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Election forum: School board candidates call for better communication | Peterson unopposed for pos. 3
Candidates for Federal Way School Board attended a public forum Oct. 12 at the Federal Way High School little theater. There is now just one contested race: Claire Wilson and Gail Crabtree are vying for position 2, which is being vacated by current board member Suzanne Smith.
Wilson was a teacher for 10 years in the Tacoma School District. She is currently executive director of early learning for Puget Sound Educational Service District, where she has worked almost 20 years. She has also served on several boards, including PTA, a Standards Based Education committee and Citizens for Federal Way Schools as a representative of Valhalla Elementary.
Wilson said the experience at the Puget Sound Education Service District has shown her how several other school districts work.
Crabtree has a history with Federal Way schools. Aside from volunteering at Totem Middle School, she has served as board president of the Star Lake Improvement Club. Crabtree has also served as mission board president for ongoing charity projects in Romania and the Philippines, she said. Crabtree said the board and district should focus on improving learning conditions for grade school, which she believes is a critical window for shaping students’ education.
Wilson believes the most important issue facing the school district is the need to improve early learning, especially at the grade school level. Crabtree said the most important issue facing the school district right now is the controversies at Thomas Jefferson High School, which is in the area represented by this school board position.
Both candidates stressed the need for more parental engagement as well as better communication between the school board and the public. Wilson said her job, if elected, is to make herself available for conversation and dialogue, such as at open forums or roundtable meetings.
“I don’t know any parent who doesn’t want their child to be successful. They may just not know how to do that,” Wilson said.
Crabtree echoed that sentiment, suggesting monthly meetings with parents in the community to show that they’re cared about. “We need to have an ongoing relationship with parents so that they feel comfortable in knowing from us what is needed from them to help their students. A lot of times, they don’t know,” Crabtree said.
Both candidates reiterated the need for Federal Way schools to fight for fair funding from the state. Wilson said the most critical step is to work with legislators on a funding formula to put Federal Way on par with other districts.
One topic that came up was the diversity in the school district. Federal Way students represent at least 112 different languages that are spoken in the homes. Candidates were asked how they would address this challenge.
“We can’t stereotype anyone,” said Wilson, noting that diversity adds a complexity to education. She said it’s key to communicate with this diverse range of families. “We have to meet the needs of every student, regardless of where they are… My biggest hope is that we can develop a community that sees all residents as partners.”
Crabtree noted her experience with children in foreign countries. “When I was in the Philippines, the kids’ favorite subjects were math and English,” she said. “Every kid can learn. It doesn’t matter what language they speak… It doesn’t matter what their culture is. They just need to be motivated and helped by the schools.”
Both candidates support the school district’s academic acceleration policy. However, they both said there were problems with the policy’s implementation. Wilson said the policy brings deeper understanding, deeper learning and more opportunities to students. However, the district needed more dialogue and foresight for any problems with its implementation. Crabtree said the policy is good in allowing more students a chance to succeed, but criticized the lack of preparation for implementing the policy. She said older students can help mentor younger students and bring them along in these more rigorous courses.
Danny Peterson and position 3
In the race for Federal Way School Board position 3, Liz Drake withdrew after accepting the principal job at Thomas Jefferson High School. This leaves Danny Peterson as the sole active candidate for position 3. He addressed the audience briefly at Wednesday’s forum.
“I want to see all the students have an amazing education,” Peterson said. “We have a melting pot of people from all different cultures here. We need to have people on the board that realize that there’s different cultures, different perspectives. I am someone who has that experience from being in different places around the world. I am excited to be able to contend for that.”
Peterson has a master’s degree in teaching from Seattle Pacific University. He has traveled to 25 countries to work with students on education and health projects. Peterson's website is www.electdanny.com.