Board candidates sound off on math, other issues

  • Sarah Koenig<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 1:03pm

Just as the four candidates for Everett School Board Director Position 2 come from different backgrounds, they have different takes on what challenges the district faces, what should be done about math standards, the growth in the south end and more.

Carol Andrews, a Mill Creek resident and CPA who’s served as treasurer of the district’s Citizens Levy Committee for the past eight years, said the three biggest challenges the district faces are the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL, the graduation rate and the growth in the south end.

As for the WASL, Andrews thinks it has set good standards, but students are struggling in math. As a board member, she would ask the district to convene a committee of math teachers from all levels on how to improve math scores, she said.

Graduating also is a challenge to about 30 percent of students right now, and the growth in the south end is something that needs addressing, she said.

“I believe if the (south end of the) district continues to grow at the same rate it is now, there will be some challenges,” she said.

Fredrick Bletson, who’s done years of volunteer work with youth and on diversity issues, said that the challenge with the WASL is how to achieve the goal of all students passing. He sees the achievement gap between students of different socioeconomic levels as a challenge.

“Kids that are not achieving, a lot of them are children of color,” he said. “We have to do a better job of serving our kids.”

The district has done a good job of balancing its budget, but it must stay fiscally accountable, he said.

To address these issues, he said he would first speak with the superintendent and work with her.

“My goal is to govern. You can’t just come in gangbusters,” he said.

Court Carter, a CPA who’s served on the district’s levy committee, echoed the thought when addressing the district’s challenges.

“I’d sit down and say, ‘Give me the background on this, I’m uninformed,’” he said. “If there’s a consensus we’re not doing enough, let’s take it to the administration.”

Carter sees the district’s biggest challenge as math and science.

“Nationally we’re lacking in that,” he said.

The district has done a good job of planning for facilities needs, and the challenge is to look ahead and keep doing that, he said.

He’s also concerned about school safety — including hazing, bullying and unwanted adults coming into schools — and wants the district to keep that in mind.

Susan Kaftanski, a veterinarian and school volunteer, thinks parents need to be involved in school from when their children are very young. She said teachers need opportunities for continuing education, and as a board member wants to maintain buildings better so they look up kept.

To address those concerns, she’d talk with the superintendent first and learn what the long-term goals are, she said.

“My first priorities would be parent and guardian involvement,” she said.

The state is revising its math standards, but whether the teaching of math should change in the Everett School District remains a question.

Carter said the key to math achievement is retaining good teachers.

Kaftanski said the standards need to be changed. She said her children did much better with math when they learned it in a more basic and straightforward way at private schools for a few years, but in the public schools, they struggled.

Andrews said that math in the district needs to be more consistent.

“They’ve changed the curriculum in the last few years, but it hasn’t worked,” she said. “They brought in the new curriculum and the teachers were teaching the old math because they didn’t buy it. Everyone needs to be on the same page.”

Bletson said schools don’t do a good enough job of connecting math to a future for students.

“When kids are making $4,000 or $5,000 a week selling drugs, they need to see how we can connect education with a future,” he said.

He said he didn’t know if the curriculum itself needed to change.

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