It is concerning how many school board races take place across the country in which incumbents run unopposed. Carol Andrews, who won re-election in 2012 made a comment during our interview with the local paper for their endorsement (which I won), that she would like to be running unopposed. I nearly snorted when she said that - of course she would. However, that's not how our system is supposed to work. We should always have a choice.
In November of this year, there are two board seats up for election. Both are filled by district appointees who posses the right "rah-rah" district pedigree and support. Despite an impressive list of applicants when both Jeff Russell and Jessica Olson resigned from the board within a couple of months of each other, the district went ahead and ignored those who hadn't come up through the sacred ranks of appointees to district committees and the Everett Public Schools Foundation. They even ignored a former candidate who had just narrowly lost to Ted Wenta less than 6 months before. He was booted out in the first round of cuts (so there, Everett voters!).
So, I am hanging out a HELP WANTED sign. We need a few good people who have the best interests of our students and teachers at heart. We need people who are not willing to be a rubber stamp for the Superintendent's desires - but, instead, are willing to ask hard and uncomfortable questions and demand answers to them. We need people willing to evaluate the Superintendent based on a set of parameters not constructed by the Superintendent himself (no joke - he sets his own goals and parameters). We need people willing to listen to the public - and not just the "public" the Superintendent tells you to listen to.
So, how does this all work and what does it entail? Here's the job description in a nutshell:
- Able to attend at least two meetings a month on Tuesdays at 4:30
- Able to stay late when needed
- Able to visit schools during the day
- Willing to attend a couple of school board conferences annually
- Willing to meet with the public and listen more than you talk
- Willing to serve a 6 year term (or work to roll it back to 4 years like 98% of the other districts in the state serve)
You need a flexible schedule, but, many companies are willing to let you have the time off to serve in a public capacity like this.
Does the position pay?
Very little. You get a maximum of like $4,000 a year based on a per-meeting payment. So, if you're looking at this to increase your income, you'll be disappointed. You will be a public servant in nearly the most literal sense of the word. Mysteriously, though, the school board has an annual budget of over $600,000, but that's for the Superintendent to spend, not the school board.
How do you state your intent to run?
The filing period opens up in early May and runs through about the middle of the month. It's quite easy to fill out the form online. They often have a meeting before that for prospective candidates to help you understand the process and the state laws for candidates better. I HIGHLY recommend attending that meeting. You can find info in the coming months at the County Candidate page: http://www.snohomishcountywa.gov/228/Candidate-Filing You will select one seat or the other to file for. Since all Everett School Board members are "at large", you don't need to worry about where you live in the district other than the fact that you MUST live within the boundaries of the Everett School District to run.
What happens after that?
If more than two people file for one seat, there will be a primary in August to narrow it down to two candidates. These are "non-partisan" seats - at least they are supposed to be. But, expect the district's "pick"- whether that's the current incumbents or another candidate should the appointees decide not to run - to accept endorsements from several political groups on one side of the aisle. Personally, I rejected such offers - good educational opportunities is not a partisan issue and the variety of members at the Everett School Board Project proves my point.
If you go through a primary and come out as a candidate for the General Election in November of this year, you can do as little or as much as you want. You will watch a LOT of money flow to the district's pick. Fundraising is difficult but you don't need a lot of money. Basically, you'll have to fight "the machine". The teacher's union will most likely endorse the district's pick (they always do) and set up phone banks with their own money to call voters. There's not much you can do about that. But, a clear message, signs and a good website is really all you need.
There may be a couple of candidate forums sponsored by the Everett PTSA who pretends to be neutral and, frankly, aside from one sponsored by The Port Gardner Neighborhood Association, I wish I hadn't bothered. The far majority of attendees were not the general public, but district administrators there to support the district's picks. It was a pointless distraction, in my opinion.
If you want more information. don't hesitate to contact me at KimGuymon at gmail dot com. If you are wanting to be part of the change in this district, I will be happy to talk to you about running. This is a rare opportunity to secure TWO seats. We won't have another opportunity for 2 seats to change hands for 4 more years. The madness of the 6 year terms in this district is that it creates a very comfortable spot for the Superintendent if he gets friendly faces in those seats and it creates a situation where our school board really doesn't have to be accountable to the public very often. Serving just 2 terms on the school board covers nearly the entire length of an Everett Public Schools education and means having to face voters just twice in 12 years.