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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Lake Washington School District No. 414 Director District No. 5

4-year term. No salary, but some districts offer small per diem for evening meetings. School Board members, or “directors,” are the elected governing body of the school district, serving four-year terms. The school board’s governance responsibilities fall in four major areas: Vision – a focus on student achievement through a comprehensive strategic planning process; Structure – prudent financial planning and oversight, as well as diligent and innovative policy-making; Accountability – specific goals and a process for evaluating, reporting and making recommendations for improvements; and Advocacy – championing public education in the local community and before state and federal policy makers. The School Board sets the general policies of the district, which are implemented by the hired professional district superintendent and certificated teaching staff and personnel. One of its critical duties is the adoption of the district's budget and proposal of any school levies to be placed on the ballot to the people. The board sets policies and approves all spending via the budget. It also sets salaries for school district employees.

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    Siri Bliesner

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    Susan Wilkins

Biographical Information

What unique qualities about yourself, your experiences, and your education separate you from the other seekers of this office?

What, in your opinion, are the three most pressing issues facing your school district at this time?

How would you address the one at the top of your list?

How would you balance educational opportunities between schools?

How would you assure the safety of all students in your schools?

What are the issues that need to be addressed to provide racial equality in the schools?

How should technical training be offered in the secondary schools?

How can the schools provide adequate education for homeless, immigrant, refugee and non-English speaking children at all levels?

Phone 2063542706
Town where you live Redmond, WA
Experience (300 characters max) I have nearly 30 years working and volunteering in public health, social services and education. I have been on the LWSD Board for 8 years, currently as Board President. I am on the WSSDA Board of Directors.
I am an experienced advocate for students with a track record of success in delivering results. As the current Board President and being on the Board for the past eight years, we focused on improving outcomes for ALL students, and now have seen graduation rates increase to 93.6%. I have been active in schools for the past 15 years. I was awarded the PTSA Golden Acorn award in recognition of my involvement ranging from chess and robotics coach to theater and soccer manager. I’m a founding member of the Lake Washington Schools Foundation and currently serve on the Washington School Board Association Board advocating for all 1.1 million students statewide. I have a degree from Stanford and a Masters from U.W., I am fluent in Spanish and have lived and worked overseas. I am extremely well qualified to continue on the Board of Directors and continue to represent my community. I will continue to advocate for each and every student to graduate and be prepared for their future plans.
Provide opportunities for every student to succeed - We need to expand opportunities, programs and supports for all students to reach their potential regardless of background or characteristics

Create healthy learning environments where every student can thrive - Our students need schools where all feel safe and welcomed – physically, emotionally and socially. A school climate that embraces diversity and respects all individuals and their talents must be developed to welcome and foster inclusion for the well-being of our students, families and staff.

Build partnerships and connections - A high quality education that prepares students to be future-ready requires strong relationships with all stakeholders in public education. We must engage with students in the classroom; engage with families as equal partners in a child’s education; and engage with community and businesses to leverage resources, generate ideas and build commitments to a strong public education system.
Provide Opportunities for Every Student – Our Mission is Every Student Future Ready which requires that all students must graduate. Currently we are getting there with a 93.6% graduation rate, however, we are still falling short within specific student populations. We need to: 1) Review program demographics to determine what potential barriers may exist that are limiting student’s ability to access programs and services; 2) Provide expanded opportunities that leverage community resources to expose students to additional opportunities, such as College Bound and AVID; 3) Have expansive elective options that include career-connected learning, such as internships or externships; 4) Cover all fees for high school tests (ACT, PSAT, SAT, AP, IB) to improve access for all students; and 5) Provide excellent college and career counseling within the schools to support all students in pursuit of their future goals.
LWSD has over 30,000 students in 56 schools in three cities and King County, representing a very diverse population with a wide range of educational needs. To balance opportunities between schools in our district: 1) ensure that a core set of programs, curriculum or activities occur at all schools within the District. At our size, this requires central office staff to be able to review, analyze, and implement programmatic changes to ensure that these are available in all schools. 2) We have a clear vision and goals for the District that schools are aligned with and supported through their own continuous improvement. 3) We continually assess to determine if the outcomes of the work at each school is effective and meaningful for the students. In addition, I helped create a school foundation that supports enrichment and engagement in all schools to ensure that there are financial resources to support programs and activities that benefit all students regardless of the school they attend.
Safety in our schools has always been a top priority for me and our district. I believe in a multi-pronged approach to safety, since this is how we will help ensure that our students have a safe place to learn. For example, we need to work within our schools to address bullying and promote anti-harassment behaviors, we need to work within our communities to ensure that all students have strong and healthy support networks, we need to work within our facilities and use best design practices to ensure that we have safe places for students to attend class and staff and teachers to work, we need to work within our legislature to ensure we have the funding, policies and support we need to make safe places for all in our schools.
Racial Equality in public education means that academic success and opportunities are not dependent or influenced by the race/ethnicity of a student.

