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Board candidates to represent Capitol Hill and Central District public schools take on issues of equity, Critical Race Theory

With the rest of the city closely watching key races for the mayor’s office and the two citywide seats on the city council, who gets elected to the Board of Directors for Seattle Public Schools doesn’t get as much attention. The Seattle School Board also runs its elections in an unusual way. The city is carved up into seven districts — Capitol Hill is in District 5. During the primary election, people vote only for a candidate in their district. When the general election comes in November, the races are thrown open citywide, with everyone in the city voting for a candidate in every race.

For now, we’ll focus on the more immediate decision. The summer is the time for primary elections, and board member Zachary DeWolf opted not to run again after serving one term, so the seat is open.

That leaves three candidates vying for an open District 5 seat. Voters will get to choose one, and the top two finishers will face each other in November to determine the winner. The race is nonpartisan.

And, like in many places around the country, Critical Race Theory is making an appearance. The theory is a roughly 40-year-old concept which until a few months ago was largely relegated to discussions within academia and the legal profession until it became a flashpoint for conservatives around the country, who are really, really against it.

We’re not going to get into it in detail here. If you want to understand the debate, you can Google it. We’ll let you know which candidates have taken a public stance on it. Seattle Schools doesn’t have policies which formally use the term, but the district does have policies which seem informed by some of the ideas it espouses.

Here’s a look at the District 5 candidates.

Dan Harder is in his first school board race. He ran as a Republican against state Sen. Jamie Pedersen in 2018, losing by a 91-9 margin. Harder is a mechanical engineer by trade and lives on Capitol Hill. He opposes Critical Race Theory and wants to excise anything with a whiff of it from Seattle Schools.

He also wants to remove encampments of homeless people from school district property, using private security if necessary, and then billing the city for it. There had been a large encampment in Miller Park, near Meany Middle School, which was cleared a few days before students returned to in-person school last April. Another large encampment still exists at Broadview Thompson K-8 in Bitter Lake, and it’s causing some tension between the school district and the city.

Beyond that, he calls for getting students back to school next fall with necessary Covid precautions, and allowing for continued remote learning in some situations.


 

Crystal Liston ran for school board in District 6 (West Seattle and South Park) in 2019. In a three-way August primary, she finished third, with 10 percent of the vote. She also ran for school board in Issaquah in 1999 as a 25-year-old where she lost 67-33.

This time around Liston, who now lives on Capitol Hill, is running in Seattle’s District 5. She is a parent of children in Seattle Public Schools. She is also a “professional volunteer,” who says she has volunteered in 20 different Seattle Public Schools. She notes that the school board positions are volunteer, so she’ll have time to devote to the office.

Liston says the district has racial equity problems which should be fixed. She also identifies other issues to be addressed, such as a lack of counselors and social workers, and the district using a “white-controlled curriculum.”


Michelle Sarju has lived in the Central District for 34 years. She works as a manager at King County Public Health, after having also worked as a social worker and midwife. She is a former member of the Garfield High School PTA. She filed to run for the seat in 2017 but then withdrew prior to the primary election. She has had two children who graduated from Seattle Public Schools, and a third who was in the system until an encounter with a racist teacher.

Sarju generally supports the ideas of Critical Race Theory. She was quoted by the South Seattle Emerald speaking at a rally in support of the concept in June. One of her top priorities is closing the racial equity gap she sees in Seattle Schools. Beyond that, she wants to invest in helping schools and students deal with the lingering effects of COVID-19. She’d also like to end standardized testing.


Schools Represented
District 5 Map
Bailey Gatzert Elementary
Garfield High School
Leschi Elementary
Lowell Elementary
Madrona Elementary
Meany Middle School
Middle College at Seattle University
Nova High School
Seattle World School
Stevens Elementary
Thurgood Marshall Elementary
Washington Middle School

In November, there will be two other school board races to consider. So, while this is a decision for future you, here’s a little bit to get you thinking.

District 4 (Queen Anne, Magnolia and parts of Ballard) has a four-way primary. Incumbent board member Erin Dury (she was appointed to fill a vacant seat and now stands for election for the first time) will face Vivian Song Maritz, Herb Camet, Jr. and Laurie Marie Rivera. Capitol Hill voters will not see any of them on their August ballot, but they will see the top two finishers on the November ballot.

District 7 (Southeast Seattle) has only two candidates, so there will be no primary. In November, Capitol Hill voters, along with the rest of the city, will have a choice between incumbent Brandon Hersey (who was also appointed to fill a vacant seat) and Genesis Williamson.

