• Diana Farnsworth and Erik Schorr will face-off for Anacortes School District Board of Commissioners, Position 2, in the general election Nov. 2.
School Board members are elected to four-year terms.
Transparency and communication are keys to a successful school district, keeping parents and community members involved and helping students reach all the resources they need, according to School Board candidate Diana Farnsworth.
The Anacortes School District needs to focus on getting information out to parents, students and teachers to make sure everyone knows what’s going on, she said. That leads to better outcomes, better pathways for students and a better chance of making the most use out of everything available to the district, she said.
Running for School Board
Farnsworth has considered running for the board for many years and thought about throwing her hat in the ring a few years ago when a seat was vacated. At the time, though, she had just earned her master’s degree and was starting a new job at the library.
Now, she’s ready to give the position the time that it deserves.
“Education is my career choice, not just something that I dabble in,” she said. “A vote for me is voting for someone who has been committed to our school district. I’m not running for a particular issue. I am running because I believe in our School District. It’s the pillar of our community.”
She said a good school district is where the community invests in its own future. People move to cities because of their school districts, and Anacortes is no exception, she said.
“I’ve chosen Anacortes as my home, and serving on the School Board is what I want to do to give back,” she said. “I want to invest in the district I’ve worked alongside for nearly a decade.”
Working through a pandemic
The district handled the COVID-19 pandemic the best it could with constantly changing regulations, Farnsworth said.
Superintendent Justin Irish is a capable and qualified leader who took over this district without the chance to meet most of the community because of the pandemic, she said.
He and the district are doing a great job with the resources they have, but more communication makes everything better, Farnsworth said.
The district needs a dedicated communications director — someone who can get that information out to parents, to students, to teachers and to everyone else in the community, she said. There have been times when people don’t entirely know what’s going on with changing rules and regulations.
“We should be letting people behind the scenes as much as possible in this unprecedented time,” she said.
When it comes to looking at what’s next for handling the impact of the pandemic, it comes down to listening to students and staff, Farnsworth said.
“It starts with acknowledging that we all went through something,” she said. “It’s going to take time and focus and listening and really watching out for where a student might need extra support or where a teacher might need extra support.”
That could mean mental health support and connecting students or teachers with resources. It could also mean seeing where students are falling behind academically and helping to fill in those gaps.
It comes down to letting teachers do the work, she said. They are in the classrooms and see what these students need. The School District needs to trust those teachers to see what is necessary, give them time to get training and to implement new things. That also means acknowledging it may take a little while to get everyone caught up, she said.
The district has many community resources and volunteers. Finding ways to bring in those resources and connect them with students is a vital way to find the pathway forward to success, she said.
One of Farnsworth’s main priorities is a “focus on having really clear, transparent channels of communication,” she said.
Parents have expressed concern lately about pathways for students. There are committees available for them to voice their concerns and find solutions, but those work only if people know about those committees and can participate, she said.
Clear communication from school out to the public is one part, but another is clearing those channels to the School Board members.
“I want to be an advocate for all student voices,” Farnsworth said.
Many parents can’t always attend board meetings, but their students still deserve to have someone advocate for their needs, she said. Keeping a student representative program at the School Board and allowing students the chance to voice their concerns and needs is important, she said.
Students are talking about the classes they want to take and the ways they want to learn, Farnsworth said. It’s up to the School District and the School Board to listen to that. Many times, there are great classes being offered at schools around the region like the Northwest Career and Technical Center and Skagit Valley College that allow students to try new things.
“Letting students know what their options are leads to curious, prepared learners who are ready to go do the next thing when they graduate,” she said.
In addition to more classes, students voice other concerns, such as having a greener school or making sure that diversity among students is recognized.
Students want to see more people like themselves and to feel represented and heard in the classroom, Farnsworth said. That means acknowledging bias and supporting an equity policy that helps students of all backgrounds succeed.
“I am running for the students most of all,” she said.
Learning and listening to students will help the district improve not just the numbers and data but the students’ lives.
“We can watch every student become better, critically think, learn from each other, understand the world outside of themselves and see themselves in what we’re teaching,” Farnsworth said. “That’s what makes our community strong.”