Mukilteo Elementary is one of 20 schools serving about 15,000 students in the Mukilteo School District. (Mukilteo School District)

Mukilteo Elementary is one of 20 schools serving about 15,000 students in the Mukilteo School District. (Mukilteo School District)

Editorial: Retain Simmons, Kennedy on Mukilteo School Board

The two incumbents are effective board members and have put students’ interests at the forefront.

By The Herald Editorial Board

With the general election less than a month away, The Herald Editorial Board begins publishing its endorsements for select elected offices and ballot measures with recommendations for the board of directors for the Mukilteo School District.

Mukilteo School District, with an annual operating budget of about $165 million, employs 1,600 and operates 20 schools, serving some 15,000 students in Mukilteo and neighborhoods south of Everett and north of Edmonds and Lynnwood. Positions on the school board are nonpartisan.

District 1: Incumbent Mike Simmons is challenged by Bruce Guthrie for the four-year term.

Simmons is finishing his second four-year term on the board and currently serves as its president. He retired earlier this year from Boeing after 21 years, most recently in human resources and leadership development. He now works as the director or talent development for Seattle Public Schools. A Mukilteo resident since 1997, his adult daughters graduated from Kamiak High School.

Guthrie, a substitute teacher for private schools in the region, has twice run for office as a Libertarian; in 2006 for U.S. Senate and in 2016 for the state Senate. An 11-year resident of Mukilteo, Guthrie has three children enrolled in private schools.

Guthrie said he intends to use his insights as a teacher and parent to inform his work on the school board and would work to bring private school values and initiatives to Edmonds schools.

Regarding school funding, Guthrie said the state is providing adequate support, noting that the state now pays more per student in public schools than the typical tuition for a private school student. Guthrie said he would oppose the district’s $240 million school construction bond that district voters are expected to consider in February, and would oppose any changes to the current rate the district is allowed to seek in local levies, emphasizing district taxpayers should see no increase in what they pay.

Guthrie also said he intended to focus on how the district designs individual education plans for students for special needs and other students to give parents greater input into the plans.

Simmons defended the work of the Mukilteo School District and public schools in general, noting a level of satisfaction among parents, students and the community. While calling for continued improvement, Simmons believes there is general satisfaction with Mukilteo schools as there has been no push for charter schools in the Mukilteo area. Simmons said Mukilteo and other districts still need to push state lawmakers for increased funding, specifically for special education.

Ahead of the board’s vote in November on the bond request, Simmons expressed support for the need outlined by the district’s bond committee.

If reelected, Simmons said he intended to continue his focus on issues of equity in the district, making sure all students have the resources they need to succeed.

Simmons, during his tenure on the board, has shown himself as a leader dedicated to the interests of students and parents with a background and experience useful to the board and district. District voters should retain Simmons on the board.

District 3: Incumbent Kyle Kennedy is challenged by Jennifer “Jen” Cole.

Kennedy is finishing his first term on the board. He is employed as an engineering manager for Korry Electronics and has completed training with Leadership Snohomish County and has a certificate in leadership and management through Notre Dame. He has two daughters in Mukilteo schools.

Cole works for the nonprofit PAVE organization, which provides support and training to families and youths with disabilities. An immigrant from South Korea, Cole attended K-12 schools in Washington state. She has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Northwest University. She has lived in the Everett area for 12 years and has a son enrolled at Fairmount Elementary who receives special education services.

Both Kennedy and Cole are strong candidates with backgrounds that would serve the board and district well. And both share similar views on district responsibility for individual students and school funding.

Kennedy said his work on the board has been influenced by his and his family’s experiences with education. He struggled with a reading disorder as a child and has a daughter who used an individual education plan to address her classroom needs, providing him insight into the IEP process. Prior to his work on the school board, he was active on PTAs for two elementaries, and also did duty as Fairmount’s mascot, Freddy Falcon.

Cole also has served with Fairmount’s PTA and also works with the city of Everett’s Diversity Advisory Board, the state’s Special Education Advisory Council, its rehabilitation council and the state coalition for language access.

Cole supports the district’s recently adopted policy on equity and said she would put her focus on reviewing all district policies through that equity lens and would seek to work with parents, students and the community in that effort.

Cole said the district needs to work with state lawmakers to increase funding for schools, in particular for special education, which she sees as part of the state’s basic education mandate. Provided that funding, Cole said the district is responsible for putting those funds to their best use. On larger funding issues, Cole said the state’s current formula for allocating funds to school districts is not providing equitable funding among districts.

Kennedy, who has served for two years as the district’s legislative representative, agrees that the state needs to be pressed to provide additional funding for special education so that the district can meet state and federal mandates for students with special needs. The district had to fund $5.7 million to make up for what the state hadn’t provided last year, he said.

With detailed knowledge and their personal insights, either candidate would serve the district and its students and families well. Kennedy, however, has shown himself an effective board member, in particular for his work on legislative issues, which will remain a high priority for all school districts. District voters should return him to the board.

District 6: John Gahagan, serving his second term on the board, is running unopposed. Retired as an economist for Verizon, he has two children who have graduated from Kamiak High.

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.

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