Election thing

Editorial: Endorsements for Everett, Marysville school boards

Everett voters should reelect Mason and Mitchell; Marysville voters should back Sheldon and Edwards.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Everett School District

Everett Public Schools serves more than 21,000 students at 29 schools and two online programs in the cities of Everett and Mill Creek and adjacent unincorporated areas of Snohomish County. School board director terms are for six years.

Director-at-Large, Position 3: Caroline Mason has served on the board since her appointment in 2014; she was elected to her first full term in 2015. Mason owns a small strategic marketing and communications business and has worked in the high-tech industry. She has a masters in business. Her past community service includes the district’s fiscal advisory council, the Imagine Children’s Museum board, PTA and as a volunteer for other community nonprofit agencies.

She is challenged by Jeannie Magdua, a first-time candidate, who worked most recently as an administrative assistant for the high school program at Lake Washington Institute of Technology. She has a master’s degree in Asian studies. She has volunteered with the Filipino-American Association of Puget Sound.

Magdua, in a joint interview with the editorial board, expressed concerns about what she considers the district’s too-generous contracts with teachers, a board she sees as being of “one mind,” and the recently adopted state standards for comprehensive sexual health education. Magdua, at the start of the pandemic, decided to pull her child from the district’s remote teaching program and has been homeschooling. She has continued homeschooling, she said, primarily out of opposition to the state law on sexual education, believing some of the curriculum to be inappropriate.

Mason in response, defended the state’s new K-12 sexual health standards — which were approved by voters last fall with a 58 percent “yes” vote — and the district’s adoption of curriculum that she says is age-appropriate and available for review and individual approval by parents.

Mason also challenged Magdua’s contention regarding Everett district teachers as the region’s highest paid, noting that while top salaries for a small percentage are competitive, pay for some starting teachers in Everett trails that of other area districts. As well, Everett’s teachers, she said, have more than earned their salaries during the pandemic by getting good results out of remote learning and preparing for the recent return to classrooms.

Nor did Mason agree the current five-member board, while it enjoys a good working relationship, operates with “one mind.” The board, she said, works diligently to represent the community and listen to parents and community members. Recently it loosened its rules on the time allowed for public comments during board meetings.

Mason has been a strong voice, in particular, for the district’s development of career-oriented programs at its high schools that will better prepare students for college and careers. As well, she worked with the rest of the board and district administration to assure students were well-served in terms of technical needs, district-delivered meals and more during remote learning, work that has now shifted to a return to classrooms that can make sure students can get back up to speed.

Voters should return Mason to the board to continue that oversight and consideration.

Director-at-Large, Position 4: Prior to the Aug. 3 primary election, the editorial board endorsed current school board member Traci Mitchell who, like Mason, was appointed to the board in 2014 and won election to a full term in 2015.

Her opponent is Charles Mister, Jr., who prior to the primary did not respond to requests for an interview and earlier this month expressed surprise that he was even on the general election ballot when contacted by a Herald reporter, asking about apparent fabrications in his resume and statement for the county voters guide.

Mister’s unfitness for elected office, however, does not detract from the case for Mitchell’s return to the board.

Mitchell, in addition to working diligently on the board during the pandemic, expanded her responsibilities to assist with the return to classrooms by volunteering with the county health district’s vaccination program, working to get eligible students vaccinated. In past years, Mitchell has been active in the district’s bond and levy campaigns and has taken her duties toward students, parents and community members seriously.

Marysville School District

The Marysville School District serves more than 10,000 students at 19 schools with more than 660 teachers. The district serves the city of Marysville, the Tulalip reservation, Smokey Point and unincorporated areas of the county.

The Marysville district has made its share of headlines in recent months, apart from its response to the pandemic. Recently the school board appointed Chris Pearson as interim superintendent, following a settlement to accept the pending resignation of current superintendent Jason Thompson following a long and unexplained leave. The district also faced criticism for its handling of threats directed at students of color. And the school board was the focus of an angry protest in August over the state’s mask and vaccine mandates for schools.

Director, District 1: With the decision by current board member Chris Nation not to seek reelection, two candidates filed for the position’s four-year term: Ray Sheldon Jr., who runs a general contracting business, and Connor Krebs, a health coordinator for a Seattle HVAC construction business and a Navy veteran.

Krebs did not respond to requests for an interview with the editorial board or with a Herald reporter preparing news coverage of Marysville School District races.

Sheldon is making his second run for the board, having lost to Nation four years ago. Sheldon has been attending school board meetings for seven years and frequently participates in public comment periods and has kept up with board actions and initiatives.

Sheldon hopes his patience and participation in meetings reflects on his ability to serve on the board: “If you stand in a barbershop long enough, eventually you’ll get your hair cut,” he said.

