Issue: Lack of confidence by the community in the current school board and cabinet.
The BSD community has lost confidence in the current board. Look no further than how the Bellevue Schools Foundation (BSF) did in their fundraising effort this year. When cabinet members publicly say we don’t need “Their Money”, they are telling the community to go away. Additionally, there is a continued frustration with lack of conversation and follow up upon request from board members.
My opponent’s answer to closing the deficit of the fundraising effort by BSF is to make a big push to raise property taxes. While she wants to continue to be more and more politically active, I have no other agenda than to reunite and inspire our community to engage in BSD and support students and staff. Raising property taxes will only drive a bigger divide and force the families that are already struggling and in need of our free and reduced-price meals to move out of our district.
To inspire people and get them involved, you need to give everybody a voice. Have people be heard. My town hall meetings every month will be a start of hearing these voices. We have to work with community groups and have everybody working towards realistic common goals; the goals and needs of our students and their communities. It must bubble up from the people on the ground, not pushed down from the top. When the community feels they have been a part of the solution, the confidence will come back and with that so will involvement and support.
Issue: Lack of transparency.
The current board has shown time and time again they do not want to give the community, the community programs, and PTAs an opportunity to be part of the solutions. Groups are frustrated with the lack of or late communication. Too often the board decides what the volunteers, groups, and others will be allowed and not allowed to do. There is continued lip service of allowing people to speak during public comments at a board meeting, but then the board provides no conversation or no follow up on issues pertinent to BSD families. Policy is dictated only at the top. Look no further than the buses this year when mass changes were made to the bus schedules. This issue was decided by the board with very little to no conversation with the leaders of transportation or public input.
We must engage every person and every group more than once, and until there is a solution. For example, why couldn’t the transportation team be at every meeting when considering changes – especially the final meeting when the policy was decided? Maybe the conclusion would have been the same, but at least their voice would have been heard. They would have learned of the policy change in person, and not in an email or memorandum sent later. This an other issues could be discussed in my proposed town halls, especially if parents have concerns. Additionally, the transportation team and the community would both have the opportunity to be heard. The Board meetings are not enough. A three minute comment time with no response from the board is not a conversation.
If you look at all the school board votes for the past year, they have all been unanimous. Every. Single. One. On its face this is farcical as a board is created to bring in different members with different viewpoints. Whether the issue is crumb rubber on our playing fields, school start times, or budgetary issues, the board speaks with a single voice. To me this is simply cronyism and we deserve better from our board.
If elected, I commit to vote my conscious on every issue brought forward for a vote. I will not enter into any “gentleman’s agreement” or smoke filled room negotiation. You will know where I stand on every issue and I will leave it to you to assess my voting record.
Issue: Charter Schools
Bellevue has the benefit of being a progressive school district that stays on the front edge of education research and programs. That means we already have the school choice that charters provide, which most of the rest of the state lacks. Big Picture is an example of the district embracing a charter school model and making it fit in the Bellevue way. Partnerships with charters would benefit those students who are not being well served by traditional comprehensive schools. Bellevue still has an education gap that is more than based on race. It has an opportunity gap with students who do not fit the traditional mold. Charters, sponsored by the district, would bring together innovative focused models and the high standards that the district requires from all its programs. Given the popularity of International, Big Picture, Jing Mei, Puesta del Sol and the Spanish Immersion programs, there is plenty of room for more specialized teaching.
Issue: AP Classes
We need to ensure the right students are in AP classes and taking AP tests. I have heard from multiple families that students with low GPA’s are being forced to take AP classes to meet a statistical measure. The passing rate on AP tests for Bellevue was 77% with 7,932 tests taken. While this is impressive, our goal should not be to just keep increasing the number of tests taken, but on ensuring that each child can succeed in his or her own way, be that academics, arts, athletics or civic engagement.
Issue: District Boundaries
Unlike my opponent, I do not waffle on this topic. I am against boundary changes and believe there is capacity within the current school boundaries for the foreseeable future.
Bellevue is blessed to have the best teaching staff in the state of Washington. Teachers perform many roles, from academics to counseling to helping kids find their passion. We need to support the teachers with effective career development opportunities, tools and resources for them to succeed and to ensure they are appropriately rewarded for their efforts. The current board has yet to agree on how to evaluate their teaching ability. I will work hand in hand to ensure we evaluate and reward the tremendous teachers who work with our students daily.
Bellevue Schools are wonderful, diverse environments where each and every child should feel welcome and free from bullying and safe in our schools. If elected one of my top priorities will be to eliminate bullying. There is no clear way to report bullying anonymously, so why not create a toll-free number to report bullying with committed service level agreements for response time? I will advocate more resources for this important issue to ensure every child is welcomed and has a bully free educational environment in which to thrive.
At the last school board meeting a mother spoke about the bullying her child had received and commented she had written to every single board member and not one took the opportunity to respond, hence she attended the board meeting and took her three minutes to highlight the issue she was facing. I am a firm believer that action drives results. No issue has ever gotten better based on inaction. To that end, I support a policy of 24/48, meaning issues should be escalated within 24 hours and resolved within 48 hours if possible. At a minimum a communication back stating the escalation is in process and providing the name of the accountable individual for resolution within 48 hours. Further, I will actively engage with the residents outside of school board meetings, this includes monthly coffee talks the last Saturday of every month.