While many school districts in Snohomish County continue to cope with deficiencies in state funding — in particular for the costs of special education services — for the Edmonds School District, the difference between expected revenue and budget realities resulted in the layoff of several teachers before the start of the school year.
That’s put an additional emphasis on funding and the board’s budget process in the races for three seats on the school board in addition to other issues, including the current board’s decision this week to seek voter approval of a $600 million school construction bond and a capital and technology levy next February.
Edmonds School District, with an annual operating budget of $321.6 million, employs 3,600, serving more than 21,000 students at 34 schools in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway, parts of Brier and unincorporated areas in the south county. Three of the board’s five positions are up for election to four-year terms.
District 1: Incumbent Carin Chase faces a challenge from Alvin “Al” Rutledge Jr.
Chase, who is seeking a second term following her election in 2015, previously worked as chief executive for a general contractor and currently is a consultant for Innovation Strategies. Her past involvement with the district includes work as a parent volunteer and paraeducator substitute. Her adult son graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School.
Rutledge will be familiar to many voters, having run for office more than a dozen times in recent years, including for state Legislature and Edmonds City Council.
Rutledge has yet to win an election, but explained in a telephone interview this week that he runs on the principle of making sure voters have a choice in races that otherwise would go uncontested. Rutledge said he went to the county auditor’s office on the final day of filing this year — two minutes before the close — and noted that no challengers had filed to run against Chase or County Executive Dave Somers. Rutledge chose the school board race.
But there’s been a complication for his campaign. After filing, Rutledge moved outside of the Edmonds School District boundaries to an Everett address. District officials determined that should Rutledge win he can serve, provided he moves back to an address that represents District 1. Rutledge confirmed he would move back if he wins election.
Rutledge said he would take an unconventional approach to budgeting. He didn’t support the board’s decision to lay off teachers; instead he would have sought across-the-board cuts for all employees, “paying them back” later when funding was more secure. Rutledge said safety within schools would be a major focus for him and he’d seek greater involvement of police departments.
Chase was not present when the budget was adopted 4-0, but believes it was too conservative in its assessments and that some layoffs might have been avoided. But Chase said she understood the action the board majority took. What the state provided in some additional funding, it took away elsewhere, she said, in the form of inadequate special education support, a regionalization formula that underestimates the cost of living in Edmonds for teachers and in sparse state funding for school employee benefits.
Chase has served as the board’s legislative representative for four years and hopes to serve again in that post next year. She said she’d like to work with state lawmakers on the above issues but also supports larger tax reform that would allow lawmakers to amply fund basic education as mandated.
Noting that the school district now serves a majority of students of color, Chase said she wants to see continued focus put on serving students that typically have been underserved, specifically an increased effort to attract and retain teachers of color. And, during a voters forum this week she noted that while the district’s school resource officers program has had some success, more outreach is necessary to assure minority students can develop trust in those officers.
In her first term, Chase has served the board and district well, in particular on legislative issues and should be retained by district voters for her attention to student needs and a thoughtful approach to board decisions.
Prior to the primary election, the editorial board interviewed candidates for Districts 3 and 5 and now affirms its earlier endorsements:
District 3: Incumbent Gary Noble is challenged by Rory Graves. The Herald has endorsed Graves.
Noble, a retired Boeing manager engineer, is seeking a fifth term on the board. Graves has worked as a journalist for educational media and Seattle’s public television station. She also has three children in district schools.
Noble’s history, background and institutional knowledge commend him and are deserving of appreciation, but a fresher perspective and a greater willingness to challenge both lawmakers and district officials seems necessary. Graves would be a good choice in that regard and impresses with a deep understanding of legislative and instructional issues. Her membership on the board for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility also should serve the board regarding student safety issues.
District 5: For the seat being vacated by current board member Diana White, the top two candidates following the primary were Lisa Hunnewell and Nancy Katims. The Herald has endorsed Katims.
Hunnewell is a senior manager with Snohomish PUD and has served on the district’s facilities and bond committee, developing the bond and capital levy proposals just adopted by the board and would bring an informed voice to the district’s upcoming bond decisions and campaign. Katims is retired from the Edmonds School District, last serving as program director for the Student Learning Department for 16 years. Her background in education includes instructor and administrative positions nationwide over 41 years.
Katims expresses an eagerness and the knowledge required to dig deep into the data of the district’s finances and details of state financing. Katims, regardless of her past employment with the district, appears especially keen to hold the district accountable for its budgeting practices and its academic rigor.
Nov. 5 election
The Snohomish County Elections Office will mail ballots to registered voters on Oct. 17; completed ballots must be returned to election office drop boxes distributed throughout the county or mailed and postmarked — no postage required — by Election Day, Nov. 5. Residents who are not registered to vote or need to change their address can do so up until Election Day. For more information on ballots, voter pamphlets, registering to vote or changing voter registration, go to snohomishcountywa.gov/3969/Voters.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial spelled Gary Noble’s last name incorrectly.