Correction: Contrary to a previous version of this column, Tenya Magruder is an independent. In addition, the column mischaracterized Magruder’s children, who had learning disabilities that were undiagnosed by the school district. Their learning disabilities caused academic difficulty in limited fashion, as they graduated with honors, high honors, in gifted and talented programs.
While it doesn’t get the attention like the City Council, serving on the Federal Way School Board is just as important.
The board has been pretty stable for several years but with Claire Wilson’s election to the state Senate, Dr. Mildred Ollée’s passing, and Carol Gregory stepping down, three new appointed board members have had to learn quickly.
Dr. Jennifer Jones replaced Wilson, and Luckisha Phillips replaced Ollée. Both are already in education as professors at Highline College and have knowledge of the school’s process. However, they have needed to learn the details of the K-12 system with all its legislative and funding challenges, along with local politics. They were joined on the board by Trudy Davis who replaced Gregory.
Board positions are elected from five neighborhood areas that make up the full school district.
In the headline race, Phillips will be challenged by Tenya Magruder to represent District 3. Phillips is a professor of early childhood education and has been on the school board for almost a year. She and her husband have four children, two with special needs. She has raised $10,960 and spent $3,121, leaving plenty for the closing weeks. Contributors include Washington Education Association (WEA), several well-known Democrats in the 30th District where she is active, along with the 47th District Democratic organization and Republican Martin Moore.
While special education in autism and dyslexia are guiding interests, Phillips emphasizes school safety and her desire to promote learning for all. With a diverse student population of 23,000 students Phillips wants all students to get an equal opportunity and be prepared for college, vocational school or the work world.
As a single parent, Magruder raised three children who graduated from Federal Way schools. Magruder shares a notable similarity with Phillips as her children went through the district like Phillips. Her children’s learning disabilities were undiagnosed by the school district. She has lived here for 35 years. Her campaign has been primarily self-funded and she has raised $2,136 and spent $1,657.
Magruder is concerned about the district’s low scores on greatschools .org and wants parents to be aware and try and help. Phillips sees school safety as a community issue and wants more involvement from other community organizations, while Magruder feels it may be time to have law enforcement on campus. Magruder is an independent.
Both candidates see diversity as a district strength and both have questions about the depth of sex education. Phillips says it is not something the district is reviewing at the current time.
In the District 2 position, the appointed incumbent is Dr. Jennifer Jones who is a professor of geography and global studies. Her daughter went through Federal Way schools. Jones also worked as a social worker in Chicago public housing and with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and the Congo.
With over 115 languages spoken in the district, and English frequently a second language, Jones wants to ensure that students learning English have the same opportunities at education as those with English skills. Jones wants sex education to be fact and science based, to ensure students do not get misinformation. She is endorsed by Sen. Wilson and Rep. Kristine Reeves, along with Federal Way Education Association. Jones has not raised much money, but that may not be necessary as her opponent, Elizabeth Carlson, has not raised any money, has no signs out, nor handed out any literature. She has not responded to requests from the Mirror or me for an interview.
Also on the ballot as unopposed are Trudy Davis in Position 4 and Hiroshi Eto in Position 5. These races are important. To readers, try and attend a debate so you can hear firsthand answers to your questions.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.