Incumbent school board member Geoff Doy and Linda Hamm Grez, both longtime Snoqualmie Valley residents, are competing for a spot on the Snoqualmie Valley School District (SVSD) school board. The General Election is Nov. 5.
Doy has served as a school board director for the past eight years. As a retired CEO of a major telecommunications company, Doy has 30 years of business skills, according to his statement on the King County Auditor’s website. He attended the University of East Anglia.
Grez served as an elected commissioner at Si View Park District for two terms. Her school community service includes leadership in PTA/PTSAs, Music Boosters, and the high school design and middle school visioning teams, according to her statement on the King County Auditor’s website. She attended St. John’s College in Maryland.
How much should the school board support extracurriculars?
Doy: The term extracurricular means different things to different people, for the purpose of this question my definition would be any activity not required to meet the eventual graduation requirements of a high school student, including sports, clubs, societies and so on. The board’s primary responsibility is to ensure every child is educated to meet their fullest potential. Additional activities can and do contribute to the health and well being of children and as such the board should support extracurriculars by encouraging the availability of district facilities and support stipends for teachers who lead such activities.
Grez: Extracurriculars are not just “the fun stuff” — they can provide fantastic opportunities for children to excel in activities that develop and grow their natural interests, abilities and skills. Diving deeply into a sport, music, a tech club like robotics or one of the many community club opportunities provide chances for kids to focus, set goals and grow their skills and maturity levels. This helps develop the student as a whole person with a variety of different skills which may not be developed just through classroom work. That leads to healthy, successful and resilient graduates. The district’s mission is to “Educate all Snoqualmie Valley children to prepare them for college, career and citizenship.”
The challenge is in resource management – how do we fund or subsidize activities so that they are accessible to all and not only those who can afford the fees? How do we make sure there’s a broad range of activities, not favoring one type, so students of different interests can find their niches? How do we fairly allow use of district facilities so all students can benefit from them? I’d like to connect the district with partner community groups to provide better choices and collaborate to make it affordable. Open and active communication with families is absolutely necessary so the district can make decisions that reflect what students and families need and will benefit most from. As an elected Si View Metro Park District commissioner, I am proud of how we have listened to and connected with families to grow successful recreation and extracurricular programming for thousands of area kids.
How much should the board be involved in curriculum decisions?
Doy: A legal responsibility of a school board in Washington State is to approve curriculum adoption. In most cases school board members are not professional educators and therefore our involvement must be to ensure the best possible team of teachers and administrators is assigned to identifying new curriculum and ensuring that a rigorous process of curriculum review options is followed prior to any recommendation to the board.
Grez: Our district teaching and learning staff are highly trained and competent to propose and develop curriculum and programs, but curriculum should reflect the values, achievement goals and performance expectations set by the board. In my view, communication with our district families is important to make that work. The board should be in open and honest communication with our community to keep a continuous two-way dialogue with families about what the district is planning and doing. School board members should be connected to our community so they can provide vision and direction which reflects community values, sets high achievement standards and performance expectations. Community values come from our immediate area but also reflect regional, state and national values. State and national standards also reflect what we want our students to be able to achieve as well as how neighboring and far away districts are doing. The board should constantly watch for successful innovations happening elsewhere.
How can the board help teachers and staff overcome affordability issues of living in Snoqualmie Valley?
Doy: The cost of housing in the Valley is a significant problem especially for new teachers. Paradoxically, the better our school district becomes the more attractive it becomes for families wishing to give their children the best possible education, and this attractiveness may have the effect of driving up house prices. The board has no influence on cost of living for teachers all we can ensure is that our staff is fairly compensated and receive salaries that are competitive with all of our neighbouring districts.
Grez: The district is one of the largest employers in the region so attracting and retaining excellent employees is critically important for our schools. The District made a good first step in the past year by increasing salary scales to help our teachers and other staff live within a reasonable commute distance. Affordability is a huge regional problem that every local government must help solve. Many different things can be tried: working with cities and the county to support local affordable housing projects with some units prioritized for local school and government staff, providing transportation benefits like carpool vehicles from more distant communities, and flexible shifts and job shares (without diminishing benefits). The district should take on all reasonable efforts to tackle the affordability challenge. It’s in the district’s best interest to be more proactive so it can hire and keep great staff.
How can the board support schools as the Valley continues to grow?
Doy: The board must regularly and diligently review demographic trends in the district and put in place long and short terms plans to meet the demand for teachers and classrooms as the Valley grows. This requires careful planning and close attention to operating and capital budgets to ensure staffing is adequate and plans for classroom construction are in place long before a crisis situation occurs.
Grez: First, the board should be better connected with our community, both long-time local families who are coping with growth challenges and our new families who are eager and excited to connect with their kids’ schools. Once the “disconnect” is repaired we can identify ways to support our growing Valley schools. There are many, many ways the district can improve two-way communication. Past efforts such as “Thoughtstreams” often turned out as poorly-executed “word salads” and did not yield positive changes in schools, nor did they increase trust between the district and families. The recent “Portrait of a Graduate” project and community input workshop were much better executed and yielded good information and feedback from the community. We should be proud of our district for some achievements, but there are a number of problems we could tackle better together if there were honest and open dialogue going on. On the Si View Park District board, I have seen successful community communication which takes effort but ultimately benefits everyone.