Incumbent Luckisha Phillips, who is vying for the Federal Way Public Schools Board District 3 position against challenger Tenya Magruder, recently sat down with the Mirror to answer the following questions:
What motivates you to run for this position?
Phillips is a mother with four kids in the district, ages 15, 11, 10 and 2.
“That means I have 15 years left in this school district. I am invested in Federal Way doing well.”
As a professor of early childhood education, she brings to the board experience of creating safe schools.
“My passion is advocating for children with special needs, and I’m an educator, which means I understand the importance of retaining our quality teachers so we can increase the educational outcomes for the city of Federal Way.”
What particular skills or experiences would you bring to this position?
“I am a professor of early childhood education, which means I have quite a bit of education and experience around working with children and families.”
She has also worked as a social worker with children coming out of the foster care system and parents coming out of incarceration.
“I’ve worked up and down the King County corridor in children’s mental health as a children’s mental health specialist, so I have quite a bit of experience around social and emotional needs of our youth,” she said. “I think it’s important to have a current parent on the school board that can also contribute those skills.”
Describe your top three objectives if you are elected and how you will address those issues.
“I’m very much passionate around special needs children and increasing our funding for special education.”
Phillips said she is also passionate about safety in schools for everyone that sets foot in them.
“I have small kids in these schools, so I’m interested in our safety not only in the classroom, but in our schools and for the adults that are working in the schools.”
She also wants students in the district to be college and career ready once they graduate.
“I’m a professor, so I get a lot of the students from the Federal Way School District. I want to make sure they have the skills they need when they decide to go to school or whether they decide to go straight to work.”
What are two strengths of which our district can be proud of and why?
“I would say the kids. I might be a little biased because I have a few children here, but I would say our strengths are definitely our children.”
Phillips said Federal Way has such a diverse population with 115 languages spoken in the schools, which is a huge strength in the community.
How would you ensure that the district provides a quality education for the most diverse student population in Washington state?
Phillips said the district is responsible for creating policies and procedures to serve the diverse student population in Federal Way, which is how she looks at policy.
“Writing policy is multi-faceted. It’s like looking at a rock or diamond. You have to look at all the different perspectives to make sure the policy is actually moving in the right direction.”
This is a strength she believes she brings to the school board.
“I like looking at policy and making sure that we are keeping all of our children in mind, all of their diversity… we want to make sure that our policies move all of our kids forward,” she said. “We have 23,000 students, so we want to make sure that it encompasses everything so that it actually helps them move forward.”
What kind of sex education do you favor for students in the district?
“I am a mom, again I have four kiddos so of course I would like our kids to not ever be in relationships, but I do think that it is important for us to have a comprehensive understanding of anatomy, physiology and things that keep our kids safe.”
Phillips said students nowadays have access to so much information via the internet, and sex education should come from educators in schools.
“I believe in our educators, I believe in their experience and their ability to teach our kids the things that they need to keep them safe.”
She added that sex education is not something that the board is reviewing.
“If it does ever come to the school board, that is something that needs to be transparent, evidence-based and inclusive of parent and student voice, which is something I would make sure happens.”
What steps should the district take to protect students from gun violence?
“When I talk about school safety, it is around this,” she said. “I think there can be socioemotional skills that need to be learned in the classroom. Essentially, teaching our children how to get along and how to work with each other and how to support each other.”
The issue of gun violence is a community issue, not just an issue for schools to solve.
“I do think it’s a community issue. It’s not just the schools that can keep the kids safe but our city, our nonprofits and our other organizations also have to work well to keep our schools safe.”
Phillips has spent the last nine months learning about school safety and plans to continue learning about this issue in the future.
What are your financial priorities for the district?
“I’m a strong advocate for special education and I think that we could explore ways to fully fund our special education services.”
The district has about 1,300 children with special needs, so she said it’s important that the district creates ways to ensure they have everything they need to keep up with their classmates and graduate on time.
If you could ask your challenger for this position one question, what would that be and why?
“I think I would ask some of the questions that were asked here today. How are you going to support all of the children in our school district regardless of their race, socioeconomic status or how they identify? And what are your goals to make sure that all of the kids, including mine are getting across that stage at graduation?”