Primary debate recap: Federal Way School Board candidates | ELECTION 2011

Candidates for Federal Way School Board position 3 Danny Peterson and Liz Drake get ready to start a candidates forum/debate July 13 at Federal Way High School. A third candidate, Carrie BeSerra, was unable to attend. The all-mail primary election is Aug. 16.  - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Candidates for Federal Way School Board position 3 Danny Peterson and Liz Drake get ready to start a candidates forum/debate July 13 at Federal Way High School. A third candidate, Carrie BeSerra, was unable to attend. The all-mail primary election is Aug. 16.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Federal Way candidates in the August primary election shared their views in a public forum. Danny Peterson, Liz Drake and Carrie BeSerra are vying for Federal Way School Board position 3, which is being vacated by current board member Amye Bronson-Doherty.

More than 120 attended the forum July 13 at Federal Way High School to ask questions of school board and city council candidates. The event was sponsored by The Mirror and the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce.

BeSerra was unable to attend the debate due to a previous commitment, but a statement was recited on her behalf by Lakehaven commissioner Len Englund (reprinted at the end of this article).

The top two finishers in each primary race will advance to the general election in November.

Both Peterson and Drake repeatedly stressed the need for parental engagement and involvement in Federal Way schools. Likewise, both candidates strongly support the district’s controversial academic acceleration policy, which raised the participation rate in advanced classes from 30 percent to nearly 70 percent of students.

Both candidates also discussed the connection between healthy schools and a healthy community, noting that investing in schools benefits businesses and overall quality of life in Federal Way.

Here is a recap of the candidates’ responses to questions from the audience at Wednesday’s forum. For more information, check out video interviews with the candidates by clicking here.

• What is the most important issue facing Federal Way schools?

Peterson: The rollout of the standards-based education this fall. He will press the district to implement this policy across the board. “Excellence has to be the case with this. We can’t let this be a failed experiment.”

Drake: The 30 percent dropout rate. Students who fail to graduate suffer in our present economy. “Our community cannot possibly thrive if we do not have a healthy school district. The connection between community and school is critical.”

• How would you promote community involvement?

Drake: She believes in a one-student-at-a-time approach. She spends a lot of time mentoring with Communities in Schools and will promote communication with parents and the community “so they can be involved and feel part of what’s going on.”

Peterson: He advocates creation of internships for students at local businesses, along with creative ideas to raise money for different activities. “We need to continue to pursue parents and let them know that they are welcome and valued in our schools. We need to seek their feedback like a business would do.”

• On parental involvement

Peterson: “We need to create a culture of parental involvement.” Two ways to do so include a “customer feedback form” for parents, and to have a liaison for parents at each school. “Parents are really an untapped resource in schools.”

Drake: “Parents are critical to the success of students. ... Through students we can draw parents in.” Favors investment of resources to make parents feel more welcome in schools.

• On preparing students for the workforce

Drake: Schools must provide “for each and every student the skills that will enable each and every student to be successful. One model does not fit all.” Student involvement and engagement are critical, along with getting students to rise to the challenge. “We cannot force children to succeed. We have to have them wanting to succeed.”

Peterson: “It’s critical that adults need to believe in students that they can achieve, that they can become something.” He would press for rigorous educational experiences for students so they can have the opportunity, if they choose, to go to college. Students also need access to career technical courses for other career options.

• How can schools remedy and/or address teen pregnancy?

Peterson: “It’s a huge issue in our society at large, not just a school issue.” The solution comes with parent engagement and supporting parents in getting involved in their children’s lives.

Drake: “It leads back to involving students in the decision making of their lives. Students don’t always appreciate how their actions can sometimes dramatically affect their future.” Work must be done with parents and students as part of the overall education experience.

• Why do you think the school district has a 30 percent dropout rate?

Peterson: “There are some adults out there that don’t think kids can learn or excel in the classroom.” He said that view can bring children down, and that it can be changed. “We can say we believe in you, you can achieve. You might not achieve in all areas, but you can find areas to achieve in and be successful in life.”

Drake: “We’re not always meeting the needs of every student. We are not gearing many of our classes to meet the needs of the total spectrum.” She added that career technical education is one critical piece to reaching more students. “Not every student is going to be a college bound student, but we need to provide a gamut so every student can succeed.”

• Carrie BeSerra statement

My name is Carrie BeSerra and I am running for Federal Way School Board. My family has called Federal Way home for 12 years. I have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in speech and hearing sciences and volunteer in my church, homeowners association, my children’s school activities and their Girl Scout troop. I am running for school board to make certain that all children in the Federal Way School District get the best education humanly possible. I want every young person to bring their magical love of learning to school and be proud of everything they are able to accomplish and achieve. We can help our students be the best they can be by making certain that all our schools are effective. Characteristics of effective schools include great teachers, strong leadership, optimal class size, academic focus, a technology and library program, and high parental involvement. During tough economic times when every dollar counts, we must keep to a budget. Now more than ever we need common sense to prioritize what is most important for Federal Way’s public schools. You can find me on Facebook at Carrie-BeSerra-Federal-Way-School-Board-Position-3. Questions? Contact me at cabeserra.beserra8@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.


Danny Peterson: askdannypeterson@gmail.com or (253) 838-2789

Liz Drake: liz4director@gmail.com or (253) 347-6683

Carrie BeSerra: cabeserra@comcast.net or (206) 799-1631

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