Seattle School Board Elections 2017 - District IV

Editor's Note: in writing up my thoughts, opinions and reflections on candidates for the Seattle School Board, I used interviews (my own and the 36th Dems recorded interviews), Google, Facebook and Twitter searches.

The questions I asked were these:

1.  What was your own K-12 experience?
2.  How many years have you been in Seattle?
3.  How many students are in Seattle Schools and what is the name of the superintendent?
4.  Why are you running?
5.  What are your priorities or what do you think the priorities should be for SPS?
6.  What are your thoughts about closing the opportunity gap?
7.  The next Board will likely be choosing a new superintendent.  What qualities would you look for and does the next superintendent need to be an educator?
8.  What are your thoughts on charter schools?
9.  What are your thoughts on Special Education?
10. What are your thoughts on gifted education?
11. What are your thoughts on CTE?
12. What do you think the role of the City should be in public education?
13. What would you do to support homeless students in SPS?
14.  What are your thoughts on the need for downtown schools?

I'm not going put forth all the answers that every single candidate gave me.  But I will tease out key answers to give you an idea of the thoughts of each candidate.

For each race, I may or may not have a personal endorsement.

For District IV, far and away the best candidate is Eden Mack and I endorse her for this position.  Overall, she is the candidate who knows the district best.  As well, her legislative background would be an asset for a district to struggles to be known in Olympia. 

I found Lisa Melenyzer bright and thoughtful.  Her legal background as well as her work in data systems would be an asset on the Board.  As well, Sean Champagne was sincere and had clearly done his homework in speaking fairly knowledgeably on SPS issues.

I cannot recommend any of the other candidates, because they either do not know enough about the district in specific or education issues within the district and city.

District IV
I finished interviews for the Board position for District IV which is being vacated by Director Sue Peters who has chosen not to run again.  (And I say that with sadness because I think Director Peters is a good, decent person who is an effective director.)

The candidates who filed for this position are/were:
Only Camet, Champagne, Mack and Melenyzer have filed with the PDC.  Mack is the only one with donations so far.

I interviewed Camet (by phone) as well as Melenyzer, Champagne and Mack in person.  Interestingly, both Mack and Camet were in the Peace Corps.

I decided against interviewing Darrell Toland, Jennifer Crow and Megan Locatelli Hyska based on watching their interviews with the 36th Dems.  I did not find them credible candidates.   

Herbert J. Camet, Jr. 

Mr. Camet has a lengthy and international background in teaching and learning that includes being a teacher, a principal and having worked in teacher training.  He went to private schools in New Orleans. He does not have children.  I believe he has lived in Seattle at least a decade.  (He does not have a website but did release his e-mail for those who have questions -

Education: Master of Arts (M.A.) in Education Administration; Bachelor of Arts (B.A.); Peace Corps TESL Training

Occupation: School Principal,Teacher, ESL/ELT Manager, Curriculum Specialist in 10 countries

He did not know the answers to my two questions on SPS.

Mr. Camet is running because he believes the public education system in our country is not effective.  He believes that right now, it is more a "schooling system" than a "learning system" with teachers as the "instructional authority" and "kids as passive spectators." He believes there should be a "mutual partnership" among students, teachers and parents with the principal as a coach.

He believes that SPS would need massive teacher retraining and that would be a key focus of his.  He said that the Board is too bureaucratic and they need to get rid of the business types on it.  

In terms of closing the opportunity gap, he said that all students should have an equal opportunity in every lesson with weaker students assigned to work with higher level students.  He says that students' jobs are to enhance the learning of peers.   In speaking on gifted students he said that they should have a separate curriculum but be in the same classroom as other students and have them help teach other students (saying they learn by teaching).

He said a new superintendent should be hands-on and working with principals and not be a corporate business person.

He was unhappy that the 36th Dems demanded self-identification as a Dem in order to interview.  He believes this is wrong in a non-partisan race and thinks anyone who did interview is suspect for doing so.

Sean Champagne

He is a Washington native and went to public schools in Richland, Washington.  He is in project management and works at a credit union.  (Editor's note: He is a personal banker at the teacher's credit union, not a project manager.) He has lived in Seattle since 2010.
I work at Inspirus Credit Union, the former School Employees Credit Union of Washington, and work every day with educators, school employees, and their families in order to find ways to help them save money in their personal lives.  I am elected member of the Queen Anne Community Council and I sit on the Parks Committee for Queen Anne.
Mr. Champagne said he is running because school board is a "big deal" and that the election of Trump makes it important to public education.  He believes that it is important to have a directly elected "community" to run the schools that shows a city's values and culture.

He said he would work to find "alternative sources of revenue" including a specialty license plate in support of public education.  He said he thinks a conversation about an income tax may be needed.  He also said the Internal Auditor might be able to find/suggest "bureaucratic cuts" for SPS.

He knew both answers to my questions on SPS.  

He thinks that Board meetings are not scheduled at convenient times for parents and communities.  

He does not support charter schools and mentioned Betsy DeVos.  He said "NCLB raised me."

