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And the winner is? School Board unanimously selects Larson

By PHILIP PALERMO

The Mirror

The Federal Way School District’s Board of Education filled its open seat Wednesday, unanimously selecting attorney David Larson to represent District No. 5.

Board members said Larson’s legal experience could come in handy as the district considers a legal battle with the state over school funding.

“I think he will be able to help us,” Board President Evelyn Castellar said. “He’s so knowledgeable.”

The board interviewed six candidates during Wednesday’s meeting, asking each a set of 12 questions.

The questions covered several topics ranging from the role of a School Board member to what the long-term goals of the board should be.

Other questions centered around what the candidates felt the district’s most pressing issues were.

Several candidates stressed the importance of more parent involvement.

Tony Moore, who went first during the round of interviews, pointed to the relatively small crowd at the meeting as a clear indicator of the lack of parent involvement in education.

“It’s a very important issue and I’m surprised the room’s not packed,” he said.

Donald Putman said he would like to see more communication between teachers and parents.

“Parent involvement, I think, is the key to student involvement” Putman said.

Walter Backstrom suggested calling for a summit between all the local stake holders, including elected officials, the city council and the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce.

Backstrom said despite not receiving the board’s nomination, he would be willing to spearhead such a summit, which he described as “a call to arms.”

Every candidate said the district’s financial situation is a big concern for them.

When asked to rank the top three issues facing the district, Backstrom listed one issue, thrice over.

“Finances, finances, finances,” he said.

Several candidates said they hoped the district would take a tougher stance on receiving state-funding.

“There’s a big need for it,” Florenda Wyatt said.

While the candidates all cited the need for state-level funding, most admitted the board shouldn’t expect those funds to come.

Jonathan Gardner said the district’s current financial situation may warrant difficult budget cuts, citing the recent consideration to cut some librarian positions.

“I love librarians,” he said, “but they’re not teachers.”

Larson said if state leaders won’t listen to the school district’s pleas for funds, maybe a judge will get them to pay attention.

“Litigation is the only way to solve the problem at this point,” Larson said.

Larson also praised his fellow candidates calling them each highly exceptional.

“Any one of them would added to the school board,” Larson said.

Despite some disappointment in not being chosen, Moore said Larson’s legal background could be a benefit to the board.

“I think he’ll do a great job on the school board,” Moore said. “I think the choice is fantastic.”

Board member Charles Hoff said choosing which candidate would fill the open seat was difficult and hoped the other candidates would stay involved with the district.

“We’d like to get them involved in committees,” he said.

Larson’s stay on the board will last until at least 2007 when the position is up for election.

Backstrom said he’s leaning toward running for the position next year, adding he would like to see the board better reflect a community that’s becoming increasingly diverse.

“It’s unfortunate the school board had an opportunity to send a message to students who have felt disenfranchised for years,” he said.

Backstrom said one of the reasons the women’s rights movement has had such success is that there were women in successful jobs and positions of authority that young girls could look up to.

“I do think symbols are important,” he said, adding it’s not enough for the district to just say diversity is important.

“They just couldn’t make that leap,” he said. “They had a chance to make history.”

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