We need to consider equity and the impacts throughout the system . We have already begun this process through: 1) Implementing culturally-responsive professional development to ensure all staff recognizes implicit bias, understands the role of race and equity, and interacts appropriately with diverse student groups. 2) Improving hiring and staffing processes to increase the diversity of our teaching staff. 3) Equitably adopting, applying and evaluating curriculum and instructions for students to address issues related to race and equity. 4) Ensuring varied and culturally responsive methods of seeking parent/community input and engagement. 5) Identifying and revising processes and/or systems that may disproportionally impact a specific student population. 6) Ensuring that the school climate is free from bullying and harassment.
For students engaged with learning, it is important that the learning is relevant to their lives. Technical training is one way to make this relevant. Need to ensure that students have opportunity to explore their own interests and potential careers; to determine career and educational goals and to connect high school courses to those future goals. At middle school we need to provide opportunity for students to explore what types of fields they may be interested in (i.e. Maker spaces, robotics, job shadowing, career fairs). At high school we need to: 1) Offer dual-credit courses in a wide variety of fields, such as journalism, photography, automotive, electrician, health care. 2) Partner with local community colleges that provide in-depth offerings. 3) Establish partnerships with local businesses and corporations to provide internships or support externships. 4) Collaborate with key organizations to establish pre-apprenticeship opportunities for students.
LWSD provides a multi-pronged approach: 1) Ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment through positive school climate to provide a safe space for students to learn - requires school-wide approaches to social-emotional well-being. 2) Train staff in culturally responsive teaching and education strategies (trauma-informed approach) to support students from diverse backgrounds. 3) Dedicate staff to work with students experiencing homelessness to address challenges – such as, transportation, supporting attendance, connecting to social service providers and navigating systems. 4) Effective English language learning programs that support students in the acquisition of language while providing adequate instruction to maintain learning. LWSD has strong programs with excellent outcomes utilizing co-teaching, SIOP and push-in instruction.

Home visits, where appropriate, would be a strategy that could provide increased understanding of circumstances that impact student learning.
Phone (425) 558-3740
Town where you live Redmond, Washington
Experience (300 characters max) As the parent of four children who attended Lake Washington Schools, I have worked to improve all children's educational experiences for more than 20 years by volunteering, tutoring and participating in the district's task forces for facilities planning.
I intend to be an activist school board member who brings issues to the superintendent that will improve the learning environments and educational outcomes for all students and staff members.

The Lake Washington School District is run as a corporation with the school board acting as the Board of Directors and the superintendent acting as the CEO. The Board delegates all authority for running the district and managing operations to the superintendent. Board members do not give directions or orders to district staff, but instead delegate that authority to the CEO/superintendent. The Board gives direction to the superintendent by passing resolutions during board meetings that the superintendent must abide by.

As a board member, I will work with my fellow board members to pass resolutions that direct the superintendent to take action, especially for high-priority issues that are time-critical and relevant such as improving special education and changing high school start times.
The three most pressing issues are: 1.) Failure of the district to identify students with learning disabilities and provide specialized educational programs and timely intervention. 2.) Moving high school start times later in the morning to coincide with teenagers' circadian rhythms. 3.) Overcrowding in the schools.
We know that 1 in 5 students in 4th grade will fail the standardized tests that are given each May. Although parents and teachers may be aware that students are struggling, the district does not have a formal identification or reporting process and student learning issues are not addressed.

The district needs to start identifying students earlier and start intervention as early as kindergarten. The district needs to develop a referral program that allows both teachers and parents to identify students who are falling behind and test them to determine the grade level that the student is learning at, as well as the source of the learning disability (if any) and then provide intervention services.

The district also needs to add counselors and behavior specialists to provide strategies to the teachers and para-educators who will be working with special education students. An analysis of spending on special education needs to be done to determine where and how money is being spent.
Currently, many of the best educational opportunities are offered at the District's specialized programs referred to as "Choice" schools including the nationally ranked Tesla STEM High School and the International Community School.

"Choice" school admission is based on a lottery system and application process that many students are not aware of. Once admitted, students are responsible for providing their own transportation to the school. Transportation to the "Choice" school is a significant barrier to students who have limited financial means since most low-income students live far from the schools. The combined result of the lottery admission process and lack of transportation is that "Choice" schools have almost no low-income, minority students.

As a school board member, I would require the superintendent to investigate ways to make these programs accessible to all students by publicizing the application process and removing the transportation barriers.
With the proliferation of guns and mental health issues in our country, we cannot guarantee the safety of our children. However, as the Seattle Times pointed out in their August 10, 2018 article "Florida Lessons for School Safety", identification of mentally unstable students, continued counseling/intervention and communication among schools about student behavior and transfers can reduce the likelihood that they will become violent and act out against our schools.

As a board member, I will advocate for an information sharing protocol that allows counselors to provide support for troubled and potentially dangerous students.
I am particularly concerned about the Lake Washington School District's new safety and security system that requires visitors to school buildings to provide a picture ID that is scanned and stored in the district's computers. I don't believe that the system will improve safety; however, I think that it will discourage parents of certain ethnic and racial groups from visiting their children's schools to meet with teachers or take part in cultural events for fear of being profiled and detained. (All IDs stored in the district's computers would be subject to a public records request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.) All students deserve to have their parents and family members participate in their education regardless of the parents' immigration status.
The Lake Washington School District has computer programming and application courses available in its high schools. There are also technical courses available through the WANIC program and through Running Start. Access to the off-campus programs requires that students provide their own transportation to the schools providing the various courses. Without a car, many students cannot participate in these programs. The district should investigate whether shuttles could be offered between campuses during the school day to improve participation, especially by those with limited financial means.
My grandparents arrived in the United States as teenagers and never spoke English fluently. Their siblings who were younger than 10 years old were able to master English like native speakers. Based on this observation and watching my children's elementary school classmates whose parents immigrated to the United States, I believe that our current ELL programs are adequate and effective at the elementary level. For middle and high school ELL students, we need to provide more structured language instruction and intensive English classes.

Homelessness among high school students is a silent tragedy in our communities. I am aware of a number of my children's classmates who left home or were kicked out and who drifted from place to place (houses, couches, apartments, tents.) It is a complex issue that requires external social services. Providing food, books, study space before/after school, and bus passes would help to compensate for the lack of a stable home but it is not enough.