Monday, May 31, 2021

36th Democrats Endorsement Committee Interviews with School Board candidates

 I listened so you don’t have to but really, give each candidate 5 minutes so you can see what you think. Each interview is about 20 minutes. They interviewed all the candidates for District 4 except for one, just one candidate for District 5 and none of the District 7 candidates. Here’s the link to their interviews; just scroll down to find the School Board candidates.

One funny aside, two members of the 36th Dems endorsement committee said “bachelorette” for “baccalaureate.” It lightened the mood.

District 4

The only candidate not interviewed was Herb Camet, Jr. 

Laura Marie Rivera


Ms. Rivera spoke along the same lines as went she first applied for the empty spot after Director Eden Mack left. I still feel uncertain if she is ready for this position. I found her answers to questions difficult to follow. She has the sole endorsement of the 11th LD in South Seattle. 

Erin Dury


In her opening statement, she said that “coming back from COVID” that SPS should “reconsider or redo” its educational thinking. She mentioned access for “AP students” but I don’t know what she meant. (To note, it appears the district/Board may be leaning towards putting all high school students in one AP class and they would have to opt-out in order to not take the class.)

In an early question about serving BIPOC students, she seems to believe that students should be in their neighborhood school where all needs will be served. She mentioned both HCC and IEPs. Clearly she doesn’t know that there had been a program for accessing advanced learning in schools and that didn’t work. Plus, Special Education parents have to fight for services including inclusion. 

She brought up PTAs and their funding for schools. She said they shouldn’t be “consolidating money into schools with more access and resources.” She likes the Portland model of sharing dollars after a certain amount has been raised. 

She had a bland answer about making sure enrollment numbers were correct. 

Asked about Option Schools, she said she realized that some of the programs could not be in every school (like dual language) and said transportation is key to these schools. She said the schools should be “all-city draws.” Man, how much transportation money would that take if any kid could apply to any Option School with transportation. That’s why each region has Option Schools so that wherever you live you have access to at least one but probably two Option Schools.

When asked what issue motivates her to serve she said she believes in public education and likes the “hyper focus on Black students.” 

She was asked about filling a position with a lot of work and no pay. She said she was a single mom with a full-time job and she’s learning how to juggle more. She said there needs to be a conversation with staff about keep “meetings contained.” She had the opportunity to say how her background would influence/help her work on the Board and she gave a vague answer.

Vivian Song Maritz


In her opening statement, Maritz stated that public schools are the bedrock of the community and there needs to be equal opportunity for all. She’s a first generation college grad. She’s the child of immigrants and had to learn English when she came her with them. She said her hearing disability was found by a teacher. She has worked in finance and operations at several companies for 15 years and has 25 years of volunteering in youth programs. She has four children, a couple in SPS. One child is a special needs child.

She said that she would prioritize mental health needs and wanted to promote good governance and authentic community engagement. 

Her children are at John Stanford International School and she was very happy to see the diversity in the staff and would like to see that throughout the district. She said she herself had had no teacher of color until college. She said she’d work to help recruit more teachers of color. 

She noted that even though Ethnic Studies had been adopted in 2017, there was no formal process then but the staff at JSIS forged on. She said she felt that it was really a great thing for their school and again, would like to see that in all other schools.

(Editor’s note - It would be interesting to know how many schools have taken this step already with Ethnic Studies and what it looks like in each school.)

On the topic of enrollment numbers she said she would visit the enrollment model projections, possibly including Option School requests as indicators of where parents wanted to send their child after neighborhood schools. She mentioned that she and some other parents had produced a white paper on Option School transportation; I hope to get a copy of that. She said the kids who would be most hurt if there was not Option School transportation would be minority kids who would be the less likely to have private transportation. She said busing doesn’t have to happen all over the city but in a “donut model” where it stays within a region.

When asked about working on the Board, she quoted Ruth Bader Ginsberg:

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.

She said she believes in “calling in, not calling out.”

She said if the superintendent succeeds, then the district succeeds. If schools, succeed then so would students.

District 5
There are three candidates in this district - Dan Harder, Crystal S. Liston and Michelle Sarju. Only Sarju did the interview.

Michelle Sarju

In her opening statement, Sarju said that she is running for “every child” to have a high-quality education, no matter their race or zip code.

Her priorities would be mental health, support for returning students and teachers and getting rid of standardized testing. She said students should not be punished for “challenging behavior.” She said there should be mandatory Ethnic Studies and no revisionist history.

In mentioning paraeducators she said she didn’t like that term because they were more family support workers than educators.

She said she is not a Special Education expert but has a child with special needs. 

In terms of enrollment, she said if the district has a “robust plan” for returning to schools, it would probably increase enrollment. 

She mentioned that “she knows” Superintendent Brent Jones. 

She does support Option Schools and transportation to them in a general way. She said she wasn’t sure that some students had equitable access to STEM/STEAM programs. As far as HCC, she said that if students were being denied access, the programs “should be shut down.” 

She was asked about mastery-based learning and admitted she didn’t really know that phrase. She said it was important to support students “where they are.” She off-handedly said she didn’t like the word “master” but didn’t explain.

She does not support police in schools.

She said “no kid is standard” and does not support standardized testing. She said that some families have the resources to teach their child how to be a good test taker.

Sarju is endorsed by the 36th Dems and the 11th Dems.

District 7
There were no interviews for this position since there are only two candidates and both will go to the General Election. I would assume that the 36th Dems would interview them before that election.


Anonymous said...

In the 36th interview with Sarju, she was referring to ALL option programs - STEM, STEAM, IB, language immersion, as well as HCC - when she said to "shut them down." The question was, Do you support SPS continuing option schools such as language immersion, STEM, STEAM, IB, project based and other opportunities at specific schools, and do you support continued transportation for K-8 kids to such option schools to offer families equitable public school choices? Sarju said "I do support those kinds of options for parents" but said they are not open to all kids "in practice." She didn't elaborate. Then she said if kids are "denied access, then we shut them down."
No mention of fixing access to make these programs more equitable. Seems that's where this board is headed already - shutting things down instead of opening them up to more kids. Sarju will fit right in with this board.

Another Tired SPS Parent

Academy’s? said...

Would this “shut them down” approach apply to things that the finance academy at Franklin? Biotech academy at Ballard?

No Confidence said...

Sarju's comments to "shut them down" lacked nuance. She failed to discuss the needs and the district's ability to provide a certain level of educatioin to individuals that are entitled to servies.

I was disappointed in Sarju. I didn't get the impression that Sarju has the skill or ability to manage the job.