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Seattle School District No. 1 Director District No. 5

The Seattle School Board's responsibilities include: hiring and evaluating the Superintendent; establishing policies for governing the school district; adopting a balanced budget each year; having legal and fiduciary authority for the school district; adopting instructional materials; and, serving as community representatives to the district and on behalf of the district. District Five consists of the Central District, North Beacon Hill, Downtown, and South Capitol Hill.
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  • Zachary Pullin DeWolf (NP)

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    Omar Vasquez (NP) Attorney; Former Teacher

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Biographical Information

Of three major issues facing your district, which one is the most urgent?

What is your position on Charter Schools as a part of your public school system?

What is your position on testing of your students?

What is your opinion on "start times" for elementary and secondary school?

How can the on-time graduation rate be improved?

How should bullying be addressed?

What would be your plan to see that your school district students earn their civics credit required by the new state law?

What is your opinion of student suspension for classroom disruption?

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Phone 425-243-7957
Email omar@omarforseattlestudents.com
YouTube Video www.facebook.com/omarvasquezseattle
Town where you live Seattle
Experience (300 characters max) THE ONLY CANDIDATE WITH EDUCATION EXPERIENCE - Teacher for six years (math, public high school) - Department chair, two years - Steady commitment to students, even after leaving the classroom - Mayor's Education Advisory Council Endorsed by outgoing incumbent Would be the first Latino director
A public education is critical for equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary for them to exercise self-determination, which for many students, means breaking into the middle-class.

The District’s three major issues are: • Closing the opportunity gap for students of color; • Re-imagining schools/curriculum to prepare students for 21st century knowledge and skills, e.g., research, financial literacy, media literacy, and civics/constitutional law; and • Ensuring responsible governance and fiscal oversight of limited resources.

The three issues are intertwined--closing the opportunity gap requires rethinking the way we do schooling. Students will excel when they have agency in their own educational development. That requires content to be meaningful, challenging, and oriented around critical thinking development. These goals can only be accomplished if the School Board Directors provide excellent oversight so as to be efficient with limited resources.
If elected to the Seattle School Board, I would support the district’s policy against authorizing charters. I believe for-profit charters are universally a counterproductive policy choice. Given that Olympia permits nonprofit charters to operate in Washington, as a Seattle School Board director, I would work hard to prove that our schools are capable of innovative solutions to closing the opportunity gap, because if not, more students are going to leave the district to go to charters (currently about 500 students) or to private schools (>10,0000 students).
When I was a teacher, I disliked giving my students standardized tests. They weren’t aligned to anything meaningful in a student’s life, they failed to track growth, and they required me to spend instructional time teaching to a test.

Since campaigning for school board, I have learned that data from standardized testing (as imperfect as it is) shines a light on the opportunity gap between students of color and white students. Without it, educators would have less guidance on allocating resources to underserved students.

Assessments should instead capture data on student mastery of objectives, so that students can articulate what they have learned and what they still need to learn. I want students to have multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery, so that they don’t see an assessment as a one-time, high stakes, anxiety provoking event. Assessments should serve students as a tool to take control over their own education—a vehicle for their own self-determination.
When I was teaching high school, classes started at 7:20am. This resulted in two problems: (1) First period attendance was substantially lower than the other periods; and (2) Students were less alert during the first two periods, as compared to classes later in the morning. The research on start times is consistent with my experience: middle and high schools physiologically benefit from later start times.

I am hopeful the district’s new start time schedule will be an improvement from last year’s three-tiered schedule.

Going forward, as a School Board Director, I will be monitoring the following: • Whether parents are able to balance getting students to school and getting themselves to work; • Whether the district will again need to rely on external funds from the City of Seattle’s Families and Ed levy; and • Whether we see an increase in absenteeism for high school students, as a result of later start times.
Over 40% of Black, Latino, and Asian-Pacific Islander students will not graduate on time or at all in our district. Addressing this requires efforts on many fronts. • Attendance -- We have to leverage all resources to make sure students attend school. • Suspensions correlate with dropping out. We have to address disproportionate suspensions for students of color. • Failing freshman year classes correlate with dropping out / not graduating on time. Schools must align curriculum between feeder middle schools / K-8 schools and high schools so students arrive to high school on grade-level. I have done this work--it yields big returns. • The district must partner with the City to provide wrap-around services, e.g., around health services, homelessness services. • Schools must identify all students at risk of dropping out. Each of those students needs a dedicated educator mentor at the site who actively looks out for the student. One good adult makes a huge difference in a kid's life.
Hurt people….hurt people.

The person that is at war with others is at war within themselves.

For grades 6-12, I will look to students to take the lead on addressing bullying on- and off-campus. Students need to have agency in the culture of their schools, and they are more than capable of tackling this problem--probably better than the adults can. Students can articulate values, make plans, and execute on them to curtail bullying.

Educators should provide socio-emotional support services to students who bully. One concern I have is that students of color are more seriously disciplined relative to white students. As a School Board Director, I would use data to identify schools with these issues so we can provide support and oversight to redress inequities.

Finally, cyber-bullying presents a new challenge for schools that is different from when I went to school. We need Media Literacy instruction in our schools so students learn healthy social media practices.
I have made civics a cornerstone of my platform since Day 1 of my campaign. All students should: • be able to articulate a deep understanding of their rights and responsibilities as citizens in our democracy; • demonstrate a critical understanding of modern American history; and • engage civically in some capacity.

The content will look different from school to school, from classroom to classroom. I want to support teacher autonomy and student choice about how civics objectives are satisfied.

I recognize that the subject matter of civics may create discomfort for some students. To guard against this, I would insist on an upfront orientation for students and parents to the curriculum so that expectations are established and so that parents and students can make informed choices about their classes.

As a School Board Director, I would support initiatives to: • partner with UW /Seattle U law professors; • expand ethnic studies programs • monitor implementation carefully
As a teacher, I experienced two kinds of class disruptions: kids who lashed out, and kids who were always talking during lecture. I learned that the first kind likely stemmed from kids suffering trauma, homelessness, poverty, or abuse. The second kind was often due to cultural differences, e.g., students interrupting because they were verbally processing.

Educators’ responses should be redirective, not punitive. They should take a whole-student approach, recognizing the students’ socio-emotional health and culture.

Of course, some misconduct requires suspension, e.g., guns at school, sexual assault. However, most classroom disruptions should be addressed inside the class.

As a School Board Director, I will • ensure educators have meaningful professional development, and • identify schools that need further support around excessive suspension, particularly for students of color, who experience disproportionately higher rates of suspension.

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