Candidates wish to steer the future of Renton schools

Part three in The Renton Reporter’s candidate questionnaire series

Renton residents may feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of candidates and important races happening this year. Between mayor and city council, there are a lot of issues and questions residents are pondering before putting pen to ballot.

But a third race includes more than just residents within Renton proper, but all residents living within the Renton School District boundaries. The race for Renton School District Board of Directors can affect how property taxes to fund school programs are spent in the future, what students receive what resources and how the school district operates on a whole for the next few years.

Seven candidates are running for three positions on the board this year. The only race that will be affected by the primary election in August is for the seat representing District No. 3.

As the final part of The Renton Reporter’s three-part questionnaire series, school district candidates were given the chance to answer questions provided to them by the paper.

All candidates received the same questions and answers were edited for spelling and grammar only. Here’s the full list of questions and answers, a shorter list was featured in the print edition of the Reporter:

Renton School Board of Directors

District No. 1

•Incumbent Alisa Louie

Age: 35

Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No

Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? No

What area do you live in the school district?

District 1 – Talbot Hill neighborhood

What is your full-time career? Are you retired?

I currently teach K-5th grades in the Auburn School District. In my role I am an ELL (English Language Learner) teacher, as well as a teacher coach and technology specialist.

Why are you choosing to run or run for reelection?

I am seeking to retain my seat as a school board director because the Renton School District is currently making great growth for students. The current Board of Directors and superintendent’s leadership team has worked to ensure fiscal security, student achievement and community partnerships to provide whole-child supports.Continuing this work is important to me.

Additionally, I am the only public school teacher serving on the current board. We are fortunate in Renton to have board directors with knowledge about business, children’s health, community history and education. It is important for our students, families and district staff to have a voice that represents work happening at the classroom level for students. As a practicing and award winning public school educator, I am a full-time advocate for students, school staff and families.

My passion for our community, as well as engagement with local, state and national education policy, allows me to understand the needs of students in our schools. I work tirelessly to support the Renton School District in offering world-class education opportunities to our students and community. I want to continue serving our community in this role.

What experience do you have that would benefit this position?

As a graduate of the Renton School District, I have given back to my community since my time as a student. I have demonstrated consistent successful performance of all four school board director roles (hiring and evaluating a superintendent, providing input for district’s vision and direction, overseeing district budget, policy making and upholding). Experiences that provide me a strong base for this work include:

•Current Vice-President to the Renton School District Board of Directors

•Foundations of Boardsmanship, WSSDA

•Current President of the Way Back Inn (a non-profit organization focused on transitional housing for families with children in Renton and Tukwila). In this role, I direct a $250,000 annual budget.

•2017 Washington State Teacher of the Finalist, Regional Teacher of the Year

•Board member of Washington Teacher Advisory Council

•Bill & Melinda Gates’ Foundation’s Teacher Advisory Council member

•Renton School District’s Capital Facilities Advisory Committee member

•Renton School District’s Enrollment Review Committee member

•City of Renton Parks, Recreation and Natural Areas Plan Steering Committee

•National Network for Teachers of the Year

•Auburn School District Strategic Plan Committee

•Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction work groups

•Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession – Recruiting Washington Teachers work group

•Contributing author to Corelaborate, a state-wide education blog

What are your top three priorities for Renton School District?

Each student graduates from the Renton School Districts with all options available to them.

Our school system makes measurable growth towards equity for students, closing both opportunity and achievement gaps.

The Renton School District acts with a sense of fiscal responsibility, balancing providing students with resources, demonstrating transparency and honoring tax payers’ money.

How would you make sure families’ and educators’ voices are heard at the district level?

As a parent and teacher, I offer one voice from both of those groups. However, we need to hear from all families and educators. Annual surveys allow for high level communication, but I am a huge advocate for creating informal and formal relationships and opportunities for all stakeholders to reach out to district staff and board directors.

What are your financial priorities for the school district?

My financial priorities are those that align with my priorities of providing options for students, making growth towards equity for students and ensuring fiscal responsibility.

How will you handle crowding at Renton schools?

