I was at the Stranger's School Board Candidate Forum at Town Hall last night. It was very interesting and I would encourage everyone to look for it on the Seattle Channel.
The festivities began with a quick answer round. The MC, Dave Ross, asked a number of questions and candidates would take a position on the stage behind signs that said "Yes", "No", or "Dunno". The questions were pretty good and they caused some folks to struggle with their answers. A number of the answers - particularly from the incumbents - were VERY surprising. When asked if they wanted to change the math curriculum, all of the incumbents clustered at the "Yes" sign. They also clustered at the "Yes" sign when asked if language immersion schools should be option schools. I was not the only person in the audience who wondered why their voting records didn't reflect the positions they were taking on the Town Hall stage. There were some times when the incumbents were clustered at one sign and the challengers at another. There were some times when nearly everyone was together. There were a couple questions with only one or two candidates in a clear minority of opinion.
The meat of the event were three one-on-one debates in which the candidates for each seat got the opportunity to answer a question and respond to each other. It was real, meaningful exchange that highlighted the differences between the candidates. There were only three because Steve Sundquist was unable to attend due to a family emergency. Marty McLaren answered her questions alone. After each of these one-on-ones the audience was invited to vote on the winner using their cell phones. As the votes were counted two experts, our own Melissa Westbrook and Seattle Council PTSA President Lauren McGuire would offer a quick sort of "Truth Squad" review to call out anything said that might have been inaccurate.
Peter Maier did surprisingly well in his debate with Sharon Peaslee. He was more animated than we have seen him for four years. Ms Peaslee tried to stick him with his failure to oversee and he tried to squirm away from it.
Kate Martin, I believe, had the strongest performance of the evening. She spoke with such confidence and conviction. Sherry Carr, who I understand had not been feeling well, didn't hold up well and, despite having a better record than the other incumbents, fared poorly.
Harium Martin-Morris has been nothing but surprises in this campaign. First, he said that he wanted to do a Superintendent search - which is the opposite of what he said in the Seattle Child questionnaire. Harium also said - a couple of times - that he represented and spoke for a "diverse" group of people. I couldn't be the only person who heard the thwack of the race card being played. This was surprising because Harium doesn't speak for anyone. The man barely talks at all. Moreover, I haven't ever heard anyone say that Harium speaks for them. Michele Buetow spoke very well, but struggled to connect.
Marty McLaren, answering questions on her own, presented well and positively impressed.
I'm pleased to say that the "truth squad" didn't have to bust anyone. It's probably a good thing that Melissa was on it instead of me. I would have cracked a couple heads. Peter Maier prattled about "replicating success" - as if the District had EVER done that. Sherry Carr falsely claimed that the NSAP maintained choice and that she would "follow up" to ensure that policies were followed. Harium Martin-Morris falsely claimed that there was no oversight system in place when he joined the Board.
On the whole, an illuminating evening. Look for it on the Seattle Channel.