Incumbent Suzanne Weaver and Layna Crofts are competing for a spot on the Issaquah School District school board. The election will be on Nov. 5.
Weaver has served as the ISD school board director for the past 12 years. According to her candidate statement on the King County Auditor’s Office website, she attended Brown University and University of California, Berkeley.
Crofts is a parent in the district. According to her candidate statement on the King County Auditor’s Office website, she has a bachelor’s degree in social work child development.
How do you feel about the policy limiting honors regalia during graduation ceremonies?
Weaver: We recognize students’ academic achievements with a comprehensive list of summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude graduates and scholarship recipients in the graduation program. Given that fact, I support Issaquah High School’s recommendation to eliminate stoles and cords. I do believe that input from students should be a part of any decision such as this one, so I appreciate the fact that the graduation committee is going to take the issue to students before making a final decision.
Crofts: The Issaquah School District (ISD) needs an independent, lay school board to assure that student and public rights are protected, to sound the alarm against unwise policies, to bring back common sense, and to advocate on behalf of children, parents and educators. Our community must start paying attention to the school board. Two seats up for election are unopposed – that is not right. The old school board has lost common sense, such as not allowing graduating students to wear their regalia. Seriously.
How much should the school board support extracurriculars?
Weaver: One of our published “Ends for Students” is life management and personal awareness: “Students will live healthy, satisfying, and productive lives.” The arts, clubs and sports are an integral part of achieving that goal. Participation in extracurricular activities helps students to identify their personal strengths and interests. Many students who struggle with academics find purpose in their extracurricular pursuits and discover an opportunity to excel. Students graduate as more well-rounded adults. Extracurricular activities are extremely popular with students and participation rates are high. Plays, sports, musical performances and club competitions also create a sense of community by bringing parents and community members into our schools. It is critical for the board to ensure that all students have equal access to participating in extracurriculars.
Crofts: Who really cares about extracurriculars when students aren’t safe, and they aren’t able to read when they graduate? Safety must come before education. Bullying, victim protection, transportation, walking paths to school, infectious diseases, racism and the opioid crisis must have new policies in place created with parents, students, teachers, specialists and administrators to outline specific rules and consequences to help each student progress into adulthood. Secondly, we must refocus on education because kids are graduating without being able to read. We must redirect funds on the students, and what will provide the best education for them.
In King County, we are: Fourth lowest per-pupil spending; fourth lowest in teacher spending per pupil; second lowest in central administration spending per pupil; third highest in unrestricted fund balance per pupil; lowest in special education spending per pupil. (Special education is undervalued in the district. The disparity in special education is unacceptable and must improve. We must create district standards for testing, evaluating, IEPs, and 504 plans to ensure each special education student is genuinely progressing.)
How much should the board be involved in curriculum decisions?
Weaver: School boards are required by law to approve all curriculum. The Issaquah school board has created an entire policy dedicated to instructional program which provides the parameters and the board values that the school district needs to consider when recommending curriculum for board approval. Curriculum should reflect best instructional practice, align with or exceed state standards, address different student learning styles and backgrounds and integrate technology where appropriate. Implementation should be uniform across schools and classes and be regularly monitored. Curriculum is reviewed by an instructional materials committee and is made available for review by the public before adoption. This board policy (executive limitation 14) is monitored annually by the board to ensure that the superintendent is in compliance. And, of course, the board is always available to hear community input and feedback, either in person or by email, before any curriculum adoption.
Crofts: ISD should provide the best scientifically-proven curriculum for each subject. They must also redistribute their elitist programs. If a service is given to some, it should be offered to all. The magnet schools and programs must stop, and those resources should be incorporated into each school. There should be no need for a “lottery” system – ISD has the financial means, the excellent teachers and the parent support to enable each child to receive the best education possible in their neighborhood school.
ISD has many complaints. They need to stop touting how “perfect” they are and form a parent/student complaint and resolution team because conflict is inevitable. ISD has handled disputes by throwing attorneys at problems costing substantial amounts of money (Editor’s note: Crofts is referring to her personal experiences with the district). Education disputes can be expensive, but resolving conflicts does not have to be.
How can the board help teachers and staff overcome affordability issues of living in Issaquah?
Weaver: Affordability of housing is an issue that affects a significant portion of our working population, not just educators. In Sammamish, where I live, the median price of a home is nearly a million dollars, beyond the reach of many people who work in and around our community. There is no question that area housing prices add to the difficulty of recruiting teachers to work in Issaquah and throughout King County. Teacher salaries did see a bump with the state settlement of the McCleary lawsuit, but are still largely limited by state funding. The school board has been in conversations with our various city partners around this issue, in hopes of finding a solution.
Crofts: There is a symbiotic relationship between a fantastic education and a happy teacher. We must start thinking creatively for one example: Reward teachers with bonuses and gifts from a foundation set up solely for this purpose. We can also lower our taxes which would make it more affordable for teachers to live here by not voting on any more bonds and levies. Since 2006 we have awarded ISD almost a billion dollars in bonds. We must go back to using impact fees and common sense.
I am willing to face challenging problems with honesty, creativity, kindness, transparency to the community, and researched solutions. I am committed to helping sustain the progress and make needed changes. I am not entering this campaign to be safe, nor politic, nor popular. I have no fear of “ruffling people’s feathers” as I sweat for reform and needed change. The status quo is not working for so many of our students and we can do better. I beg for your support and vote to make positive changes for our community.