One of six will join School Board


The Mirror

Six people have applied for the vacancy on the Federal Way School Board.

The group includes a software engineer, an attorney, an executive director of a women's shelter, a business owner, a public affairs consultant and a radiation therapist who is a former board member.

One will be selected by the board on May 24 to replace Bob Millen, a Boeing engineer, who resigned in March.

The board will hold public interviews of the candidates May 24 at the district's main office. At a board meeting on June 13, the newly appointed member will be sworn in.

The new member can serve to the end of Millen's term, which expires in 2007, and then can choose to run in that fall's election for a new four-year term.

The backgrounds of the candidates, briefly:

• Florenda Wyatt is executive director of Women Giving a Helping Hand, a women's shelter. A Federal Way resident for more than 30 years, Wyatt served with the Sherwood Forest Elementary School PTA and the school district's fiscal advisory committee. Her youngest son is a senior at Todd Beamer High School. Wyatt has also served on numerous city committees, including the Human Services Commission and a police advisory committee.

Wyatt has a degree in urban studies/education from Evergreen State College and is enrolled in City University's project management course.

Born in Tennessee, Wyatt is the first person in her family to attend college.

•Â David Larson is an attorney in private practice and has lived in Federal Way for almost 40 years. He graduated with a degree in public administration from the University of Puget Sound and then the Seattle University School of Law. Since 1985, he has practiced law in companies, on his own or with law firms. He also ran a mediation company for three years.

Larson is a candidate for King County Superior Court judge.

• Walter Backstrom is a public affairs consultant who was a water commissioner in Woodinville until 2003 and chairman of the park board for the city of Milton. He is also an alternate on the Federal Way Civil Service Commission.

Backstrom has degrees in sociology from the University of California-Berkeley and in criminal justice from the University of Oregon, and has done post-graduate work in urban affairs at Portland State University.

He has worked as a social worker for the state Department of Social Health and Human Services, a case manager for a consulting service and the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe as director of social services.

• Donald Putman, a radiation therapist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Seattle, graduated from Indiana University with a degree in radiological science.

He was a School Board member from 2001-03. When district boundaries were redrawn, Putman and Millen found themselves in the same district and running against each other. Millen won.

• Tony Moore, a two-time candidate for the Legislature, most recently in 2004, has volunteered in the school district and is a member of Citizens for Federal Way Schools, a non-profit group that has run bond and levy campaigns for the district in the past.

He has a college degree in business administration and owns a tire company in Federal Way. He is also a founding member of Christ the King Bible Fellowship Church.

Moore, who is African-American, wrote in his board application that he wants to broaden the board's diversity.

• Jonathan Gardner, a software engineer, grew up in Federal Way and was a student in the district. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in physics and a minor in mathematics.

He served a two-year mission in Korea with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Currently, he works for as a software engineer. He also founded and is president of Citizens for Student Learning, a private group of Federal Way residents with an interest in the school district. In an e-mail to the Mirror, Gardner said he created the group and started attending board meetings in order to take a more active role in the community.

Critics of the board have noted two things about the open position. The first is that more diversity is needed. Board member Evelyn Castellar, the lone female member, has said she would like another woman at the table. The board is also all-white, while more than 40 percent of the district's students are not, critics note.

The second criticism is that one candidate, Jonathan Gardner, is assumed the shoe-in because of his friendship with Castellar. Some claim the candidate works, or has worked, for Castellar's business. Gardner, a frequent attendee of board meetings, has repeatedly denied he was ever employed by Casteller's business, Insurepass/Intellipass. Castellar has also denied the claim.

Gardner has said he might have used some of Castellar's office space while he was working on an independent project related to his profession.

Both have said the accusations are politically motivated.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565,

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