News

Board hopefuls state their positions

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Today, three more applicants for the vacant Federal Way School Board position answer questions asked by the Mirror.

The candidates –– there are six total –– will meet with the School Board next Wednesday for public interviews. After the interviews, the board will select its new member, who will formally take office June 13.

Today’s story covers Florenda Wyatt, Jonathan Gardner and Walter Backstrom. In the May 17 edition, Don Putman, Tony Moore and Dave Larson answered the same questions.

Florenda Wyatt

How long have you been considering running for the School Board?

Wyatt said she considered it for about a year and decided to apply when the seat became vacant.

What attributes would you bring to the board?

A fresh perspective to provide children with opportunities to succeed in school, said, adding she also brings her professional experience from Boeing, where she worked in human resources. She’s executive director of a women’s shelter and is also a member of Federal Way Public Schools’ budget advisory committee.

Superintendent Tom Murphy has proposed cutting 27 librarians from the district, several teaching and classified positions along with programs to cover a $4.2 million budget gap. What is your opinion of his proposal?

Wyatt said more funding needs to come from the state to help the district, she’s not in favor of the cuts and the district needs to keep the libraries open.

This year’s sophomores –– the class of 2008 –– is the first required to pass the WASL to graduate. What is your opinion of the WASL and it being a graduation requirement?

The test is very important and students should start in the early grades on the exam to get a good basic education. Learning the basics of reading, writing and mathematics is important to work in the business community, she said.

If appointed, will you run for election in the fall of 2007?

Yes.

Will you run if not appointed?

No answer.

The board has been criticized for wanting to go forward with new programs in the next school year while facing a budget shortfall. What is your position on the matter?

Wyatt said change is good so students are challenged and not always presented with the same programs.

What is your opinion of the district’s capital bond that voters rejected in February?

Wyatt supported the bond, had pro-bond signs in her yard and talked to her neighbors about it. She thought some people were confused why the performing arts center was in the bond because they weren’t sure what it had to do with schools.

Why do you think it failed?

That lack of understanding was why it didn’t pass, she said.

Should it be on the ballot this fall?

She wants it on the ballot in November and noted it would save the district money.

Jonathan Gardner

How long have you been considering running for the board?

Since the vacancy was announced in April. Gardner said he didn’t plan to run for election until a few years from now.

What attributes would you bring to the board?

A physics graduate with a minor in mathematics, Gardner said he would bring an understanding of those subjects, along with his experience working in the information technology industry. The industry is becoming very competitive with foreign countries getting involved, and he wants to help build schools that are friendly to information technology and scientists, he said.

Superintendent Tom Murphy has proposed cutting 27 librarians from the district, several teaching and classified positions along with programs to cover a $4.2 million budget gap, what is your opinion of his proposal?

The superintendent’s proposal was the right one because it makes money to achieve academic goals, Gardner said.

He said libraries are good but there are a limited number of dollars and he hopes it’s a temporary move.

The Legislature must raise the level of state funding because school districts can’t spend money they don’t have, he said.

This year’s sophomores –– the class of 2008 –– is the first required to pass the WASL to graduate. What is your opinion of the WASL and it being a graduation requirement?

It’s not the best test around, and an objective test is needed, he said. While many people see the test results as a reflection on the students, Gardner said it’s more a reflection on districts and schools. As for the WASL being a graduation requirement, “we need that diploma to mean something,” he said.

If appointed, will you run for election in the fall of 2007?

He thinks he would.

Will you run if not appointed?

Probably not if a good appointee is in the seat.

The board has been criticized for considering new programs in the next school year while facing a budget shortfall. What is your position on the matter?

The district needs to move forward constantly, Gardner said, adding academics is the first priority at the expense of other programs.

What is your opinion of the capital bond the school district presented to voters in February?

Gardner supported the bond but understands those who didn’t vote for it.

Why do you think it failed?

A lack of advertising. And the bond was for a lot of money.

Should it be on the ballot this fall?

Gardner said if both sides can come to an agreement about a future bond, it should be on the ballot.

Walter Backstrom

How long have you been considering running for the board?

Backstrom said that when he found out he lives in the area the appointee would represent, he decided to apply. It’s an opportunity “to serve,” he said.

What attributes would you bring to the School Board?

He said he is a consensus-builder and has strong community ties and to children. His daughter is a student at Panther Lake Elementary School, and he is an officer in the PTA.

Superintendent Tom Murphy has proposed cutting 27 librarians from the district, several teaching and classified positions along with programs to cover a $4.2 million budget gap, what is your opinion of his proposal?

“I wish it wasn’t that,” Backstrom said of Murphy’s proposal. At this point, he doesn’t see another way to fix the shortfall, and while he tentatively approves of the cuts, Backstrom said he would “aggressively” seek alternative funding sources to minimize the cuts.

“Libraries are important, crucial,” he said.

This year’s sophomores –– the class of 2008 –– is the first required to pass the WASL to graduate. What is your opinion of the WASL and it being a graduation requirement?

The WASL is a work in progress, and he is not convinced the test will determine how well a student will do in life, Backstrom said. While taking the test is the law, he hopes other measures can be developed to assess the whole student.

If appointed, will you run for election in the fall of 2007?

Possibly.

Will you run if not appointed?

Maybe.

The board has been criticized for wanting to go forward with new programs in the next school year while facing a budget shortfall. What is your position on the matter?

He hopes the focus of the board would be on the immediate needs of the school district and on other programs if there is time and money.

What is your opinion of the district’s capital bond that voters rejected in February?

It is an investment in the short term and long term for the district and community.

Why do you think it failed?

Not enough was done to market the bond to the community and explain its benefit. People want to know if it’s going to “special projects” or to help students, he said.

Should it be on the ballot this fall?

If the bond is better-sold to voters, including how it would affect education, then he would support it being on the ballot in the fall.

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

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