He believes that Advanced Learning "writes off some kids" and thinks that testings should be available on Saturdays. He said there have been decades of "well-meaning" intention in this area but there needs to be more "true" equality and diversity.

He supports more dual-language schools and pointed out the recent supportive words of State Superintendent Rykdal on that issue.  

He thinks year-round school is a good idea.  

He said he would like a superintendent who has both flexibility and a backbone and willing to stand with the School Board against the state if the state is not fully-funding education.  He thinks it important for the district to work with the City Council and Mayor.  He said it is not the City's responsibility to come up with funding and the City is doing what it can now.  He would like to see City internships for SPS students.

He thinks teachers are underpaid as public servants and it may be discouraging people his age to become teachers.  He thinks there should be subsidized housing for teachers.  As well, he thinks there is too much testing.  

He thinks that parents with school-aged children who serve on the Board may not be able to see beyond their own children or there is a bias to what they see. 

Eden Mack

Mack has a lengthy resume full of work in public education.  She has worked extensively on the Seattle Council PTSA especially on legislative issues. She is one of the founding members of Washington's Paramount Duty.

From her website:
Eden lives in District IV with her husband and their three elementary aged children who all attend Seattle Public Schools. Mack is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, and holds a BA from Western Washington University and a Masters in Public Administration degree from the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Policy. She has also served as the Youth, Schools and Education Committee chair for Seattle City Neighborhood Council, as a Crosscut Civic Ambassador, and recently on the Seattle Public School Capacity Management Task Force.
Her family moved a lot so she went to public schools in Bellevue and in Illinois, Missouri and Oregon.  

She did know the answers to my two questions on SPS.

She's running "because policy matters."  She said that Board policies have lasting impacts and that supporting the systems, programs and services that do work as well as improving ones that don't are important.  

As for priorities, she said the district is reponsible for each child's basic education and she wants to direct more resources to learning communities.  She also said it is important to consider the impacts of decisions especially on disadvantaged students.  

She is not for mayor control "we have a democratic system of checks and balances for a reason."  She said that decades of the State not meeting their obligation of funding with the district constantly trying to cut corners has led to poor outcomes.

She said the City does have an important role with the Families and Education levy dollars going to more wraparound services.  She mentioned that the district owns more property than the City does.
As well, she said that good urban planning would include thinking about school planning and including the district in those discussions.

She said institutional racism is real and that all of the "ism"s need to be called out with more awareness.  

She said that a superintendent needs to have a commitment to public education and that you don't necessarily need an educator but someone who can inspire and who understands impacts.  

She does not support charter schools.  

She said that Special Education needs to be fully funded and providing services students need.  "Children are not widgets" to be moved around and enrollment planning should reflect the needs of homeless, ELL, Sped and HCC students.

In speaking of Advanced Learning, she noted that the success of the IB program at Rainier Beach needs to be supported.  She said that she believes it is possible to serve Advanced Learners at neighborhood schools but supports Cascadia as well especially for 2E students.  

Lisa Melenyzer

Melenyzer went to all public schools in a family of public school teachers.  She has children in Seattle Public Schools.

Her background is in data systems and has a law degree.  She has been a long-time PTA member, primarily on PTA boards at Whittier, as president of the Hamilton PTA (but soon to go to Robert Eagle Staff Middle School) as well as Ingraham.  She has a Special Education student.

She did know the answers to my two questions on SPS.

Her priorities are to see the district work more productively and effectively.  As well, she would like to see more transparency especially in capacity planning and enrollment.  She's concerned about the possible dismantling and lack of support within the district for Option schools as well as weak support for Sped. She'd like to see support for a neighborhood model for Advanced Learning.  She said she was aware of some hostility from principals/district leadership on this issue.

She would like to see better work around Advanced Learning.

She would like to see more effective and efficient testing, contending that the district is not getting results for the money and time they are now spending.  She thinks the SBA is inefficient but the MAP at least gave information more quickly to both parent and teacher. 

As for a new superintendent she would like to see more team-building and contact out within school communities so that people know the superintendent.  

To help close the opportunity gap she'd like to see more counselors and family support workers, classroom enrichment, math at spring break with Families and Education levy dollars plus fun activities for enrichment for students who are less likely to have access to it.  She has experience with supporting families with resources and would like to continue that work.

She is not for mayoral control or charter schools which she considers a drain on the public system. 


Greg said…
Thanks for doing these and writing them up. I find this very helpful. I'm sure many others do too.
Watching said…
Thanks, Melissa.
Anonymous said…
Good overall, even if I think this is a bit too charitable to Sean and Lisa. I look forward to your writeup on District V. I hope you won't give Omar any credit or let him sucker you by saying nice things. He's an incredibly dangerous candidate who is willing to lie in order to bring his pro-charter agenda to SPS.

Horatio Hornblower
Watching said…
I share Horatio Hornblower's concerns.

Omar Vasquez sits on Washington State's Summit Charter School board. His bio once showed connection to Summit charter school. Those references are no longer present. I've not seen him call attention to his charter school affiliation:
HH and Watching, I'm very aware of the issues with Mr Vasquez and will be quite clear about them. District V is blessed with three strong yet different candidates.

