The Aug. 6 primary election includes multiple people running for Edmonds School District Board of Directors positions. To help voters learn more about the candidates, the My Neighborhood News Network sent a questionnaire to each candidate appearing on the primary ballot.
We will post these as we receive them.
Note that while each school board position represents a specific area, all voters living in the district get to vote for all positions.
Jennifer Cail is running for District 3, hoping to unseat incumbent Gary Noble. Other candidates running for District 3 include Rory Graves and Boe Lindgren.
Q: Why are you running for the Edmonds School Board? What do you hope to accomplish during your time as a board director?
Cail: The current members of the Edmonds School Board do not have children in school and this has caused a disconnect. A disconnect between how policies affect people, a disconnect in how the board communicates with families. As a mother of three children in the Edmonds School District, I would bring a connection to schools, students and teachers that we need. As a parent educator at Edmonds Heights, I spend four days a week on campus, interacting with teachers, administrators, students and parents seeing firsthand what is going on in our schools. As a board director, I plan to bring accountability to the board, a practical knowledge of accounting and budgeting and a renewed sense of focus on our students. The purpose of our school district is to educate our children and everything we do needs to keep that in mind.
Q: What experience would you bring as a board director and how is it relevant to the position?
Cail: Before moving to Lynnwood in 2007, I spent eight years as an accountant for education non-profit organizations in Washington, D.C. My experience and understanding of how to balance a budget is an absolute necessity on today’s school board.
Q: In light of the decision to sign a contract with Right at School, which many parents felt they didn’t have time to comment on, how do you think the school district could improve its public engagement process?
Cail: I think the Right at School decision is a great illustration of the disconnect between many members of the current board and the families in the school district. The board needs to make more of an effort to inform parents well before such large decisions are made. It takes months to come up with such a contract; that would have been adequate time to have let parents know about the changes to before- and after-school care, and time to allow for comments. We are currently seeing last-minute notification on too many issues when there is no policy reason for it. This also lessens trust in the board and administration when it feels as though they are trying to sneak things past parents by not giving ample notification.
Q: What plans do you have to ensure financial stability given the $17.7 million budget shortfall the district is facing?
Cail: Unfortunately, the board is not in control of incoming funds. However, I will make sure that children stay at the center of any budget. We need to have a future plan that will take into account the possibility of uneven funding from the state and use some of our reserve in the years with small deficits to prevent the temporary reduction in teaching staff.
Q: What ideas do you have for addressing the more than 500 homeless students in the Edmonds School District?
Cail: First of all, we need to fund more school counselors. Nearly all of the schools I have met with do not currently have the recommended 250-to-1 ratio of students to counselors. I think that the district does do a decent job at trying to school homeless children, that I am aware of, but we can also make it easier to access Nourishing Networks.
Q: How would you work with district staff to encourage and promote fairness and equty for all of the district’s students?
Cail: Continuing education on how to dismantle the structures of racism for all faculty and staff is one of the few ways that we are going to be able to address equity. Changing discipline processes to include restorative justice and acknowledging the latest in neuroscience research on the developing brain to work with students as a team to minimize problematic behavior instead of against students is another step in the right direction.
Q: A 2017 Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families study showed that the Edmonds School District is serving only 28 percent of students eligible for early childhood education assistance. What ideas do you have for expanding the District’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program to accommodate more students?
Cail: We need to have more outreach to our families, particularly culturally sensitive outreach for our English language learning (ELL) families. The district needs to carry more of the burden for outreach to make sure we are serving our most vulnerable children.
Q: The district has received feedback from the community that it should have handled the staffing reductions due to budget cuts differently. What ideas do you have for helping to ensure teachers’ job security in times of financial stress?
Cail: We must be willing to make cuts in other parts of the budget and tap into the reserve funds. Most importantly, use better forecasting for estimating future enrollment for preliminary budgets.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Cail: We need to make sure that our science curriculum, including health and nutrition, are evidence-based and scientifically backed, including comprehensive sex education and climate change.