Who’ll be chosen for vacant Tacoma school board seat? One of these five

Five people were chosen to be interviewed for the vacant position on the Tacoma Public Schools Board of Directors.

Position No. 5 was left vacant in July when former board member Karen Vialle died after a long battle with lung cancer. She was 76.

The Board of Directors has been operating with four members as it works to fill the position.

Fifteen people applied for the vacant seat in September. The board made the decision at a Thursday meeting to interview five of them.

One of the 15 applicants was Kristopher Kerns, graduate research assistant at the UW School of Dentistry, who’s currently running for school board in the November election.

Kerns told The News Tribune’s Editorial Board in September that he was planning to apply for the position. He was not chosen for an interview by the school board.

The five selected candidates come from a range of backgrounds, from a former Army veteran to a stay-at-home mom.

All of them either have children enrolled in the district or have had children enrolled in the district.

The interviews will be held at a public meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday (Oct. 17) at the Central Administration Building, 601 S. 8th St. The board’s regular study session will follow.

The board is expected to make a selection for the vacant seat on Oct. 24.

The five candidates chosen to interview are:

Elizabeth Bonbright

Bonbright is an early childhood policy consultant and the former executive director of the Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network (now Child Care Aware of Washington). At nearly five pages, Bonbright’s resume highlights her various work in education policy and her work on staff for the California State Senate. She moved to Washington in 1992.

Bonbright told the board in her application that she has a “passion for education policy” that’s been the focus of her career for the past 27 years. Bonbright’s two children spent their K-12 years in Tacoma Public Schools between 1999 and 2014.

Desireè Wilkins Finch

Wilkins Finch is the Pierce County manager for Fuse Washington, a progressive organization. She also works for the city of Seattle in community engagement and sits on the boards for Citizens for a Healthy Bay, Planned Parenthood NW and Symphony Tacoma. She has a master’s degree in relationship therapy and leadership from Seattle University.

Wilkins Finch said in her application to the school board that she was first introduced to the community as Mayor Victoria Woodards’ campaign director in 2017. Wilkins Finch has a son who is starting kindergarten at Boze Elementary.

Allison Kalalau

Kalalau is a stay-at-home mom and a volunteer board secretary for Communities in Schools of Tacoma, an organization tackling student drop-out prevention. Previously, she was a teacher in Kent School District and worked for the University of Puget Sound. She obtained her master’s degree in teaching from UPS in 2004.

Kalalau said in her application that she wants to work on ways to make opportunities for students equitable and inclusive. Kalalau’s children attend Jason Lee Middle School and Lowell Elementary.

Justin Raphael

Raphael is a sales specialist at Microsoft and served as an Army officer between 2003 and 2011. He was deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. Raphael has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Raphael and his wife, Shayna Raphael, were recognized in 2018 for gifting a new training room scheduled to open at the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital emergency department. Raphael is the board vice president for the Claire Bear Foundation, named after his daughter, Claire, who died in 2015. Raphael has a child at Lowell Elementary and is a member of the PTA there.

Adrienne Stuart

Stuart is the executive director for the Community Employment Alliance, which works to strengthen employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Previously, she was an attorney and had her own law office in Seattle. She has a doctorate from the Seattle University School of Law.

Stuart highlights a focus on students with special needs in her application and said she wants to further the work already being done to fully integrate students with special needs into the classroom. Stuart’s children attend Browns Point Elementary.