Since being selected as Federal Way Public Schools superintendent in April, Tammy Campbell has spent hundreds of hours getting to know our community.
This has included meeting with every principal, essentially every community leader and dozens of concerned parents, teachers and staff members. Campbell has also visited most of our schools and attended several community events.
While this outreach has included the usual list of movers and shakers, Campbell has also made an effort to reach out to members of the community whose voices often go unheard. This includes scheduling community meetings in low-income apartment buildings, as well as meeting with church congregations and doing a ride along with the police chief. The only outreach effort she hasn’t tried is going door to door (though I wouldn’t put it past her).
One could be tempted to label these efforts as simply being part of her job description. However, Campbell invested hundreds of hours into our community before she was even on the payroll.
Both before and after her official first day of July 1, Campbell has spent dozens of evenings and weekends meeting with groups that aren’t available during normal business hours. As a reminder, Campbell doesn’t get overtime pay, which to me says that she is going well beyond her job description.
As a further example of her commitment to our community, Campbell and her husband Kyle are in the process of moving to Federal Way and are planning on buying a home here in the near future.
In addition to being committed to our community, Campbell is simply a delightful person. I have had the opportunity to meet with her on several occasions and each time I was impressed with not only her passion, but also her desire to ensure everyone (including yours truly) has a voice in making our schools a better place to learn.
This passion, however, should not be confused with some kind of naive bliss. Campbell is quick to acknowledge the many challenges facing our district, including high poverty levels and below average test scores.
While these challenges alone will be enough to keep her busy for years, she is already being faced with a budget crisis, courtesy of the state Legislature. In their recent budget, the state finally included a raise for teachers.
Unfortunately, the state’s budget allocation only covers raises for about two-thirds of our teachers. Though it might be tempting to suggest that only the best two-thirds of teachers be given raises, the district doesn’t have a method for identifying best or worst teachers, nor would the union allow them to even consider such a move. Therefore, the district is stuck paying for the remaining one-third of teachers from their own budget.
This unfunded raise represents $4.8 million annually and is certainly more than the district can “squeeze” out of their budget. It will instead require either deep program cuts or some kind of increase in tax revenues.
Both are ugly choices and present Campbell with a difficult challenge that probably wasn’t on her plan for her second full month on the job. This will prove an early test of her ability to make difficult decisions while maintaining the support of the community.
To their credit, instead of making an executive decision, Campbell and the school board have already been reaching out to community members to solicit feedback. They are also working diligently to communicate with every possible community group as well as ensuring that school principals are also able to share the how, what and why with families.
Whatever their ultimate decision, Campbell and the school board have my full support. If they don’t yet have your support or if you are concerned about something entirely different, reach out to the district as they are listening, really listening.
I offer my heartfelt thanks to the school board for their tireless efforts on behalf of our community. Hiring Campbell is just one example of their commitment. I am anxiously awaiting their next move.
Contact Federal Way resident Matthew Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org.