I am an advocate for funding a new school to alleviate elementary crowding. In serving on our Enrollment Review Committee, I am very knowledgeable about pockets of growth in our district. We have strong support in our community and our tax payers have provided the Renton School District with beautiful facilities. To continue to have room for all students, I believe we need to upkeep the buildings we have, as well as continue to grow where needed.

What is your biggest concern with education today?

The greatest concern with local education today is funding resources needed for student success. The needs for increased mental health supports, community resource collaborations and 21st century learning are rising. With current legislation around levies, we continue to need to advocate for appropriate funding to move forward with learning that will support all students.

Contact information and campaign information website:

www.alisalouie.com

alisa.l.louie@gmail.com

Joe Todd

Age: 42

Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No

Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? No

What area do you live in the school district?

Talbot Hill Area

What is your full-time career?

Director and CIO, City of Tukwila.

Why are you choosing to run or run for reelection?

I’m passionate about education and how it can create incredible opportunities for success. As parents and leaders we are charged with the stewardship of the environment students grow and learn. We need to insure we are building the right framework and infrastructure for them to thrive now and in the future.

What experience do you have that would benefit this position?

I have experience managing million dollar budgets both in the private and public sector. I understand employees, leadership and elected officials and how to put together winning strategies for them all to succeed. I’m also the chair of a Seattle-based nonprofit that focuses on exposing kids to STEM, along with building grants and proposals to grow and fund the organization.

I also work with local school districts building and teaching STEM education programs.

What are your top three priorities for Renton School District?

Prioritizing budgets and policies that provide equitable services to all Renton students, laser focus on ensuring the Renton School District is preparing its students for the STEM economy, partnering with local organizations and businesses to give Renton students great academic experiences by providing high school internships and real life learning on local projects.

How would you make sure families’ and educators’ voices are heard at the district level?

My goal out of the gate will be to [make sure] there is a framework in place for providing open and honest conversations between district leadership, teachers and parents without fear of retaliation.

What are your financial priorities for the school district?

Ensuring all Renton schools are STEM schools, ensuring equitable services are being provided to all students.

How will you handle crowding at Renton schools?

I think their needs to be a real hard look at the budget. Are we top heavy? If so by how much? Second, what’s our debt capacity? Can the district assume some risk and take on some low interest loans that could build capacity? From a levy perspective is the districting collecting less than its maximum statutory levy rate? If so we could do a temporary lid lift above 1 percent for a year to bring in needed dollars. Bottomline we have to get creative.

Voters need a no nonsense understanding on why the district would need more funding. We have to make the case otherwise voters will not vote for any increase.

What is your biggest concern with education today?

Our schools were built to matriculate students into manufacturing jobs. The economy has changed drastically and STEM jobs are providing the opportunities. We must prepare our students so that they can take advantage of these opportunities

Contact information and campaign information website:

Website – www.votejoetodd.com, info@votejoetodd.com

District No. 3

•Stefanie McIrvin

Age: 34

Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No.

Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? No.

What area do you live in the school district?

District 3, Benson Hill/Cascade Neighborhood.

What is your full-time career? Are you retired?

I am the Director of Applied Baccalaureate Programs at Renton Technical College (RTC). In this position I lead and oversee RTC’s bachelor’s programs in Computer Science and Computer Network Architecture.

Why are you choosing to run or run for re-election?

I am running because I believe that my unique experience and passion for education will be an asset to the Renton School Board. I understand that education is multifaceted – from birth to preschool, elementary, secondary and postsecondary – the journey of each child is important each step of the way. I believe that together we can continue to improve and expand opportunities for all students from all walks of life. Supporting every student starts at the board level where policies and priorities shape and influence district operations.

What experience do you have that would benefit this position?

I have over a decade of experience in education and public policy. I began my career as an organizer for the statewide Simple Majority for Schools initiative. The initiative lowered the school levy passage requirement from a 60 percent supermajority down to a 50 percent plus one simple majority.

What does this mean for our school district? It means that instead of having to spend time and money on major levy campaigns, we are now able to focus on the important stuff; educating students.

More recently in my role at RTC I have partnered with the Renton School District and other local area districts to increase dual credit and Running Start pathways for students. I have also planned and executed several Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) boot camps for middle and high school girls and students of color.