While the district can’t easily oppose the state’s covid mandates, he sees no need to; both are protecting health and the ability to reopen schools and keep them open. He recalls waiting in line for his own childhood vaccinations, eager to get them so he could go to school and be with his friends.

Sheldon is a product of Marysville and its schools and started his education at the district’s now 70-year-old Liberty Elementary. A $120 million bond election in 2020, which would have replaced Liberty and another of the district’s oldest schools along with other projects, failed to get the necessary 60 percent supermajority required for bonds.

Like masks and vaccines, Sheldon said, new school construction and remodeling, particularly for seismic resiliency, is necessary to protect student safety and provide a better education. But getting bonds passed in Marysville will require the restoration of trust between the district and its voters.

Sheldon’s election also would represent the return of a member of the Tulalip Tribes to representation on the board. Sheldon said he sees that representation of the district’s Indigenous students and families as important; as well, it provides a model for students regarding their participation and service in their communities.

Sheldon, while he has not served elected office before, has served his tribe, community and county on the Tulalip Utilities Commission, its planning commission, on the county planning commission, the Indian Education Parent Committee and the school district’s fiscal advisory commission.

Sheldon’s past service and patience has earned him the “hair cut” he seeks, the editorial board’s endorsement and the support of voters.

Director, District 3: Following initial publication of its endorsements, the editorial board was notified that current board member Keira Atchley is running as a write-in candidate. Atchley was appointed to a board vacancy in July, after the May deadline to file for office. Her name is not listed on ballots, but voters can write in her name.

Atchley, the mother of three boys and a general manager for an aerospace company, said she wants to provide every student the educational support they need to succeed. Her three months serving on the board has allowed her to evaluate where improvements can be made regarding policies, transparency, holding the district accountable and focusing on students’ academic success. While focusing on academics, she also wants to see support provided for students’ mental health. “We must find a way to end the division, not be distracted by the noise and focus on what is best for our children together,” Atchley said in a statement provided to the editorial board.

Sherry Weersing, who filed for the unexpired two-year term, did not provide candidate information for the county voters guide and did not respond to a Herald reporter’s request for information. She currently faces state Public Disclosure Commission violations for failing to file timely reports regarding her campaign registration and financial statements.

Director, District 4: Current school board member and board president Vanessa Edwards won election to the board in 2017. She is challenged by Wade Rinehardt, who is employed in program management and business development management. The election is for a full four-year term.

Prior to the Aug. 3 primary, the editorial board split its endorsement between Rinehardt and Jim Ross. The top two candidates from the primary, however, were Edwards and Rinehardt.

The Herald Editorial Board has reconsidered its endorsement and now supports Edwards’ return to the board.

Rinehardt’s interview with the board occurred prior to the recent controversy and protest regarding mask and vaccine mandates during an August school board meeting. The editorial board sought to re-interview Rinehardt regarding the protest and his stance on the state mandates but received no response before deadline on Wednesday. However, he told a Herald reporter recently that he supported the demonstration as “the people’s right to protest,” a demonstration during which board discussion was interrupted by protesters banging on district office windows; expletives were shouted at board members and a police officer had to stand between one protester and board members as they left the room.

The editorial board, following the protest, found the mob’s actions that day had gone beyond the right to protest and instead showed disrespect for not only the elected, unpaid representatives on the board but the students, parents and community members the board represents.

The school board, and Edwards in particular, deserve credit for calmly facing the protesters, waiting to see if the meeting could continue, then voting to conclude the meeting when it was clear it could not, choosing to deescalate the incident.

While the past year has not been a smooth one for the district or its school board, Edwards has attempted recently to explain to parents and district residents the background behind recent decisions, specific to the outgoing superintendent.

Edwards, in an interview with the editorial board, said she believes the district can now move ahead under its new interim superintendent and ramp up work on a business and strategic plan, setting benchmarks for student achievement and work on its goals to improve students’ academic performance.

One initiative she has sought during her term recently was fulfilled, a program to add student representatives as advisers to the school board to improve the district’s communication with students and families.

On the district’s facility needs — and recognizing the need to build trust with voters — Edwards said she favors going to voters with capital levy proposals, rather than another bond. Capital levies are more limited in scope than bonds but would allow the district to demonstrate its ability to complete smaller improvement projects before asking for greater investments.

Of the four Marysville school board elections on the ballot, Edwards is the only incumbent candidate. Her continued presence on the board is necessary for continuity but also for the leadership she has exhibited. Voters should return her to the board.

Director, District 5: Current board member Jake Murray did not seek reelection. Katie Jackson, the mother of two children attending Marysville schools, is running unopposed to fill an unexpired two-year term.

Update: The editorial has been updated to reflect that Keira Atchley, District 3 director for the Marysville School Board, has filed to run as a write-in candidate.

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