With Edmonds Public Schools the only school district in Snohomish County that determined it needed to warn teachers of layoffs expected at the start of the coming school year, the races for two seats on its school board have focused on that decision, on the district’s budgeting practices and on its communication with parents and the community.
Edmonds School District, with an annual operating budget of $321.6 million, serves more than 20,000 students with 3,600 employees at 34 schools in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terraces, Woodway, parts of Brier and unincorporated areas in the south county.
While school board members must live within their specific district, Edmonds School District voters vote at-large for all positions. Districts 3 and 5 are on the ballot for the Aug. 6 primary, which will determine the top two candidates for the Nov. 5 general election.
District 1 school board member Carin Chase faces a challenge from Alvin Rutledge in the general election.
District 3: Incumbent Gary Noble, seeking a fifth term in his 16th year on the board, faces a challenge from four candidates: Jennifer Cail, Mary Schultz, Rory Graves and Boe Lindgren. Neither Schultz nor Lindgren responded to requests from The Herald Editorial Board to participate in an endorsement interview.
Noble, a retired Boeing manager and engineer and retired captain with the U.S. Air Force, has a long history with the district, even before his election to the board in 2003, from his children’s enrollment in kindergarten through their graduation, including his participation in the PTA and as a middle school math tutor. He also has served as chairman of the district’s citizen planning committee and as a trustee for the Edmonds schools foundation.
Cail, with a master’s degree in literature and society, has worked as an accountant, but now works four days a week as a parent-educator at Edmonds Heights K-12 cooperative school. Her past service to the district includes co-president of a preschool PTA. She has three children in district schools.
Graves, with a communications degree from WSU, has worked as a journalist for educational media and Seattle’s public television station. Graves also has three children in district schools.
Noble defends the board’s decision to issue layoff warning notices to teachers as difficult but necessary. The district faced a $17.7 budget shortfall as it waited for the Legislature to make adjustments sought by it and other districts to what could be sought in local levy elections. A full fix didn’t arrive this spring as hoped, Noble said, so cuts had to be prepared. However, those layoffs have since been eased from an initial 45 full-time equivalent positions to about 14 FTEs currently, Noble said.
Neither Cail nor Graves disputes the district’s funding disadvantage and both support a renewed focus from state lawmakers on funding of basic education and an adjustment to the levy formula, but both said cuts could have been limited by turning to district reserves in the short-term.
Both also have faulted the district for a lack of communication among district officials, teachers, parents, students and others. Cail has faulted the district for a continuing lack of clarity for how budget cuts were made. Graves, further, was critical of a decision to replace after-school programs provided by the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA with a nationwide program. While that decision might prove to have been correct, Graves was dismayed the district didn’t invite more comment from parents and others about the change in order to build consensus.
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. Either Cail or Graves would be a good choice in that regard, but Graves impresses with a deep understanding of legislative and instructional issues. Grave’s membership on the board for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility also should serve the board regarding student safety issues.
District 5: Four strong candidates are running for the position being vacated by Diana White following eight years on the board: Lisa Hunnewell, Rina Maile Redrup, D.P. “Casey” Auve and Nancy Katims. Each offers a background that would add valuable perspective and experience for the board.
Hunnewell, a senior manager with Snohomish Public Utility District, serves with the district’s facilities and bond committee as it prepares for a 2020 bond election, giving her a first-hand look at the district’s needs for classrooms and other facilities. She would bring an informed voice to the district’s upcoming bond decisions and campaign.
Redrup, a surgical nurse for Providence Medical Center Everett and a former public school teacher, has served as president and vice-president of the parent group at Meadowdale High and as board president for a preschool co-op. Redrup has a masters in creative arts learning and early childhood education. She said she’d be an advocate for LGBTQ students and wants to see curriculum developed that improves schools’ offerings in history and literature, but also in sex education.
Auve, who owns a publishing company and calls himself a product of vocational education, is an advocate for career and technical education and works to back the Rotary House Construction Project and the training in construction trades it provides. A past president of and long-term member of Lynnwood Rotary, Auve also has served on the school district’s foundation and on the board of the North Seattle Chamber. Auve said he wants the district to increase access to career and technical education and introduce students to those promising fields earlier.
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.
All four demonstrated a good understanding of the funding issues facing Edmonds schools, and called for greater communication with the community. But Katims expressed an eagerness to dig deep into the data of the district’s finances and details of state financing, pointing to what she said was an error in the state’s funding formula for the district, one that she has brought to the attention of the school district and her legislative district’s senator.
As with others, Katims believes the board could have turned to its reserve fund to avoid at least some layoffs; even the threat of dismissals, she said, makes retention and recruitment of teachers difficult in the future and should be avoided when possible.
Any of the four would be an asset to the school board. But 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.