As a City of Renton volunteer I have also supported and led the Renton Historical Society and New Horizon School Board.

Finally, I hold a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) degree from the University of Washington Tacoma.

What are your top three priorities for Renton School District?

If elected to Renton School Board, I will work to (1) ensure our teachers and staff are competitively compensated to attract and retain the best and most diverse workforce, (2) grow and expand partnerships with area two and four-year colleges to increase postsecondary opportunities for all students, and (3) support diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on all levels, including ensuring that school district policies are equitable for all.

How would you make sure families’ and educators’ voices are heard at the district level?

In addition to attending local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and school district meetings and events, I will openly and actively encourage families and educators to attend and share their experiences with directors at board meetings. I will also visit schools in the district to meet one-on-one and in groups with teachers, staff and families to gain their perspectives.

I believe that in these tough financial times it is doubly important to hear from district families and educators to understand what is happening day-to-day and operationally on the ground. The board will need to make tough financial decisions in the next few years and it is imperative that everyone has a voice and that impacts are considered before decisions are made.

What are your financial priorities for the school district?

My main financial priority is to ensure that the district has a balanced budget so that personnel cuts are not necessary.

Unfortunately, due to legislative changes in the school funding model, the district is restricted on how much tax monies we can collect at the local level. This means that in the short term, my priority will be to work with board directors and district staff to identify new funding streams to offset current funding gaps. In the long term, I will work closely with our legislators and allies to address the larger school funding model challenges and ensure that allocations are equitable across all districts. Finally, using new and current funding streams, I will support the continued growth and expansion of the district’s rainy day reserve funds.

How will you handle crowding at Renton schools?

There are many reasons why overcrowding in schools and classrooms is not ideal. Not only does it have the potential to create an unsafe environment, it also makes teaching and learning more difficult.

If elected, I will push for the development of short and long-term plans to address crowding. Short-term options include providing teachers with an aide to assist in the classroom, soliciting local donations to offset funding gaps and applying for supplemental funds through grants. In addition to supporting these short-term options, I will work in close partnership with the city and other local and state legislative and administrative entities to adopt a comprehensive, long-term master plan. This master plan will focus on proactively anticipating changes in future student enrollment and school capacity, which will not only address overcrowding but also assist with long-term district financial planning.

What is your biggest concern with education today?

My biggest concern for education today is funding.

This is true for both the Pre-K – 12 and higher education systems, where nationally we are seeing less funding and resource support for education overall. If we want to continue to support a diverse and educated workforce, then it is imperative that we work together and with local and state representatives to improve and innovate funding streams that are stable and equitable. As a Renton School Board Director I will take this task seriously and advocate for this on behalf of all students, families and educators in the district.

Contact information and campaign information website:

My email address is stefanie4schools@gmail.com, my website is www.stefanie4schools.com and my Facebook is http://www.facebook.com/Stefanie4Schools.

•Jeremy Chambers

Age: 48

Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No.

Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? No.

What area do you live in the school district?

Fairlane Woods

What is your full-time career? Are you retired?

I am a professor, pastor and small business owner. No, I am not retired. I teach marketing and finance at two local universities, I pastor a small church in Renton and I own an Ace Hardware store as well as a Benjamin Moore paint store.

Why are you choosing to run or run for reelection?

I am running because I have volunteered for many years in the Renton School District and find that it is the natural next step in my life as a volunteer and public servant. I believe in my community. And, although the district is a great district, there are still some areas for improvement including parent involvement, diversity and equity issues, and development in continued technical education.

What experience do you have that would benefit this position?

There are two primary areas that benefit me in the school district. I have extensive experience with parent organizations especially in the area of PTA where my wife, Mona, and I have worked diligently with many other wonderful parents to grow existing programs.

Also, we re-established the Lindbergh Boosters program after a difficult time where it almost disappeared. In fact, last year that program raised $35,000 at the auction alone including funding the scholarship program. We are very proud to have worked with such wonderful folks.

Also, I have an extensive background as a professor teaching both marketing and finance at Northwest University in Kirkland as well as at City University of Seattle. This provides me a unique perspective into how our secondary system should prepare students for their future.

What are your top three priorities for Renton School District?

