All three candidates in the Aug. 6 primary election for Puyallup School Board agree the school district’s capacity problems aren’t going away soon.
Earlier this year, Puyallup voters failed to approve a $279.6 million bond measure that would have helped Puyallup shed its image as the portable classroom king of local school districts.
But with expected enrollment increases on the horizon, all three candidates say the School Board must try again to convince voters of the need for construction dollars.
“The reason people vote no is because they’re angry,” said Margie Silver, whose youngest son just graduated from Emerald Ridge High School. She said some voters believe the district has been a “spendthrift” in the past.
Kathy Yang, whose oldest child is headed to Puyallup High School this fall, points out that a majority of voters said “yes” to the bond, but it wasn’t enough to reach the 60-percent supermajority. She said a bond is needed to address space problems, including at the district’s three comprehensive high schools.
“We need to move to a four-year high school,” Yang said, noting that the four-year system is what most districts employ. “Ideally, we need to build another high school to diffuse the population.”
Added Karen Edwards, mom of two Puyallup elementary school kids: “We have to pass a bond. If you think it’s bad now, it’s about to be an emergency very soon, with the number of houses being built.”
The three women are running for an open Position 4 seat vacated when veteran board member Greg Heath decided not to run again. The top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.
Edwards said she was prompted to run after working with the school district as part of the Puyallup Family Co-op program at Firgrove Elementary. Puyallup’s co-op was put on hiatus by the district in 2011. Edwards disagrees with some former co-op families who are exploring the charter school option.
“My goal is to bring them back to the table,” she said, adding that she believes the district could run a co-op school at lower cost and with more equity for all families.
Edwards emphasizes that she is not “the co-op candidate.” But she does say the experience helped open her eyes to the need for more innovative programs at the elementary level. She’d like to look at possibilities such as a school that focuses on science and math or arts.
“Puyallup is big enough to have those choices,” Edwards said.
Silver believes the district is missing out by not tapping deeply enough into parent volunteer resources. She said volunteerism drops off after kids finish elementary school.
“In my experience, parents still want to volunteer, but they have no avenue,” she said. “I’d like to see a volunteer coordinator at every school.”
Silver also advocates more participation in Running Start, which allows high school students to enroll for college credit at community colleges at no cost.
“Many students and parents aren’t aware of the opportunity,” she said.
Silver also supports expansion of AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a nationally recognized program that teaches study skills. She said she’d like to see it expanded to include all Puyallup students.
Yang looks at her two children, each with different learning styles. One is highly motivated and worries about competing for college admissions. The other works to expectations set by teachers — but not beyond.
Yang believes setting higher standards would help them both.
“If we raise the expectations bar, most will rise up to meet expectations,” she said.
As a child of immigrant parents from Korea, Yang said she understands the dilemma of parents who feel shut out of their children’s schools by language or cultural barriers. She believes schools can do more to reach out to parents who feel disenfranchised.
“We can get more people involved if we just ask them,” she said.
Family: Married, two children in Puyallup schools.
Career: Currently a grant coordinator for UW Medicine; Army veteran, 1995-2000; former Army hospital administrative officer.
Education: Master of Public Health, University of Washington.
School involvement: PTA officer, former Puyallup Family Co-op secretary, classroom volunteer.
Family: Married, two sons in college, both graduates of Puyallup schools.
Career: Currently a consultant in the field of neuroscience; former lab chief, former college physiology/anatomy instructor.
Education: Ph.D. in neuroscience, University of Illinois.
School involvement: Experience as a reading evaluator and health screener for Puyallup School District, school site committee member, senior project judge, scholarship committee, PTA and booster club member.
Family: Married, two children in Puyallup schools.
Career: Currently assistant operations manager at a Sumner construction company; former intern in the Washington Attorney General’s office; former member, Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation Board.
Education: Law degree, University of Washington School of Law.
School involvement: Former PTA legislative representative, booster club, classroom volunteer.Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 debbie.cafazzo@ thenewstribune.com @DebbieCafazzo