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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Seattle School District No. 1 Director District No. 1

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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  • Candidate picture

    Eric Blumhagen
    (NP)

  • Candidate picture

    Liza Rankin
    (NP)

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 (206) 225-6098
Email info@ericblumhagen.com
Town where you live Seattle
Experience (300 characters max) Seattle Schools parent for 16 years, served on PTA/PTO boards for 10 years, honored with a Golden Acorn Award, served on two District-wide advisory committees on capacity management.
I am a parent whose children have experienced Seattle Public Schools from kindergarten through graduation. In middle school and high school, the challenges are different and the stakes are higher for our students. A Board Director who has seen these challenges firsthand has a better understanding of the system and the oversight needed. I also have more years of service serving on PTA and PTO boards and advocating before the School Board than my competitors and have worked on District-wide advisory committees.

In addition, my career as an engineer sets me apart. In my job, I rapidly and accurately analyze data. That gives me the ability to check the analysis and supporting data presented by staff. My experience analyzing regulations and policy standards at work also prepares me to write policy that is clear, concise, and direct.
Equity: Seattle has the 5th largest opportunity gap in the nation. We need to redouble our efforts to close those gaps with proven solutions and promising new approaches.

Accountability: Too often, the District doesn’t follow the law or its own policies, particularly in the area of special education services. We need to ensure that the District follows the rules.

Budgeting: We are likely headed towards budget cuts in the future. We need to focus our resources where they will do the most good--in our schools and classrooms. We also need to update the budgets quickly after Open Enrollment so that we don’t lay off teachers in spring only to scramble to hire in the fall.
First of all, we need to go to underserved communities to listen and learn. However, we can’t stop there if we are to make progress on a generational struggle. We can act immediately to expand some programs that have already shown success, such as restorative justice programs that are reducing disproportionate discipline and reducing out of school suspensions. Unfortunately, there are still policy and budget barriers that are keeping these proven programs from being replicated across the District. We need to break down those barriers to move the District forward.

Every SPS employee needs the tools to be successful. All employees should be required to take implicit bias and de-escalation training. All teachers and instructional assistants must have training in supporting students with special needs. We need to make meaningful investments in Ethnic Studies and Since Time Immemorial curricula. We must diversify every curriculum, so that students can see themselves in the curriculum.
I believe in a “yes, and” approach to programs. If a program is so popular that it is hard to fit students in that school, then we should open that program in more locations. If an educational approach is working to close the opportunity gap, we should expand it and share it with other schools. We also need to recognize that a student’s neighborhood school is not necessarily their best option. We need to preserve choice within the District and set aside seats in every school for students from outside the neighborhood.

As a District, we need to address outside funding of programs and staff. This funding might come from PTAs, booster clubs, or other donations. The District has left funding of critical staff such as elementary counselors to PTAs in many schools. This causes serious equity problems at the school level. While the #TakeBackPTA resolution by the SCPTSA is a good start, this conversation needs to include all sources of funding and needs to be led by the District itself.
We need to start in elementary schools with counselors in every school to head off bullying issues early. We need to follow that up with services throughout middle and high school. Restorative justice programs can help resolve conflicts without suspending or expelling students. We should also ask the City of Seattle to remove police officers from our schools and replace them with mediators who can address conflicts without involving the criminal justice system.

We also need to look at physical security of our buildings. Schools with large numbers of portable classrooms are extremely difficult to secure. We should prioritize rebuilding these schools in our levy planning to make our students safer. In the meantime, we should make sure that teachers in portable classrooms have the ability to communicate securely with school staff and Seattle Police if necessary.
In addition to the items discussed above, we need to focus on equity rather than equality. Students of color have been underserved by schools in Seattle and nationwide. In order to provide a truly level playing field, we need to provide more support to underserved communities so that they have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Every department needs to support equity. For example, if Budget Department practices mean that teachers of color are being laid off disproportionately, then their rules and practices will need to change.
Technical training should be offered in every school. That could start in elementary school with field trips to workplaces. In middle and high school, every student should have access to hands-on classes. The Skills Center classes that give high school students training in skilled trades could be better publicized with additional locations to be more convenient to more students. We should also remove school budget barriers that take funding from schools when their students enroll in Skills Center classes. Finally, we should examine the Manufacturing Industrial Council’s Core Plus curricula that give students science, math, and other credits for technical training classes.

I want us to change the culture around skilled trades as a career. We have focused too much on defining student success as going to a college or university, when working in the trades may be a better option for many students. We should promote these living wage jobs as an equally valid option for our graduates.
We need to meet every student where they are and provide them with the services and supports that they need to succeed. The supports needed will be different for every student, and our system needs the flexibility to accommodate individual student needs.

For immigrant, refugee, and non-English speaking students, we need to provide culturally competent services, starting with translation services and training for school staff. Our schools need to be a safe place for recovery and growth. We also need to provide sanctuary to our students and their families from ICE agents and other immigration enforcement.