My top three priorities include;

Parent involvement — Most research shows that parent involvement greatly improves student performance.

Diversity and equity issues — My experience has been that young people in certain ethnic groups tend to not see themselves as college-bound. I hope to change this.

Finally, technical education is an extremely important issue in the district. We have a great team of administrators and teachers, but they are relatively new and they need support. Technical education provides many students an excellent option they might not otherwise have to work in well-paid jobs.

How would you make sure families’ and educators’ voices are heard at the district level?

I will make sure families and educators voices are heard simply by listening.

Having been a parent in the district for more than 20 years, it is unique when a district official comes to a PTA meeting or a boosters meeting. These are perfect opportunities to have close conversations with parents in the district. Similarly, attending teacher on-site meeting and trainings are good opportunities to meet and listen to educators.

Finally, I have found that personal relationships are valuable and have been able to make great relationships with teachers and administrators at local schools by one-on-one meet-ups.

What are your financial priorities for the school district?

Right now, the financial priority is funding physical capacity as the district continues to grow. However, as the district operates, we need to make sure that teachers are paid competitively so that the district attracts and retains the highest quality teachers possible. Partnering with parent organizations who fundraise will help us focus the budget on these priorities while adding and maintaining a variety of other programming including clubs, athletics, arts and many more.

We want the best of everything we can provide to our students to make their educational journey spectacular, and a three-way team is vital: families, the district and teachers.

How will you handle crowding at Renton schools?

Crowding in Renton schools is the result of population growth in a strong economy. Simply put, people are moving to Renton. This is a good thing in many ways.

However, we need to make sure that we continue planning our fiscal policy many years in advance as we currently do so that we can continue property acquisition and facility development. However, while we will likely struggle with this problem for years to come since Renton is a great place to live. Attracting excellent administration, staff and teachers will help us manage through the crowding issue. Great teachers make for great student experiences.

What is your biggest concern with education today?

My biggest concern for education today is that we are not preparing students for the next step in their educational journey. As a professor I see the results of our secondary system constantly and have been very discouraged at times.

However, I have also been delighted by the excellence of many incoming freshmen to my classes. The variety of performance can be mitigated by best practices in educational policy including (but not limited to);

•Making sure all children see higher education as possible for them;

•Getting parents involved by shaping parent organizations in ways that invite wide participation;

•Emphasizing the option for technical training and demanding more from our students.

It is my belief that students will rise or fall to a standard. If we put a high standard in front of a student, work through the obstacles that prevent performance and reward achievement, the Renton School District will continue to produce outstanding talent in our student population.

In order to make this happen we need strong directors at the district who feel a strong sense of team with the superintendent as well as other staff. We need to attract excellent teachers providing them competitive compensation including many opportunities for training and growth. And, we need a highly involved base of parents from every corner of society in Renton in our elementary, middle and secondary schools. This is my focus.

Contact information and campaign information website:

The website is www.jeremychambers.org.

The emails are jeremy@jeremychambers.org, or Joseph Franco is my campaign manager and can be reached at jomar@jeremychambers.org.

•Kristen Deskin

Age: 31

Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No

Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? No

What area do you live in the school district?

Renton School District, Area 3. Cascade/Fairwood neighborhood. [My] 10 and 5-year-old attend Cascade Elementary School.

What is your full-time career? Are you retired?

I have been serving children and families for the past 15 years as an educator and administrator. Currently I coach and mentor teachers through state and national accreditations.

Why are you choosing to run or run for reelection?

Serving families, advocating for teachers and fighting for high quality education for all is my passion. I have dedicated my professional career to empowering children, challenging the status quo, and demanding educators receive the respect they have earned.

The youngest members of our community deserve to be valued and celebrated, learning in a community which is safe, nurturing and honors the whole child. My mission is to ensure all children have equal access to education, starting right here in our own community. Joining the Renton School Board will help me in achieving this goal.

What experience do you have that would benefit this position?

Please see the candidates full answer online.

Please see my resume below.

