Opinion

Race for vacant school board seat is worth vigorous debate | Roegner

The race for Federal Way School Board position 4 will be interesting as there are notable similarities and differences in the two leading candidates, Medgar Wells and Carol Gregory. Both have a history of education involvement.

The third candidate K. Lance Barton’s background is completely different than the other two. The race also has had its own behind-the-scenes intrigue. The position is being vacated by Angela Griffin, and her intended retirement was kept so quiet that many people almost missed it.

With all the potential issues confronting the school district, the race is worthy of a vigorous debate from the candidates.

Medgar Wells is the principal at Overcomer Academy, which has 140 students in K-6 grades. He was also at Zion Preparatory Academy and has taught in public schools in Seattle and Kent. He has lived in Federal Way for four years. His family has been involved in education and civil rights for many years. His mother spent her career working in schools, and he is named after the famous civil rights leader Medgar Evers. He has not been involved in any of the the Federal Way district’s committees, although he does volunteer at King County Corrections on weekends.

This will be Wells’s first run for office. He has been endorsed by Griffin and State Rep. Roger Freeman (D). Wells is not well known in the area, but school board president and supporter Tony Moore has been introducing him around.

Wells will have to work hard to improve his name familiarity. Wells believes the district needs to put more technology in the classroom and improve the graduation rate. He also questions what is the best way to spend money from the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision for fair education funding.

In contrast, Carol Gregory is probably the best known of the three candidates, as she has lived in the area for many years. She has previously run for the Legislature and knows how to campaign at this level. Like Wells, she exudes a passion for education and has made it her life’s work.

Gregory’s background is primarily in the public schools. She has held numerous positions in education from classroom teacher to administrator. She is a former president of the Washington Education Association, was on the community engagement staff for former Gov. Booth Gardner, and was executive director of community relations for former Superintendent of Schools Judith Billings.

Gregory believes the public needs to be more fully engaged in district decisions and wants to start a formal and informal dialogue process outside of board meetings to ensure two-way communication with parents. She wants access to a quality education for all students and to make sure those in the middle aren’t left out. She would also like to see a focus on helping teachers. With new budget money coming from the state, she wants public input to ensure the district spends the money wisely.

The third candidate is K. Lance Barton, a former Marine, cowboy and automotive technician who says he was once in charge of the Weapons Control System for the F117 stealth fighter. He volunteers with the Department of Wildlife. He says “his favorite job is raising his 12-year-old eighth-grader to be a mighty man of God.” He says he is not a politician, but was less clear about his plans for the district, if he is elected.

Name familiarity and campaign organization will be important. Wells and Gregory have education backgrounds and campaign connections, and seem most likely to advance to the general election.

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