For homeless students, we should partner with the City and with outside charities as much as possible to provide students with wraparound services on school grounds. This minimizes barriers to students getting the help that they need. One example of this type of program is Ingraham High School’s Bright Futures program.
Phone (206) 659-5844
Email info@elizasrankin.com
Town where you live Seattle
Experience (300 characters max) community organizer, nonprofit board member, racial equity and disability education advocate, freelance scenic designer and college faculty, conversational Spanish speaker
I have been a professional working and teaching artist, with an MFA in set design for theater, which sets me apart from not only the other candidates, but also from SPS school board members in recent history. As an educator, I was on the faculty of CUNY: Queens College, a liberal arts school in New York with a highly racially and ethnically diverse student body. I’ve been actively involved supporting teachers, students, and schools since the day my children began their education in SPS, advocating and organizing within the district, city, and state legislature. I also have experience serving on the boards of several community organizations beyond my kids’ school’s PTA, like SPACE in Magnuson Park and SCPTSA. Through this work, I have authentic relationships and community connections in schools all over Seattle, and have a broad and deep understanding of how issues affect many different communities, in addition to having knowledge about finance, budget, and policy in SPS and the state.
The three most pressing issues in Seattle Public Schools right now are equity, safety, and funding. These are all related and also encompass many important issues. Equity: we need to close opportunity gaps and ensure that students of all races, ethnicities, home languages, abilities, religions, sexes, genders, family incomes have pathways to success and opportunity to pursue their goals and interests. Safety: this includes physical safety and identity safety. Our schools and curricula are not welcoming, inclusive, safe for all students, and they need to be. Funding: funding from the state as well as budgeting within the school district is not adequately ample, equitable nor transparent, and this exacerbates issues of equity and safety.
For the top issue of equity, it needs to be the through-thread that drives every decision and is weaved into all the work of the school district. Anti-bias training for staff, administrators, and central office, training for all educators in supporting special education students, increased access to advanced and unique learning opportunities, examination of the budget including outside funding sources and their impacts, and identity-safe classrooms and schools. Family engagement is also an area that needs to be examined and improved with regard to equity. Family involvement is a key indicator of student success, and we need to ensure that all families are welcomed and included in school buildings and in engagement opportunities. I think the district’s newly adopted Strategic Plan is a valuable document, but it must be taken to heart and used to hold the work of the district to account.
I would press for district staff and principals collaborate and inform central offices more about what is happening, positive and negative, at each of our 102 schools so that there is a shared overview of what is available to our students and how our educators are supported in every building. Without an open conversation about what our schools need, what they have and don’t have, and how we get the resources needed, we cannot address the discrepancies. At the same time, equal is not the same as equitable, and it’s ok and even great that there are different opportunities and strengths at different schools. We do need to ensure that students all have exciting opportunities available to them though, no matter where they go to school. I will also insist that some resources are re-centralized, such as library materials funding, and that there is work done to ensure that libraries are up to standard regardless of a school community’s ability to self-fund.
Our students need to know that they are valued and cared about in our schools, and that their identities and differences are assets rather than barriers to success in the classroom. Schools are communities and every member is important. Bullying, targeting of students, physical violence are not to be tolerated, and in addition to needing protocols in place for appropriate handling of such incidents, building leaders must foster cultures of inclusion and care. In terms of physical safety, every building must have safety plans for evacuation and for staying in place, and the practice and implementation of these plans must not create additional stress for students or educators (for example, traumatic active shooter drills). I will work with district staff to create consistent, equitable plans for our buildings that address student safety and will continue to support legislation that protects the health and well-being of our kids.
As mentioned above, identity safety and anti-bias training is critical. We also need to, as soon as possible, adopt an ethnic studies curriculum that empowers and celebrates students and educators. All students should see themselves in their curriculum, and know that who they are matters and that they can succeed. Racial bias in the areas of special education, advanced learning, and discipline need to be addressed so that students of color have their academic needs appropriately met and are not being stigmatized or denied access to needed supports.
Much like the Arts, technical and vocational training has taken a back burner to STEM and college-bound educational opportunities. Technical jobs are viable, important in our society, and of great interest to many students. Internships, apprenticeships, vocational classes offer opportunities to students from all backgrounds. SPS has many options, including Skills Center, and we should be doing more to promote and expand existing programs. Many students are not aware of these available opportunities. As a district, we need to ensure that students living all across Seattle have the knowledge of and access to technical training and classes, should they wish to pursue it. Just this week, the Seattle School Board approved the establishment of a task force that will work on creating Student & Community Workforce Agreements--the first in Washington State--that will no doubt lead to exciting opportunities for Seattle students.
Family engagement is crucial. Families must know that they are safe and welcome in our schools, and know who to go to for support. Relationships matter, and it’s extremely important that we prioritize not only staffing for family support workers, counselors, ELL teachers, etc, but that we also work to sustain those positions, with the same people. Students and their families who are experiencing homelessness, have fled dangerous situations in their home countries, who aren’t fluent in English, and who may have uncertain immigration status must have the opportunity to make and keep connections with support staff that they trust. Such staff are often the hearts of our schools, critical to the academic success of kids and to connecting families to resources. Funding for these positions, training, and opportunity for career advancement are necessary to attract and retain the staff that supports these vulnerable groups. Partnerships with city and county entities are also important here.