Kristen Deskin

Experienced leader with skills needed to cultivate a culture of creativity, innovation and teamwork. Managed multi-site programs ensuring safety, maintenance, and government compliance. Coached and mentored teachers through DCYF Licencing Compliance, Seattle Preschool Partners’ Compliance, accreditation through the The National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education Programs Child (NAC), and accreditation through the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). I am Running for Renton School Board to utilize my passion for serving the public and the opportunity to grow as a community leader. Areas of Excellence Coaching and Mentoring teams to exceed state and national standards Ability to create and manage to a budget with successful financial forecasting Skilled at marketing programs and communicating with community Excellent at emergent curriculum development and implementation Able to recruit, develop, and retain talented team members Certified in Early Childhood Education 15 years serving diverse family populations 7 years management experience Knowledge of Washington State licensing requirements with DCYF and City of Seattle DEEL Proficient with CACFP, CLASS, ERS (ITER and ECCER), TSG, Brightwheel and Procare

Work Experience

Program Manager

Interlake Child Care and Learning Center – Seattle, WA

November 2018 to Present

Coach and mentor educators to uphold DCYF and NAEYC standards. Oversee daily classrooms operations for intimate program serving children 8 weeks- 6 years.

Responsible for on and off boarding, staff development, and supporting the Board of Directors.. Ensure quality curriculum and child interactions. • Developed more effective on and off boarding process • Prepped for NEAYC reaccreditation • Upheld licensing compliance • Streamlined curriculum cycle • Trained teachers on Teaching Strategies Gold and Creative Curriculum

Program Manager and Marketing Specialist

Vision House – Renton, WA

July 2017 to June 2018

Oversaw 6 classrooms serving children 6 weeks- 12 years. Upheld curriculum standards, ensured

quality communication with families, planned and scheduled enrichment programs. Ran marketing campaigns via email, social media, and print media. • Passed Early Achievers Rerating • Prepped for NAC re-accreditation • Upheld licensing compliance • Trained and proficient in CLASS and ERS • Trained teachers on classroom management

Director of Operations, Marketing, and Sales

WiggleWorks kids – Bellevue, WA

November 2013 to May 2017

Developed team trainings around customer service, sales, and teamwork. Ran all aspects of daily operations for a multi-site indoor children’s enrichment facility. Held

accountable to monthly expenses, quarterly revenue, and yearly profit goals. Ran marketing

campaigns via email, social media, and print media. Created original programming and curriculum. Connected with community leaders and organizations to build lasting mutually beneficial relationships.

• Won 2017 Eastside Small Business of the Year from Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. • Increased revenue and decreased spending during first two years yielding higher profit margin. • Developed, implemented, and assessed monthly Parent’s Night Out child care program and summer WiggleWorkshop mini camps. • Established Core Values of company in collaboration with owner. • Revamped marketing materials and website to better reflect core values. • Increased staff retention and strengthened leadership team.

Program Director

Associated Recreation Council – Seattle, WA

September 2012 to April 2013

Planned and directed before/after school child care and summer day camp programs for youth ages 5-12 yrs old. Worked with Community Center staff to coordinate events, programs and community outreach. Supported other ARC programs within the community center by being a part of planning, marketing and coordination of child care program events and projects. • Developed programs that were developmentally age appropriate, culturally relevant and focused on creating an inclusive, caring environment for children and families. • Oversaw program staff including scheduling and on the job training which significantly increased employee morale. • Transformed center and successfully re-certified license with Department of Early Learning (DEL). • Revised budget for decreased spending which increased profitability without compromising the

quality of care. • Partnered with families and school to support special needs children.

Assistant Program Director

Kids Co at Adams – Seattle, WA

August 2011 to September 2012

Assisted program director with all aspects of child care program for children 3-12 yrs. This included developing curriculum, organizing new classrooms, managing budgets and supporting the daily operations of the center. • Transformed afterschool programs to be more child centered increasing child and family satisfaction and participation. • Provided leadership in accomplishing and maintaining NAC accreditation and DEL recertification. • Ensured children’s nutrition needs were met through successful implementation of Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). • Motivated staff to maximize collaboration, retention and employee growth. • Created a new filing system that increased safety and accountability.