Wednesday night, the Seattle Council PTSA is sponsoring a candidate forum to help you make your decision:

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE FORUM
Wednesday, July 21st
5 to 7 PM
Seattle Council PTSA is proud to host a virtual candidate forum for School Board positions in Districts 4, 5 and 7. This is a great opportunity for candidates to share their platforms and to answer questions from community members across the district. Members of our communities are encouraged to submit their questions prior to the forum by emailing [email protected]
Our officers will compile a list and will give candidates an opportunity to answer the same questions. Depending on time, there might be one or two questions specific to each candidate. Zoom link below.
Hope to see you there!
– Seattle Council PTSA
Seattle Council PTSA is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: School Board Candidate Forum
Time: Jul 21, 2021 05:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/97290853848…

Meeting ID: 972 9085 3848
Passcode: 161132

Primary Ballots were mailed out to all voters July 14. If you didn’t receive your ballot go to the King County Elections website. Voter pamphlets were also sent out in the mail. If you haven’t gotten yours, or if you just don’t like paper, there’s one online.

The deadline to return ballots is Aug. 3. Ballots can be dropped in the mail (no postage needed) by that date. Or they may be returned to a ballot drop box. Boxes are located all over the county, including one near Seattle Central Community College, and one near the Garfield Community Center. However, they may be returned to any drop box in the county, so long as they are there by 8 PM on Election Day.

 

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Russ
Russ
2 months ago

I’m logging Dan Harder as a protest vote.

Liston is a borderline conspiracy theorist in my opinion with a rant on “white-controlled curriculum”, she can’t identify specific issues she wants to fix, she is just trying to cash in on the slogans of the moment.

Sarju is qualified but I strongly disagree with the elimination of merit based systems in pursuit of equal outcomes based on race. We should be identifying the vulnerable and underserved (based on things other than purely race) and focusing our resources on preparing them for life outside of Seattle Public Schools, the US will continue to be merit based and pretending that is not true isn’t going to set our students up for success.

CKathes
CKathes
2 months ago
Reply to  Russ

The problem with putting one’s faith in “merit-based systems” to identify and resource the talented and gifted is that far too often, “merit” is used to mean grades and test scores — nothing else. The inequity issues this paradigm raises are obvious, or should be, and many if not most of those inequities are strongly correlated with race, particularly with regard to African American boys. I agree that Liston is a flake; Sarju is the only serious choice.

History rhymes
History rhymes
2 months ago
Reply to  CKathes

“Merit” did not used to just mean tests and scores – “softer” cultural factors were definitely considered. In fact, the idea for standardized testing was conceived by a Jewish guy because Jews were being excluded from many universities despite solid academic achievements. Very similar to what we see today with Asian Americans.

Dan Harder for Schools
2 months ago
Reply to  Russ

I agree and appreciate the support! Support should go to all individual students who actually need it, regardless of any race or status. Stereotyping is always wrong. And there is no limit to any student’s potential.

History rhymes
History rhymes
2 months ago

Nice to see you show up in the comment section – I voted for you, for what it’s worth.

RentersRUs
RentersRUs
2 months ago
Reply to  Russ

I think the internet doesn’t encourage people to say this enough on comment boards:

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote.

Jansen
Jansen
2 months ago

Harder is awful in every way. Sarju is the clear pick!

JTContinental
JTContinental
2 months ago

I’m not sure that being on the school board entitles one to hire a private security firm to sweep homeless encampments and subsequently bill the city for it, but politic on with your rhetoric, Dan Harder.

Dan Harder for Schools
2 months ago
Reply to  JTContinental

It certainly does entitle one (the board) to create a policy that requires the superintendent to hire security and indeed remove trespassers from school property. And I will certainly make it plain that law enforcement is the city’s job, not the schools’, and request the city reimburse the district for expenses.

big dan
big dan
2 months ago

Was very liberal before the events of last year. Now that I’ve seen what the far left is all about (my trash dumpsters were lit on fire twice during black bloc protests and my POC neighbors were called “chuds” and “bootlickers” and had their lives threatened by black block because they dared to yell at rioters), I’m voting for Harder.

candrewb
candrewb
2 months ago
Reply to  big dan

Welcome big dan. I consider myself liberal as well. The Left is not liberal, they’re the opposite – Marxist authoritarians. You may have seen the graffiti where we “get the bullet too!” Any liberal who votes for these people thinking they’re on the same side (because of their historic disdain for Evangelicals, the Iraq war, or T-word) are fools.

MarciaX
MarciaX
2 months ago
Reply to  candrewb

“Any liberal who votes for these people” — are you seriously insinuating that Sarju is a “Marxist authoritarian”?

MarciaX
MarciaX
2 months ago
Reply to  big dan

You’re voting for a white conservative for school board over an objectively better-qualified Black woman because a bunch of unhinged white kids raised hell in your neighborhood last summer? I don’t like the so-called black-blockers either but wow, that’s some seriously dissonant thinking.

Glenn
Glenn
2 months ago

The school board needs some diversity of thought. Harder is my choice to bring some new perspective to the table.

Melissa Westbrook
Melissa Westbrook
2 months ago

I listened in on the entire PTSA forum last night and here’s my write-up.

https://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2021/07/seattle-school-board-races-2021-seattle.html?m=1