Meet Federal Way school board candidate Richard Champion

Richard Champion - Contributed
Richard Champion
— image credit: Contributed

After three days of posting the applications for the Federal Way Public Schools board of directors vacant position to the district website, the board narrowed the 12 eligibles down to five.

The District 5 board position became vacant after former board director Tony Moore resigned because he was convicted of felony theft last month.

Debra Stenberg, district spokeswoman, said legally the board can discuss qualifications of candidates for appointment to elective office in an executive session, however, no decisions or votes can be cast.

“Our legal counsel indicated that the best approach for narrowing the field is to discuss in executive session, then have a motion in open session to invite five for interviews,” Stenberg wrote in an email.

The five include Jeremy Cucco, Hiroshi Eto, Shelley Ko, Tanaya Lanning and Richard Champion.

After the executive session on May 22 at a regular meeting, board director Danny Peterson made a motion to move the five candidates, which was seconded by board vice president Geoffery McAnalloy.

Stenberg said the meeting’s notice was posted within 24 hours, the minimum requirement per state law, on the district’s website. The five applicants will be publicly interviewed on June 3, with a final decision expected on June 24 - to be announced at a public meeting.

The Mirror spoke with all five candidates. Here's more information about candidate Richard Champion:

Richard Champion

Background: Champion first moved to Federal Way in 2009. Prior to that, he lived in Seattle’s U-district neighborhood and grew up in Kelso, Wash. He received his doctorate in chemical engineering and nanotechnology from the University of Washington two years ago.

Champion has worked in various capacities as a teaching and research assistant throughout his collegiate career. He is the principal researcher and author for the patent “Reduction of the Adsorption of Quaternary Ammonium Salts onto Cellulosic Fibers” and has published several articles in scientific journals.

Experience: Champion has a long resume of scientific knowledge, which he says relates to the school district’s mission of providing more adequate STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) to students.

As a tutor, Champion is in the process of helping a Sudanese immigrant, about 40 years old, earn his General Education Development or GED, which is just an example of his dedication to the value of learning.

“I’ve devoted a lot of my life to education, making sure I’m educated and other people are educated,” he said. “… I’ve lobbied members of [the Legislature on] education and education issues, education bills.”

Champion is a board member of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action and has served in other forms of leadership in politics.

School district improvements: As a regular attendee of school board meetings, Champion said he’s interested in seeing the district improve the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction's annual measurable objective for reading and math proficiency, particularly for those with special needs.

“We’re hitting about 55 percent of the target metric for special needs,” he said. “We’re way, way behind.”

In Champion’s application, he explains that his parents are special education teachers and someone within his family has special needs as well.

He said the board and the district recently had a lot of bad headlines with issues surrounding the poor grading system and the global learning initiative, part of which he believes is because communication between the district and the community has fallen short.

“You want news coverage for the right reasons,” he said, adding that he believes the district should take more measured steps toward enacting reform.

Champion believes the district needs a board member who will ask the hard questions and he’s used to being in that position as a scientist.

“Have you tested this in a classroom, what have you done?” he said. “… I really care about this area, and while I didn’t grow up in Federal Way specifically, I grew up in Washington and I want to see this school district and community move forward. If there were five people doing an outstanding job and the district was doing an outstanding job, I wouldn’t be needed.”


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