunteered in her children’s classrooms as a substitute paraeducator and a volunteer with her girls’ sports teams and now volunteers with her church.
Hoiby said her work experience as an appraiser helps inform her on issues related to the district’s property tax support through levies and bonds. Hoiby said she understands the financial and academic challenges the district faces and wants to represent the community and offer a common-sense approach as a board member.
Noting the district’s difficulty in passing bonds and levies in recent years, Hoiby blamed the lack of support in part on a loss of confidence in the district’s past leadership. The district hired a new superintendent a year ago and a new financial director this year and Hoiby believes both will be able to rebuild confidence in the district.
Hoiby sees the role of a school board member as a representative of the community.
“I think the main role is communication with the community, getting out and listening to the needs of the parents, the students, the teachers, and bringing that back to the rest of the board and the superintendent,” she said.
Regarding the district’s financial needs, she, like Davis, wants to examine the possibility of increased funding from the state.
“I think that part of it is a lot of people don’t understand the way districts are funded, and that the state isn’t fully funding special education,” for example, she said.
Hoiby, from the perspective of a parent with two former Marysville students who went on to earn college degrees, shows herself as someone with no agenda beyond service to her community and the interests of the district’s students and their families.
Hoiby deserves that role on the board.