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School Board candidates lay out what they'd do

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Candidates for Federal Way School Board gave an idea of who they are to a small group at Todd Beamer High School during a forum Thursday.

In about an hour, all four candidates in the Nov. 8 general election answered written questions from the audience and explained why they want to be elected.

Ed Barney, the District 1 incumbent, told the audience he wanted to find out how every dollar was being spent at the district. Part of the motivation was the information would be used as evidence to the state that it needs to fully fund basic education, he said.

"We have to prove to the Legislature we need (the funds)," he said.

Grace Rawsthorne, the challenger, pointed to her own education in public schools and state universities as one of her motivations for wanting to be on the School Board. A PTA member and volunteer in her children's schools, she wants a responsive and responsible board, she said.

When asked what reforms they would make in academic achievement, Barney said he wants to get more students engaged in programs and have opportunities for children. Rawsthorne agreed with Barney and added that education practices need to be diverse to meet the individual needs of children.

The candidates were asked what changes they would make in the district. Rawsthorne, citing nervousness, couldn't comment in the time allotted.

Barney said the board is working with district administrators on the state assessment results and seeing where Federal Way's academic programs need correcting to improve test scores. Also, providing other opportunities for graduation is important as passing the state's achievement test becomes a graduation requirement for the class of 2008.

Tom Madden and Helen Stanwell, the candidates for District 4 (Madden was appointed to the position after Earl VanDorien Jr. resigned last spring), touted their credentials.

Madden said he started a non-profit organization to help abused children and he has been a PTA member and a coach.

Stanwell pointed to her volunteer, work, military and travel experience and her double degrees in history and political science and teaching certificate. She was a substitute teacher in the Federal Way schools system before becoming a candidate.

Stanwell and Madden were asked for the attributes of a board member. A deep belief in public education and leadership are important, Stanwell said. "Implementation is not our job," she said.

Many people have criticized the board for spending time on the daily operations of the district and not focusing on creating policies and the district's direction.

Having personal courage to make tough, unpopular choices is another attribute, Stanwell said.

Having a "can do" attitude, being able to read financial reports and lessons learned from running a private business are attributes he brought to the board, Madden said.

Lately, he has been reporting at board meetings about a perpetual sports fund being developed by encouraging wealthy alumni to donate. The funds would pay for students' athletic fees.

The non-profit fund has been pitched to several people, Madden said, including the Seattle Seahawks' Shawn Alexander and executives at Microsoft.

Stanwell said she favors something like a golf tournament to raise funds.

All four candidates also discussed:

• How the district can recruit good teachers and get rid of low-quality teachers.

It would be difficult to attract teachers with money because there isn't a lot of it, Stanwell said.

Madden said it would take money to get quality teachers and noted the state assessment test makes everyone accountable.

Raswthorne said higher pay would be attractive, but it's difficult because of the scarcity of money.

Many good teachers are already in the district, Barney said. Those that didn't like the pace of the district often moved on, but he acknowledged that sometimes meant losing talent.

* How the candidates would see that the board listened and acted upon sought-after advice. A questioner noted the board asked for advice on topics like elementary school math textbooks from teachers, only to go with another recommendation.

Rawsthorne said the board needs to provide reasons why it took an alternate course from a solicited party's recommendation.

The board has to look to the district administration, community, parents and students for information and then consider all of it in making a decision, Barney said.

Teachers' advice should be heard on new texbooks, Stanwell said. Additionally, the board should see what works in other districts and determine if that can be brought to Federal Way.

Madden declined to speak directly on elementary school math books because he wasn't on the board then. But he would welcome anything that would help teachers, he said.

The forum was sponsored by The Mirror and the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce. It was moderated by T.M. Sell, a political science instructor at Highline Community College.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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