DIRECTOR DISTRICT 4: Eden Mack
Eden Mack co-founded Washington’s Paramount Duty, which lobbies the state legislature to adequately fund public education per the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling. That commendable group is still hard at work. WPD decried the legislature’s meager attempt to finally do so this summer as an abject failure; Seattle schools, they report, are “worse off under the legislature’s education funding deal than it would have been had the legislature done nothing.” We need this kind of advocacy on the Seattle School Board. Mack has also racked up a slew of endorsements from local Democratic organizations and elected officials, as well as from Lyon Terry (2015 state Teacher of the Year) and six of the seven current School Board directors. Just as important, Mack’s competitor in this race is sorely wanting. Herbert J. Camet, Jr. uses the phrase “LGBT lifestyle choice” on his campaign website, which reads like an angry, repetitive screed against the “corporate business hacks” and “fake candidates” that he sees taking over the School Board and the schools. While we’d prefer to endorse a candidate who’s more aggressive and specific than Mack has been on racial equity in Seattle schools, Mack is the clear choice here.
DIRECTOR DISTRICT 5: Zachary Pullin DeWolf
The choice for District 5 School Board Director is between a business-minded technocrat and a social-justice warrior. Omar Vasquez is a Teach for America alum and business lawyer who sits on the board of a local charter school. Vasquez has said that he is “not a charter-school candidate,” but then added that charter schools may be “part of the mix” of public education in Seattle. “Working at Summit [charter school] allowed me to see what an innovative model looks like,” he told the 36th District Democrats. We are skeptical, to say the least, of that argument. His opponent, Zachary DeWolf, is a former Peace Corps Volunteer who learned Braille and then set up a school for it in Belize. He currently serves as the President of the Capitol Hill Community Council, where he was an early embracer of supervised-consumption sites and harm-reduction approaches to drug abuse and extreme poverty. Local and state Democrats have lined up to endorse DeWolf, and his resume is so packed with commissions and other civic service that it’s hard to get through the whole thing. Both candidates appear to view the School Board position as a stepping stone to higher office. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: Ambition can fuel progress. But progress toward what? Vasquez talks a good game about civic engagement and reducing inequity, but DeWolf’s track record as a public servant and his demonstrated commitment to social justice convince us that he is the best candidate.
DIRECTOR DISTRICT 7: BETTY PATU
As we wrote in endorsing her in August, Betty Patu’s emphasis on racial equity, consideration of her constituents’ concerns, and deftness at navigating the controversial (and at times very tedious) waters of public-education policy are indispensable assets, burnished by her deep understanding of what it actually feels like to work inside Seattle schools. Prior to serving on the Board, Patu worked in Seattle Public Schools for 32 years, directing award-winning programs that helped increase graduation rates and reduce violence while winning half a dozen awards herself. Plus, her opponent in this race don’t pass muster: Chelsea Byers’ only teaching experience is two years with Teach for America, and she has spent most of her career working for private education-technology companies, not schools. That resume is surprisingly similar to Omar Vasquez’s, who’s running for Position 5. In both cases we say skip the technocrat.