Election 2021: Deborah Kilgore seeks re-election to District 4 seat

Deborah Kilgore

Ahead of the Nov. 2 general election, My Neighborhood News Network sent questionnaires to candidates campaigning for the Edmonds School District Board of Directors. To surveys are intended to help voters make an informed by asking candidates about a range of issues facing the school district. We are posting these as we receive them.

Deborah Kilgore is seeking re-election to her District 4 seat. She was elected in 2017 and currently serves as the board president. Kilgore is running unopposed. While each school board director position represents a specific district (District 4 covers Lynnwood and Edmonds), they are elected by all voters.

Q: Why are you running to be an Edmonds School Board Director? What do you hope to accomplish during your time as a board director?

I am running for reelection because I believe in public education and our mission to prepare each and every child for fulfilling work, life, and citizenship. I want to continue to lead the district in creating and sustaining safe, welcoming schools that are supportive of all students’ academic pursuits. 

Q: What experience would you bring as a board director and how is it relevant to the position?

I have served as board president for half of my first term in office. I have gained a lot of insight into how to navigate our complex system and balance interests among various stakeholders. In addition, I have a professional background as an educator and educational researcher, as well as many years as a parent volunteer and leader in a district school. I know how to look at a school system from the top down, but also to continually learn from the students and families who have to live with the policy decisions we make. 

Q: Remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on many inequities across the district (access to food, internet, housing, etc.). What plans do you have to address these issues?

It was both an immense challenge and the honor of my life to serve as board president during the pandemic closure. It became clear from the start that families rely on schools for so many services beyond education. I’m proud to say that my district really stepped up, working with community and business partners to provide district families with meals, childcare, internet and technology access, and education to students during a period of global crisis. 

The district also developed an onsite hub for students experiencing homelessness to come and access their remote classes using district facilities. Working with our community partners like the Foundation for Edmonds School District, we provided food, supplies and laundry facilities at these hubs. We later replicated the hub model to serve other vulnerable students who have needed in-person support, like new English learners.

The role of the board has been to help identify student needs and to provide the superintendent with the resources to meet them. I am proud to have played a part during this critical time. 

Needs change over time, and going forward as a member of the board, I will continue to seek out and listen to feedback from the community I serve. Second, I will continue to identify and nurture relationships with community and business partners. Third, I will continue to advocate for our district families and students at every level. And finally, I will continue to reflect on my priorities and actions to ensure that I am contributing to meeting the contemporary needs and interests of our students and families. 

Q: What ideas do you have for addressing the hundreds of homeless students in the Edmonds School District?

The board and superintendent are always looking for ways to meet the basic needs of our most vulnerable children so they can get on with the project of learning and developing to their fullest potential along with their classmates. District social workers identify student needs and work with partners to provide key social services to prevent homelessness and/or mitigate its negative effects. 

At the same time, I believe that safe, affordable housing for district families is more efficient and effective support for students than just about anything we can do for them once they become homeless. Recently, the school board has been involved in negotiating a partnership with Housing Hope and the City of Lynnwood to build an apartment complex on District property for the purpose of housing some of our families experiencing homelessness. Although this relatively small number of housing units will not solve the larger housing problem in the region, it fits in with municipal and regional housing plans and ensures that some housing resources are targeted to district students. 

Q: The Edmonds School District plans to return to in-person learning this fall. In your opinion, what is the best course to keep schools open and students in classrooms? If elected, how would you work to support school faculty and staff during the 2021-22 school year?

Approximately 90% of students have opted for in-person learning this year, and the district is working closely with the Snohomish Health District (SHD) to safely keep schools and classrooms open while minimizing disruptions. This is the primary goal of the superintendent and school board, and in my own role, I remained focused on keeping kids in school buildings.

The school year began with high community COVID transmission rates, and district leadership, teachers and staff rose to the occasion, facing pandemic conditions with creativity, flexibility and sheer effort. Like school districts across the nation, we are facing staffing shortages, which makes it even more difficult for those who remain. In any year, the board makes sure that teachers and staff have the tools and support they need to do their jobs well, whether it’s professional development, current instructional materials, planning time, or other kinds of support. We do that in budgeting and strategic planning, and in hiring a strong superintendent who can intelligently mobilize all our resources. But the additional challenge of COVID requires us to do even more balancing of precious resources and prioritizing our work. The board continues to work with the superintendent to best mobilize resources to meet student needs while also attending to teacher and staff well-being. 

On a final note, the most important thing we all can do to keep kids in schools and minimize disruptions in their learning, is to get vaccinated. It is the only way we truly can get past this pandemic. The district continues to provide information about opportunities for vaccines in our area.

Q: How would you work with district staff to encourage and promote fairness and equality for all of the district’s students?

The board approved a race and equity policy in 2017, directing the district to prioritize making high quality educational experiences available to all students. Since that time, the district has made progress in a number of areas: (1) teacher and staff professional development, (2) recruiting and retaining a diverse, world class workforce, (3) thoughtfully analyzing and refreshing classrooms, books and curricula to ensure that all our diverse students are acknowledged and represented, (4) nurturing relationships with community partners to enhance our effectiveness in meeting the diverse needs of students. We have made progress and we still have work to do. 

Q: Where can readers go to learn more about your campaign? (website and other contact information if applicable)

Because I have no opponent, I’m continuing to focus my energy on district work rather than campaign activities, so I don’t have a website at the moment. If voters would like further information, they should not hesitate to contact me at kilgoreforedmondsschools@gmail.com or to call me at 425-223-8330.

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