School Board candidates say no religious bigotry intended


The Mirror

For two hours, Federal Way School Board candidates dealt with the heat.

Not only was the room at Truman High School warm on Thursday, but the candidates answered questions from a 30-plus member audience over a wide range of issues from funding, charter schools, a negative School Board image and college preparation to religion.

The public forum was hosted and moderated by Citizens for Federal Way Public Schools, an organization that has run the school district’s bond campaigns in the past and vowed to make sure more than one person ran for a School Board seat.

Tom Madden, the appointed District 4 board member, didn’t attend. He was at a fundraiser and said he would be arriving late, said Audrey Germanis, president of the citizens’ group.

At least three questions were combined for the candidates to answer about recent comments by Madden’s challengers –– Bob Wheeler, Jim Storvick and Helen Stanwell. In The Mirror Wednesday, they said they were concerned about board members Ed Barney, Madden and Evelyn Castellar being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

One audience member’s written question was, “Are you a bigot”?

Wheeler, Storvick and Stanwell didn’t retract their earlier comments, and added they weren’t bigots.

Stanwell said she meant there should be more diversity on the board and pointed out all of the candidates and incumbents were white and more minorities would be beneficial.

Yet, she also referred to a document printed by the Washington State School Directors Association for candidates that states if elected, they shouldn’t use their office for personal gain or helping friends, family “church or special interest groups.”

Storvick said his previous comments were clear and he couldn’t believe Madden was appointed simply based on his interview before the board. Wheeler and Storvick also applied for the seat after Earl VanDorien Jr. resigned from it.

Based on what he heard from other people, Storvick said, another candidate who applied, Heidi Gailey, gave the best interview and seemed the most prepared.

Madden, Storvick told the audience at Truman, told the board he was “a nice guy” who played golf and admitted to having a steep learning curve.

Storvick said he wouldn’t want to have been appointed to the board if several of the members attend his church. “If that makes me a bigot, I apologize,” he said.

“The School Board is stacked right now,” Wheeler said.

Grace Rawsthorne, who is challenging Barney, said religion shouldn’t be an issue and doubted board members of the same faith would always be of a similar mind.

Barney defended himself and the other board members, noting he hadn’t spoken

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