Community Post

Seattle Times Covers School Board Race

The Seattle Times has a good article this morning on our local school board race, where three candidates are challenging incumbent Mary Bass.

Regarding candidate Kay Smith-Blum, who is rated “Very Good” by the Municipal League, the Times says:

She has a long list of ambitious ideas for Seattle Public Schools. She wants, for example, to require foreign-language instruction in elementary school, and to revamp middle schools.

She calls herself a “doer” and says she’s always wanted to run for school board. Now that her children are grown and she’s arranged to spend less time at her clothing store, she says, she has the time.

For CDNews member Andre Helmstetter, who is rated “Good” by the Municipal League:

Helmstetter, if elected, says his first order of business would be to ask parents in District 5 what they want. The job of a board member, he said, is to carry out the will of the public.

Helmstetter used to own Café Vega, a coffeehouse on East Yesler Way that he built into a community gathering place. He now co-owns another cafe but wants to return to the software business, where’s he’s been a quality-assurance manager.

For CDNews member Joanna Cullen, who is rated “Adequate” by the Municipal League:

Cullen says she’s running because she was outraged by what she considered the rushed and chaotic way the district closed schools this year and wants to work to rebuild the trust of families in the Central Area, which had more school closures and moves than any other area.

And finally, regarding incumbent Mary Bass, who is also rate “Adequate” by the Municipal League:

Change is harder to achieve than her foes think, she said. And she says she has been effective in influencing policy, even if she’s often on the losing side of important votes.

But some say it’s time for someone new.

“Mary always talks about these plans and initiatives, but they never come to the light of day,” said parent and blogger Melissa Westbrook, who backed Bass in the past but says she won’t this time.

Also refer back to our previous coverage of this race at a recent neighborhood forum.

0 thoughts on “Seattle Times Covers School Board Race

  1. We SO need a change from Mary Bass! Was involved in many many community meeting regarding the status, the principal and all other issues around Madrona K-8. Bass was completely ineffective as a leader and a conduit for change. Based on the small summary in this article, I’d vote for Smith-Blum. All schools should offer foreign language right from the start. And why shouldn’t we have a long list of ambitious ideas for our schools. Why should we hope for anything less?

  2. Remember the District is quickly moving toward redrawing lines for neighborhood schools (defining new attendance areas). Unless we are empowered to advocate for our schools and programs, wonderful neighborhood school choices will be realized for all neighborhoods except for the ones here. I believe that all the candidates, especially the challengers, have ambitious ideas for our schools. The difference is that I will insist on your help to hold all the elected officials here responsible for ensuring that the Central District is proud of its schools and programs. I will insist that the parents and community are included in the process of designing the programs we deserve here. We have to come together for the sake of our children, our families, and our communities.

  3. take the muni league assessment with a big grain of salt and be sure to understand what it is they are assessing.
    Erica explains it pretty well.

    It provides some important info, but not some really important info.

    Frankly , the only ratings I pay any attention to are the unqualified. Otherwise I take the factoids in and put them in the mix.

    I do not know Smith-Blum. My impression is that she is on the corporatizing side. While competence is important in any job, and choices and budgets are needed, schools are not a corporate entity.

  4. I totally agree about Mary Bass. Completly worthless at those Madrona meetings.
    This Andre person seems challenged to even find a platform on which to run.
    Ms Cullen has good input on this site but doesnt get much kudos from people in the know.
    I like the sound of this Smith-Blum person. Maybe what we need is a buisness mind who can get this stuff done.

  5. Absolutely agree. The ratings are practically meaningless, especially given a quick review of the candidate ratings last cycle, 2007.

    I am glad to have 4 candidates in our race as I think it develops a conversation of District 5 needs and the interests of SPS as a whole. In my view, Joanna brings a wealth of first hand experience, having filled multiple roles in the district. Andre brings a strong commitment to the role of board members as representatives of the public (student/family/citizen) interest, a balance to district administration. Mary’s convictions and votes are true to the needs of this community. Kay’s data, data, data is alienating to me, and not what I’m looking for in a representative.

    So, who can collaborate? Who can represent the north and south ends of our district? Who will hold the superintendent and district staff accountable to their own policies, time lines and strategic plan? Who will ensure access to neighborhood schools and equitable program placement?

  6. I personally have met all of the candidates, except for Smith-Blum. Andre has a platform, and it certainly made sense at the candidate debate on Monday. Joanna has a lot more experience with schools and the PTSA than writing comments on this blog. Both were active in the school closure round last year. And, Mary has a track record which I sure hope anyone with children in SPS knows beyond one meeting at Madrona School.

    For school board, we are hiring an advocate who can represent the community that elects them, and work with the school community, the rest of the board, and the superintendant to create great schools. The management job is that of superintendant and school district staff. Smith-Blum speaks well in theoretical terms and management lingo, but it is not eveident that she is engaged with the community.

  7. Having watched numerous televised School Board meetings over the last 3 years as well as attended one candidate forum recently for District 5 candidates, I feel that it’s important that voters gather data from multiple sources before making a decision on the candidate for District 5. In addition to the Muni League questionnaire, there is a questionnaire by Communities and Parents for Public Schools which asks the candidates to respond to 8 questions, most of which deal with issues.
    I found the answers to be very informative. They gave me a much more clear idea of where each candidate stands on the issues.

    Not only is it important for a candidate to have experience with the public schools in some way;it’s also important that that candidate can communicate effectively with all cultural groups in the district AND work with the other Board members to forge a coalition which has a positive impact on our schools in District 5. I do not believe that is happening now.