Lead Infant/Toddler Teacher

Kindercare – Sammamish, WA

June 2010 to August 2011

Planned and implemented activities that promote the social, physical, and intellectual growth of

children ages 6 wks-2 yrs old. • Planned age appropriate activities and encouraged child participation. • Led the team of infant and toddler teachers ensuring appropriate new hire training including KLC and WAC policies and procedures. • Communicated directly with families on daily activities of their children and ongoing development. • Maintained classroom records and learning assessment portfolios.

Assistant Director

Issaquah Children’s Academy – Issaquah, WA

May 2009 to June 2010

Assisted the academy director with developing and assessing specialty programs, implementing

curriculum, managing teachers and supporting the daily operations of the center for children birth-12 yrs. • Ensured a welcoming and friendly environment for children and families. • Motivated and trained staff to maximize collaboration, retention and employee growth. • Recruited new families by developing information packets and hosting center tours. • Developed and marketed a fun and educational school age summer program. • Drove Academy mini-bus to transport children.

Education

Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education

Ashford University

2012

Skills

Leadership Development (8 years), Management (8 years), Curriculum Development (10+ years), Quality Assurance (10+ years), Strategic Planning (5 years), Budget Oversight (8 years) =

Awards

Eastside Small Business of the Year

March 2017

Bellevue Chamber of Commerce

Certifications/Licenses

20 basic STARS

2007 to Present

Emergency Medical Technician

April 2011 to Present

North Seattle Community College

Groups

Carco Theatre Board of Directors

November 2018 to Present

Marketing Committee • Led research efforts to produce competitive analysts and recommend pricing strategy to Board

Holy Spirit Preschool Board of Directors

2016-17 School Year

Fundraising Chair

• Ran all fundraising efforts: tee-shirt sales, walk-a-thon, candy bar sales, auction, etc. 10.

What are your top three priorities for Renton School District?

•Balancing the budget by creating new lines of revenue

•Bridging the gap between early learning programs and elementary schools

•Address overcrowding and lack of available resources to teachers and families

How would you make sure families’ and educators’ voices are heard at the district-level?

Spending time in the community, attending PTA meetings, advertise open office hours, stay connected on social media and [I’d] generate monthly newsletter about what I have been up to and how I am serving the community with opportunities to get involved. Also find a way to provide childcare during school board meetings so it is not a barrier for community members to attend.

What are your financial priorities for the school district?

Balancing the budget by creating new lines of revenue. Explore rental revenue opportunities, community partnerships and resources for PTA fundraisers. Focus on teacher retention, bring down on-boarding costs.

How will you handle crowding at Renton schools?

Researching out-of-the-box ideas that districts around the globe are trying.

Present a real proposal, based on proven success rates, for a long term solution. Types of possibilities I plan to explore [include]; year round school, a four-day school week, cohort rotations, block scheduling, staggered group instruction versus study days, technical programs for high school students and any other idea our community members want to explore.

What is your biggest concern with education today?

Through my 15 years experience working directly with children/families in an educational setting, I truly understand the needs we are failing to meet.

While our low-income families may be supported by various state and federally-funded programs, our middle-income families are left without affordable options for care. The cost of quality early childhood education and after school care is a detrimental burden and understandably cannot be prioritized over basic household needs. Scientific evidence suggests long-term education outcomes are determined by early childhood success. Unfortunately, birth-to-5 programs are undervalued and under-funded.

Contact information and campaign information website:

Kristen Deskin

253-332-6634

VoteDeskinForChage@gmail.com

www.VoteDeskinForChange.org

https://www.facebook.com/votedeskinforchange/

www.linkedin.com/in/kristendeskin

District No. 4

•Incumbent Gloria Hodge

Age: The candidate did not respond to the question.

Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No.

Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? No.

What area do you live in the school district?

[I’m a ] proud resident of the Skyway-Lakeridge community. This area is also known as the West Hill.

What is your full-time career? Are you retired?

My career has been dedicated to the field of education. I am the Center Director of a Vietnamese-English Bilingual preschool (the first center with this model in the northwest and one of the few in our nation) and an after-school program with Seattle Public Schools.Both are located in Southeast Seattle.

Why are you choosing to run or run for reelection?

The success of our students and community is very important to me. I am seeking re-election to continue working with the board and Renton School District to see that our students receive the best education possible.

