EVERETT SCHOOL DISTRICT PROJECT: SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE QUESTIONAIRE

QUESTION
1. Briefly describe why you are running for the Everett School Board?

Pam LeSesne
PAM: I have the experience and compassion to serve our students well. I will strive to maintain the proper balance between transparency, diversity of opinion, and governance. As a board member, I will strongly advocate for: Excellence in Education –-we need to ensure all students are supported and challenged to meet their highest potential -rigor in the classroom – we want high expectations. Equity in the classroom – make sure students from all spectrums have access to high standards, including ESL, special needs, and challenge kids. Strong Partnerships with Teachers, Support Staff and Community –-I will diligently listen and respect views of teachers and staff so that we are working together with student learning in the center of the hub. We need to increase partnerships in our community to further technical education and vocational opportunities. Working together will result in the most effective and efficient decisions to advance our schools Strengthening Core Education - Reading and writing skills must be a priority for all our students. Math and Science skills need stronger emphasis and support

Mary Ann Ellert
MARY ANN: Last year I and many others were unhappy with some of the changes in transportation at Penny Creek Elementary. When it became clear that the administration was unable or unwilling to address my safety concerns, I decided to take these concerns to the school board. This resulted in some improvements for the students most at risk, but did not address all of the concerns. As a result I attended several more meetings. In attending these meetings I discovered I did not like the way in which the board operated, seeming to ignore concerns brought to them by the public and even other board members. I was especially disappointed with the decision to require a second from another board member in order to move any items from the consent agenda to a part of the agenda which would be publicly discussed. It appeared to be a way to avoid discussing important business during the public meeting. Watching the meetings made me think that there needed to be a change in the way the board operates. I think that there are many items that need to be discussed and decided with accountability and critical thinking. I decided that I wanted to be a part of the change that needed to occur. I am willing to ask tough questions in a respectful manner, which is what I think the board needs right now.

2. Tell us about your relevant background as it relates to this office, including, what would you bring to the Board of Directors that is missing right now?

PAM: I believe the experiences gained at being a manger of programs and organizations, for young adults, communities and businesses, will be beneficial to this board. I have volunteered throughout my children’s education as a tutor, mentor, planner and community representative to provide partnership with the school district in the things that support our kids in their education.

MARY ANN: I have an engineering background and I am a parent. My engineering background helps me to look at decisions based on facts and data. My parenting experience gives me more insights into the needs of children. What I hope to be able to bring to the board is civility and openness both in terms of listening to the public and each other as well as critical thinking and decision making based upon facts. With a need to cut budgets, it is important to be able to think beyond the status quo.

3. Do you have children in the Everett Public schools currently and what has that experience been like? If not, did your children attend Everett Public Schools and what was their

PAM: My two children attended Everett schools and have graduated from Cascade High School. My son graduated in June 2011 and my daughter graduated in 2001. I must say their experience was extremely positive. My daughter went on to UW prepared and excited. She graduated in 2005. My son is at

MARY ANN: I currently have three children currently attending school in the Everett School District. Their experience has been generally positive. I do not wish to explain further in order to protect their privacy.

experience like?

Oregon State University in the engineering program.

4. Do you have any family members, close friends or others that either work for the School District or have business or other financial relationships with the district that may be seen as a conflict of interest? If so, please share any details.

PAM: I am not aware of any conflicts of interest.

MARY ANN: I have close friends who work or have worked as substitutes for the district. I also have good relationships with many of the staff who have worked with my children or at their schools. I do not see any of these as causing any conflict of interest.

5. Would you support the establishment of a policy that requires all school board members to divulge any potential conflicts of interest? Why or why not?

PAM: If our citizens or teachers feel our board should establish such a policy I would be very willing to listen to input and put forth my best efforts to draft and adopt such a policy.

MARY ANN: Yes. I think it is important for the board to act in the best interests of the students and I think that a policy like this would make it clear to the public that this is a priority for the board.

6. In what specific areas of the School District do you hope to make a difference?

PAM: Please see #1

MARY ANN: I hope to help to expand learning opportunities so that all students have the opportunity to perform to the best of their ability. There are great things being done in some of our schools which I would like to see available in all of our schools.

7. To what degree do you agree with the following statement? “The primary purpose of the Everett School Board Directors is not to simply be unified and to get along. Their first obligations are to ensure that district administration is appropriately focusing on supporting and improving scholastic performance of district students and to achieve this while being good and careful stewards of taxpayer funds.”

PAM: I believe strongly that the board’s responsibilities include ensuring that district administration is appropriately focusing on supporting and improving scholastic performance and this should be achieved while being good and careful stewards of taxpayer funds. Our focus should always be on what is necessary to ensure that student learning is our primary goal and we should constantly be garnering support from the community towards that goal.

MARY ANN: I do agree with this statement. Unfortunately the situation right now requires some improved ability to get along in order to be able to accomplish much. It is possible to have differing opinions and still get along. I would like to see that happen.

8. What are your thoughts on the recent decision to move forward with the funding of the

PAM: Since capital funds and operational funds cannot be combined to fund the operational day-to-day costs, I agree that now is the right time to use those capital funds and build a

MARY ANN: I was disappointed with the way in which the decision was made, with the first and second readings and vote within a week centered around a holiday weekend. I would like to

design and construction of a new $23.5 million administration building? Had you been a school board member, would you have supported this decision? Why or why not?

center that can be used in partnership with our community.

see more options presented because I believe that in this economy, there would be a more cost effective way to improve the administration office spaces. That said, I do think that there are needs to improve the administration facilities.

9. What concerns, if any, do you have about the current scholastic performance of students throughout the Everett School District? In your view, what can the school board do to help support and increase the performance of district students?

