New citizens' group supports charter schools and is pro-decency


The Mirror

A new community group is forming to address education issues in the Federal Way Public Schools system.

Tentatively, the group is called the Federal Way Education Council and is organizing to bring together parents and citizens who are usually in agreement on certain issues, but have worked independently until now, said organizer Jonathan Gardner, a Federal Way resident and a 1994 Decatur High School graduate.

The group held its organizational meeting last Saturday at the Intellipass/Insurepass building on South 341st Place. The building and the business there are owned by Federal Way School Board member Evelyn Castellar, who said last week she would attend the meeting but is not sure if she will join the group.

Gardner said Marsha Richards, of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) in Olympia, also planned to attend. EFF is a critic of the statewide teachers union, the Washington Education Association, and has voiced its support for taking a critical look at education spending and better results on the state’s standardized student test.

Having a decency policy for the Federal Way school district is one of the group’s goals, as is the support of charter schools, Gardner said. At a September School Board meeting, he spoke in favor of charter schools. A three-member majority of the board –– including Castellar –– approved a resolution favoring Referendum 55, the statewide ballot measure which, if passed by voters in the general election Nov. 2, would allow 45 charter schools in the state to be partially funded by public money.

Castellar put forward a decency policy that appears to have the unanimous support of the board. The intention of the policy is to lay out the board’s belief of what is appropriate to teach in classes, and that teachers and students have the right to expect respect from each other.

The proposed policy is the result of a controversy earlier this year when a parent of a freshman at Todd Beamer High School objected to the book “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress” for having graphic descriptions of sex and a naked woman. District superintendent Tom Murphy removed the book from the ninth-grade reading list, but kept it on the book lists of older students.

The board supported Murphy’s decision, although some students protested, claiming it was quashing freedom of speech.

Gardner said the new group wants “questionable books” replaced with other literature.

The board has approved the current list of books students at all grades might read during the year. But some books still raise the eyebrows of a few board members.

The new citizens’ group will also work to have candidates for the 2005 board election, when the terms of board members Ed Barney and Earl VanDorien Jr. are up, Gardner said.

He said Federal Way Education Council might run counter to another community group, Citizens for Federal Way Schools, which has opposed the charter school referendum. But the new group wasn’t formed with the intention of being an opposition force, Gardner said.

Citizens for Federal Way Schools has organized past levy and bond campaigns for the district, and recently announced it will recruit candidates to make sure all board positions have at least two candidates in elections.

Audrey Germanis, president of Citizens for Federal Way Schools, said she heard about the new group forming. Her biggest concern, she said, is that the community and the School Board work together for students and stop fighting with each other. The board has been racked by infighting over a proposed fairness policy and the resolution supporting charter schools.

“It doesn’t help the kids,” she said.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565,

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