Why I'm Running for the KSD Board
I am running for the school board because I believe the Kent School District can do better for our children. As a parent, I want the best for my kids, which also means the best for your kids too. I believe we will have more success when the focus becomes STUDENTS, STAFF, COMMUNITY.
Students are the #1 priority. The Board needs to address the lack of equity between schools, make sure our students are safe, and give them the best education.
Staff are the key to our students' success. We need many student-facing adults in schools: teachers, para-educators, counselors, nurses, office staff, and others.
Community is important because they are the parents, past students, taxpayers, volunteers, and more.
KSD needs voters to approve bonds and levies. After the most recent bond failed last spring, feedback I heard was that members in the community want new leadership on the school board. The current school board and KSD has had an opportunity to listen to the community, now a change is needed. I want to be that change.
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My employment background is sales, management, marketing, finance, and customer service. Success comes from listening and always trying to do a little bit better than last time. I am also the current Northwood PTSA President, assistant coach of my son’s PGA Jr. League team, and Membership Chair/Director at the Rotary Club of Kent.
Outside of my professional and volunteer roles, I bring a unique perspective as the father of two children currently in KSD. My son has an IEP. In elementary school he was able to achieve his goals and move into HiCap classes in his first year of middle school last year. My daughter also has an IEP and is in SpEd in elementary school. She achieved massive educational improvements over the past year. The role para-educators have played, and continue to play, in the lives of my children cannot be understated. When I hear of potential cuts to these critical student-facing roles, it makes me angry. We need to set every student up for success in school and beyond, and I will use my experience as a father in this district and the skills I've gained in my professional and volunteer roles to help make that happen from the dais.
How will I work to achieve support for appropriate services to all students
I will look at all issues through the lens of the student and ask myself these questions: How will this affect all students, including HiCap and SpEd students? Students with transportation needs? Language interpretation needs? Cultural interpretation services? Nutritional needs? I’m sure this list is not exhaustive and am ready to learn more about the needs of KSD students. Diversity is great for learning and building a community. I will do my best to represent the best interest in all students as a school board director.
Recently, the District cancelled my daughter's IEP, which kept her out of school for more than 10 weeks. We spoke out at Board meetings asking for help and reached out to all of the building-level resources we could find. Eventually we were forced to hire a lawyer, file an OSPI complaint, and get the local media involved. This situation was entirely avoidable and costly for both my family and the District. It was determined, with our attorney’s help, that by nullifying my daughter’s IEP the District acted illegally and deprived her of precious education time.
Eventually, the District was required to compensate us for our attorney and the negative publicity reflected poorly on the District's image. Both of these hits to the District were avoidable had KSD's primary goal been to make sure my daughter received access to supports that are critical for her educational success. I understand hiring a lawyer isn’t always an option all parents can afford and am grateful that my family was able to receive this support, but we should not-nor should other families-have to retain legal counsel ensure our children received IEP services.
I have heard many robust, important conversations from the Board about HiCap programs. However, I do not see the same level of discussion and support dedicated to SpEd students, staff, and programs at the Board level. It is critical that the Board give more funding, attention, and resources to achieve equitable educational opportunities for each student’s diverse needs. I don’t want anyone to have to go through the same experience that we did and I’m a believer that students who receive services (whether it be ELL, Free & Reduced Lunch, SpEd, or any other supports) early in their education may need less services as they progress.
KSD's Top 5 Needs
(and how I want the Board to work to address and meet them)
The Board can control how they choose to communicate with both the District and the community. Currently only one board director consistently responds to constituents. This is a problem because there are five directors elected to represent the community. I would like to see each board member make the commitment to respond to constituents, address concerns with the Superintendent, and follow up with each constituent to ensure appropriate responses occur.
I would also like to see the Board use candor to address differences between Directors and District Administration. The focus should always be about what’s best for KSD students. A difference in opinion is healthy because it forces collaboration and creates diversity in points of view that result in more positive outcomes and creative solutions for our students.
2. Staff Retention
Students are the most important people in the District. To give our students the best experience, we need to retain our staff (i.e., teachers, para-educators, office staff, etc.). When a charismatic, 20-year-experienced teacher leaves, how do we replace that individual? The loss is felt by students who were eagerly awaiting their chance in that class, new(er) teachers feel the loss of leadership/mentorship opportunities, and if not handled properly, the culture shift in the building could cause other teachers to question their continued employment in that school. We need work to prevent our best staff from leaving the District. We need to show appreciation and value our student-facing staff. We need to make sure every school is adequately staffed, which may mean getting creative. Instead of announcing para-educator layoffs, why not use current, non-student-facing staff in the District Administration Building help fill the staffing needs in schools?
To say that things should always be equal would be disingenuous and impossible to achieve. Things aren’t always going to be equal, but there are ways to make up shortcomings. Mill Creek Middle School is adjacent to a creek that floods every year. During and immediately following these floods, the school's field is unusable. I understand allocating funds to replace the field would not solve the issue, because the creek is the problem, however, the Board could decide to allocate funds toward a technology-based music program to "make up" for the shortcoming in access to athletic and PE programming at that school because of its location near the creek. The key to creating equity across the District is identifying issues and looking for creative ways to address them.
Leadership comes in many forms and is dynamics, especially in the public school system. A leader is more than being someone’s boss. A leader has the ability to listen, communicate, problem solve, and is followed by others. The community elects school board directors to be responsible for one employee, with immense leadership opportunities: the Superintendent. The Board and the District have a leadership problem. I am dedicated to working to fix this issue.
5. Proactive Approach
Establishing a proactive approach, rather than reactive response (or worse, no response at all) is critical to re-establishing trust from students, families, teachers, and the community alike. A recent example of the District's reactive communication style is the allocation of additional funds for the sports field at Canyon Ridge Middle School. The additional funds were required because of a missing component in the original bid to construct the field. Not only did the Board overlook this error in the original presentation, rather than proactively communicate this error the Board approved the additional funding without acknowledging how the issue came to be.