PAM: Please see #1

MARY ANN: I am concerned that we have several categories of students who are not making academic progress and that we have many kids who are struggling particularly in math. I think that the board can encourage the adoption of programs that work in one school to other schools that are struggling. I also am concerned that sometimes in focusing on the students who are struggling we forget to challenge those who are not. These students have a need for a more advanced curriculum to achieve their potential. In addition, I would like to see more attention given to the basics and facts in math. It is extremely difficult to do higher order math without knowing the basics.

10. What concerns, if any, do you have about the financial stewardship of district administration and how would you address those concerns?

PAM: I want to ensure that our district uses our finances with student learning and achievement as our priority. This takes a respectful dialogue among citizens, teachers, administration, parents, and board members.

MARY ANN: I am concerned that funding the administration building was done despite more urgent needs more directly impacting students. I am concerned that this decision has undermined public support for the schools in a time when public support is greatly needed. While I cannot change past decisions, I can do my best to make sure that future spending decisions are clearly in line with student needs.

11. The 4:30 meeting time makes it difficult for the public to attend School Board Meetings. Many have children just arriving home or participating in after school activities at that time. Would you support modifying the time of school board meetings to 6:30pm or 7pm to make them more accessible to the public?

PAM: I would like to hear input from our citizens before supporting or not supporting a change. There may be several options to serve our citizens, such as alternating times.

MARY ANN: I support changing the meeting time or restructuring the meetings so that the portion most interesting to the public would be at a time that would be more convenient for the public. (Have the work/study sessions or closed meetings earlier)

12. According to current board policy, if a member of the school board wants to raise a question to a consent agenda, they must be seconded by an additional director. Do you support this

PAM: I would be interested to gaining more input on this issue, such as procedures used in other like-sized districts.

MARY ANN: I do not support this rule as it makes it easy to ignore the concerns of any one director.

rule? Why or why not?

13. Please share your thoughts on the recent incident at the August 23rd school board meeting. In your view, what should school board members have done differently in this situation and what are your thoughts on the September 13th censure of Director Olson?

PAM: Please see #15.

MARY ANN: I will not comment on the August 23rd incident. Any comment would involve specifically calling out actions of individual board members who could have handled things differently. I will not to do this publically as it would undermine my ability to work with the current members of the board. I was disappointed in the censure. I think it furthered the polarization of the board and I see no positive outcome from that.

14. Please list your major endorsements.

PAM: Everett Teachers (Everett Education Association); The Herald; Sheriff John Lovick; Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson

MARY ANN: None

15. Transparency is a hot topic with the general public right now. Do you feel that an elected school board should be more open with their meetings and connected with the public? If so, by what methods would you propose to do this?

PAM: I believe the public wants the proper balance of transparency that will result in ensuring that student learning is at the highest level of achievement. My hope is to create a stronger partnership with community, parents and teachers so that we are working together to keep student learning at the center of our hub. Every person involved needs to be respectful of each other.

MARY ANN: I would like to see board meetings held in different locations (elementary schools?) throughout the district in order to encourage attendance. This would also solve the lack of space problem with the current meeting room. Also webcasting or videotaping and posting the meetings online would help.

16. What do you feel is the biggest value you offer as an elected School Board Director? What do you bring to the table that is missing right now?

PAM: Please see #1

MARY ANN: Critical thinking, Logical decision making, accountability and civility.

17. Everett has one of the few school boards where there is a 6 year term of service for a Director. Would you support amending the term of school board members to be 4 years rather than 6 years in order to increase accountability to the public?

PAM: I would like to hear input from our citizens before supporting or not supporting a change.

MARY ANN: I am in favor of a 4 year term.

18. Which statement more closely matches your belief? a. The board should only guide the district by defining the principles and tenets to which policy and curricula should adhere. b. Board members should familiarize themselves with the details of the district’s transactions, curricula and execution of policy.

PAM: Please see #1 for my beliefs.

MARY ANN: I think the board should set policy, but it ultimately has overall responsibility for the district and thus should be familiar with the workings of the district without micromanaging.

19. How would you describe the relationship between the board of directors, the superintendent, the educators of the district and the citizens of the district, in terms of who is responsible to whom?

PAM: The Board is accountable to the citizens who elected them. The Superintendent is accountable to the Board, who hired him/her, for the day to day operations of the district. But all are accountable to our citizens and students to ensure student achievement through collaborative and partnering efforts. Through partnering all should be able to work through conflicts and concerns which affects student learning.

MARY ANN: The educators answer to the superintendent who answers to the board. The board is responsible to the citizens of the district who elected them. That does not mean that the board has to follow every suggestion brought forth from the citizens. It does mean that the board should listen and fairly evaluate the concerns brought forth.

20. There have been many issues of late that have both polarized the public and eroded confidence in the board and administration. These issues include secret cameras in the classroom, the $24 million administration building, censures, issues of transparency, director to director assaults, and others. How do you propose to fix citizen confidence and board and administration accountability?

PAM: Please see #15

MARY ANN: Currently, we have members on the board who do not trust each other. I cannot change that. What I can do is treat every member fairly and respectfully so that I can build working relationships with all of them. I hope that in doing so I can work effectively to provide oversight and accountability to the administration. I think this will build citizen confidence over time.

21. Do you support the videotaping and broadcasting of

PAM: I would like to hear input from our citizens before supporting or not supporting a change. Clearly, however, the

MARY ANN: Yes, however for executive sessions I think that the videotaping should be done on district equipment and held by the

public meetings for public information and taping of executive sessions for accurate documentation?

board needs to promptly resolve this issue and move on to focusing on student achievement. Perhaps a facilitator is needed to assist us as we move forward.

district not by individual board members. Records of executive sessions should be kept in a secure location to be reviewed by independent counsel if any concerns arise.

 

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