Where I reside, families often struggle with barriers/challenges that impact the educational progress of their children. It is important for me to continue to offer a voice for those that may not always know how to navigate systems.

I am passionate about our community and the success of the Renton School District’s students.

What experience do you have that would benefit this position?

My experiences are varied but they are all related to education and students.

First and foremost, I am a parent of a student in the district and have been an active volunteer at her school during the past six years. During this time, I served on various committees with Renton schools.I know what schools and families can do together to support students.

Equally important, I have been on the Renton school board for almost four years. I have served as the Vice President and have effectively worked with the board, the superintendent and district staff. Together with the board, I have strived to see that the decisions we made are centered on the interests of students and families.

One of the actions we have carried out, the Renton Innovation Zone (RIZ), is an important strategy aimed to produce significant improvement in the learning of students. This initiative provides our families with family engagement opportunities and, at the same time, offering our educators a clear pathway to achieve success for our students.

We also launched the before and after school program with Right at School.

As a board member, I worked with an interim superintendent for two years, conducted a search and hired an excellent new superintendent that will lead our district to the next level.

I am knowledgeable about the licensing process for new programs and managing construction and budgets for child care centers. I am experienced in working with the community and partnerships to ensure the attainment of success of educational programs.

I also have been part of successful education levies such as the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Plan, which not only provides access to preschool for Seattle residents, but also provides community college for Seattle high school graduates.

My other experiences include working for a nonprofit organization and school districts in southern California. Together, these experiences will bolster my abilities to serve as an informed and committed board member.

What are your top three priorities for Renton School District?

Board members do not serve the community independently or in isolation.

I will continue to work with the board and district to support [my] stated priorities.

We have identified the following; The roll out of the dual-language program is key as our district is very diverse; The dual-language program will help prepare our students become citizens who are fluent in English and another language, and gain added advantages in the work place later in life. Renton Schools will have even more to offer K-12 learners.

Early learning expansion is another priority. We want to see that our waitlists are minimized and the children have access to quality preschool during this crucial time in their early years of learning.

Another area of great importance is continued support for our special education programs. There is a large population requiring this service. We want to make certain that staff and parents have adequate support to address the unique needs of this vulnerable population.

How would you make sure families’ and educators’ voices are heard at the district-level?

Hearing the voices of families and educators is critical for a collaborative and committed district. Family engagement is important as we strive to develop and prepare children for their future after graduating from our district.

Families and educators can continue to have their voices heard by attending our board meetings and sharing their ideas or concerns. They can work with us on committees, or reach out to board members and the appropriate district administrators via telephone, emails or meetings. We also have interpreters for parents who need this type of assistance.

What are your financial priorities for the school district?

Seeing that our bond measure in the fall is validated is crucial. Not only is our enrollment growing, there are several repairs needed across the district to ensure that our schools, sports facilities and buildings are properly maintained. More information can be found here; https://www.rentonschools.us/departments/facilities-maintenance/school-construction-bond-nov2019.

Also, as mentioned earlier, funding for special education is a necessity.

There is an urgent need for these services and they are very costly.

How will you handle crowding at Renton schools?

Since my service on the board, we have opened two new schools. Sartori is the first STEM school in our district and Risdon is the newest middle school in 50 years. We also had a bond measure on the ballot this past February to build a new elementary school addressing the growth with the northeast part of our district. The bond was not validated and we will seek to have it validated in November to assist with the growth. I will also work with the district to see that class sizes are maintained to ensure the students and staff have the support they need for a successful education.

What is your biggest concern with education today?

High quality education is a crucial necessity for all students. One of my biggest concerns with public education is the continuous lack of funding that is available for districts. It is a very complex system and should be elevated to a higher priority than other arenas. Public education should be fully funded to help students develop to their full potential and for us to produce responsible future citizens, workers and leaders who are well informed, skilled, talented, competent and competitive.

Contact information and campaign information website:

Email — hodgeg700@gmail.com

•Suzette Espinoza Cruz

Espinoza Cruz has not submitted contact information to King County Elections or sent information to the Reporter. The Renton Reporter was unable to provide a questionnaire to the candidate.

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