Anonymous said…
Hi, all:

First, thanks for the write-up, Melissa. I think you provide a huge benefit to the people of Seattle in terms of your commitment to District transparency and the many years of work you (and Charlie) have invested here. As far as I'm concerned every School Board Candidate should plan to spend many hours reading up on the history here.

I want to share a few important points that I'd like people to know about me in the Division IV race --

1. I would have to argue that my years of involvement in school issue exceed Eden's by several years, as I have been involved as a PTSA board member in 4/6 years since 2011-12, and I have acted as a President for three of those years. Here is a link to some work we did re: capacity/enrollment in 2011-12. My commitment to the District and to families and staffers is longstanding.

2. This year I resigned my PTSA board position because I took on a role working for SPS as a Fiscal Specialist at Hamilton International Middle School. This gives me exposure to the financial working systems of our District, and I work on the ground creating budgets, working with allocations and grant funds. I have new insights into how staff allocations are determined and the master schedule created . I am on the Building Leadership Team and have taken a central role in development of the school's CSIP, which is essentially the Strategic Plan for the District. I'm also spending my time working to make conditions better for our teaching staff, helping to make sure that our funds are well utilized and budgets balanced, working with ASB students. I would argue that these experiences give me real insight into the operations of the individual Seattle Public Schools. I find it extremely unlikely that opponent Sean Champagne has anything significant to offer in this regard.

3. I look forward to meeting more families in our District and being a resource for as many as possible. I've learned a great deal about SPS in my many years of working in and for this District... and I'm here for the long run.

Lisa Melenyzer
Lisa, I'll put that link into the thread. It wasn't working yesterday when I tried.
Anonymous said…
Thank you, Melissa.

muh said…
I find myself wishing that Lisa Melenyzer (or Eden Mack, I suppose) could run for one of the other positions. I think the board needs Ms Mack as she is willing to serve right now, and it would be fool hardy to pass up that proposition. But I also think Ms Melenyzer is a great candidate. I wish we could have both.

But since we can't, I'm all in on Eden Mack. I think her ability to analyze the impact of policy decisions is second to none, and I respect that she sees the long term effects, and broad effects of each decision. It would be easy to get caught up in what we want now, or what we want for our kids, and Ms Mack consistently avoids that trap.
I hear you, Megan. On the one hand, it's so great to have good candidates. On the other, trying to figure out whose skill set might be best plus who can be a team player (because being on the Board is a team sport).
Anonymous said…
Horatio, why do you say Melissa was too charitable to Lisa and Sean? I read the whole thing and while I understand that Eden Mack has the name recognition, I can't see what she has that Lisa doesn't. Lisa has been a parent longer, has had kids in Elementary, Middle and High School, has a kid receiving SpEd services, and has experience working in an SPS school. I think Eden is great, but I happen to think Lisa is better.

Gened Mom
Anonymous said…
Nobody, but NOBODY has logged more miles fighting for more kids than Ms. Eden Mack.

Just because someone has older kids does not mean they have engaged on a district-wide basis as deeply and as intensely as a person whose kids are a bit younger (that frankly doesn't even make sense to me to bring up: age of kids as the distinguishing qualifier for office?). Ms. Mack's kids are younger, but it is Eden who has trucked all over the place for every meeting for every purpose (SpEd, Legislative, Capacity, Growth Boundaries, etc) to support the district as a whole. I've never seen any of the others who are running at a West Seattle meeting, for example. Why should I, they don't live there. And yet, I have seen Eden there.

And, having younger kids is a bonus: more skin in the game, much longer time-horizon left in the district, so more invested in terms of needing things to improve for every learner.

Ms. Melenzyner is a involved person and a good person, but neither she nor anyone else holds a candle to Ms. Mack's commitment or experience.

The board is all about policy and budgets and analysis, and Ms. Mack has proven her particular strengths in these areas. She has rallied the City of Seattle's neighborhood apparatus to get the city involved in creating workable solutions for school's that are out of space, for example. She has spoken as an invited guest at Legislative District meetings too.

With Ms. Mack, it is not just a question of the endless miles she has logged or minutes she has plowed into the committees and task forces and PTSAs and yes, Olympia, it is her strong abilities to work across the spectrum of stakeholders and focus on solutions. Eden is a natural leader, a hard worker, and a team player. And, no one is better informed than her. If Sue Peters is going, Ms. Mack is the next best thing, hands down.

VOTE EdenMack
Anonymous said…
Thank you Melissa for your endorsement, and many thanks to you and others for your kind words. I'm super excited to be running to serve Seattle Public Schools, and very grateful for your faith in my commitment to public education and my qualifications to be an effective school board member. Folks who don't know me yet can check out my website at, and if you would like to add your testimonial, please feel free to use the form on the "endorsements" page, or e-mail me at Please also feel most welcome to reach out to me about your issues, thoughts and concerns. Lastly, we are having a campaign launch next Tuesday from 5-7pm, with special guest Lyon Terry, 2015 WA state Teacher of the year and others. RSVP at Many thanks for your support.

Eden Mack

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