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.
The following answers were submitted in the candidate's own words.
Name: Diana Farnsworth
Community involvement: American Association of University Women (AAUW), member; Soroptimist Education Committee, past member; Anacortes Reading is Fundamental (RIF) former chair; Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year Selection Committee; National History Day Judge; ASD Community Stakeholder participant at Equity Convening 2019; AMS Drama Club volunteer; Anacortes Community Health Council, representative; Anacortes Community Theatre, member of Education Committee, Class Act instructor; Island Hospital Foundation Gala Volunteer; Anacortes Senior College Instructor.
Education: Master of Information and Library Science, San Jose State University; Master of English, La Sierra University; Bachelor of Arts, Speech Communication, Walla Walla University
Why are you running for the Anacortes School Board?
I’ve spent the past decade working alongside the district and volunteering in our community. I’ve gotten to know our students and staff. After serving on various committees, I’m ready to serve as a representative of students, teachers, and parents in our district. I am honored to have the support of our local teacher’s union, showing their faith in my commitment to their success. I’m running because I am committed to giving back to my community. After receiving a scholarship from the Anacortes Schools Foundation to become a librarian 8 years ago, I’m ready to further support our district. I attended the public input sessions when we began focusing on the need for equity in our district, and I want to see that policy continually supported and championed. I have the unique position of working with all different kinds of learners from all backgrounds in my profession and I want to ensure they’re seen and heard. I care about all students finding success, regardless of where they come from. I’m ready to work to support our district in raising students up to meet our “ambitious expectations for success” so every Anacortes student can confidently enter the world ready to thrive.
What do you believe qualifies you for this position?
I’ve spent my life working in education, teaching and volunteering in multiple districts and schools for the past 14 years. In Anacortes, I volunteered with our elementary PTAs to bring a theatre program with Class Act to all elementary schools, and then taught the pilot class at each one. I’ve volunteered at Anacortes middle and high school in classrooms and clubs. My commitment to education began long before I moved here. During graduate school, I taught college writing courses and ELL classes to incoming freshmen who were hoping to pursue advanced degrees, and I know how important it is that all our graduates are ready for their next step. Before moving here, in Walla Walla, WA, I led a literacy organization that brought authors to all elementary students, working alongside librarians, teachers, and parents to promote literacy. I worked with Seattle Shakespeare to teach classes in every middle and high school in the Walla Walla Valley, organizing instructors and leading classes. I am an educator.
Now, as a librarian, I work alongside families when their children are born, and I help students prepare for college, and support learners later in life going back to school or reentering the workforce. I’ve taught workshops in multiple districts in Washington, to all levels of students, and I want to support our educators and students in continuing to bring equitable learning opportunities to the students in our community. All students deserve a chance at a meaningful and engaging life. Whether their choice for that is a four-year college, a technical school, art school, a trade school, or applying for a job or internship, I want our students to know what their next options are and feel confident when they graduate. I’m committed to ensuring our district continues to provide an excellent education for all students. I’m invested in our students’ success.
In my career as a librarian, I work for a public institution that serves all citizens and members, keeping diverse needs in mind. I lead our marketing team where we seek to reach all citizens with our programs and messages. We report to a board to share how we’re achieving those goals as a managerial team. I spearheaded a district-wide partnership working with multiple city departments to make the Anacortes Public Library one of the school’s major partnerships, eliminating barriers to access for students and teachers and securing a public library card for every student in my first year at the library. In doing so, I worked with every level of staff at the school, from administration, IT staff, to teachers, gaining support and involving everyone so the program could succeed. I’m a collaborator.
I’m an experienced grant writer, which has given me experience in working with budgets, strict guidelines and policies, and in thinking outside the box to supplement resources so organizations I work for can meet high expectations without overspending—and build bridges to other organizational support in the process. I’ve served on a board, including chairing one for RIF here in Anacortes, and in doing so I worked alongside a team of volunteers, reporting out to the community on progress so they continued to be invested. I believe in making things happen as a team, and working together to break down barriers. My greatest strength is my ability to bring people together for a common goal, and I will bring that same passion for teamwork to the school board. I’ve volunteered on the district’s community forums and community input sessions over the years, I’ve attended board meetings, and I’ve worked alongside district employees and students, and I will work to continue to support the district in the role of school director. I have experience serving the public.
What do you see as the biggest obstacle facing the School District right now?
Right now, the biggest obstacle the district faces is how to ensure that all students are back in school feeling safe and secure. That after so much upheaval, they feel confident in their coursework, and that we have the staffing and resources to make that happen. This will require identifying new patterns in learning, providing accessible mental health supports, and being aware that the pandemic has taken a toll on learning, living, and our idea of normal. I think the district is doing an admirable job of focusing on the task at hand, which we’ve entrusted them to do, and as a community the biggest thing we can do is support them. If that remains our biggest obstacle, our district will be busy, but they’re up to the challenge.
I am concerned that over the past year, a lot of fear and frustration was directed at our district, and I think if it continues that could sadly become our biggest obstacle. I am hopeful that we can work together to support teachers rather than spread misinformation on topics that aren’t part of our district’s work, so they can focus on the work at hand. I do not want the loudest voices to continue to divert focus and pull resources away from the conversations and work as a board is elected to do to ensure our students feel safe in school and can focus on learning. I would like to see us supporting our district, and focus on education and student well-being. We need to support the real equity work that needs to be done, and celebrate the renewed focus on getting data to support equitable testing so students’ needs are identified earlier, and then get them the support they need. We should not be questioning the district’s mandate to wear masks, because it’s simply what we need to do right now to keep our students in school—and it’s the law. If we can support rather than tear down, I think while this year will be challenging, we have a great chance of succeeding and getting our students caught up and back on track.
What are some new policies or changes you want to bring to the district?
I’d like to prioritize clear and open communication with the district and the community, utilizing technology and community partners to ensure families are informed of academic options, events, and new and changing policies. Our district, unlike many, does not have a communications director dedicated to public messaging. Clear and frequent communication for a school district of our size is a full time job, and without that position in our district, we’ve all felt out of the loop from time to time. I’d like to explore what resources we could put towards investing in communications, ideally with a position dedicated to the role. If it’s not financially obtainable, then I would support efforts to explore existing resources in our community, and try some new methods to improve our district communication.
I will work to continue building relationships with the community, so we can continue to maximize resources by exploring partnerships with local organizations, businesses, volunteers, and programs to expand opportunities for our students. We can always improve our networking so we can work effectively as a community to provide more educational, recreational, and social and emotional resources. Our district partners with many groups, from service clubs to social agencies and city departments, and I would like to see us making those efforts very visible in the community so there is a clear way to add more seats at the table for community members to be involved in our students’ education. For students with fewer advantages and support at home, perhaps there are mentorship opportunities or programs we can partner with. If we communicate and work together, we can raise all students up to equitable outcomes of success for their futures.
What is the School District doing right?
Our school district is doing many things well, but the things I’m most encouraged by are how they’re listening to the community, and making time for feedback and community input before making changes. I’m incredibly proud of our administration and board for keeping students and staff safe by supporting state policies around masking and social distancing. I am proud of our equity policy and the continued commitment by our district to keep working towards ensuring every student has the tools and supports they need to reach their fullest potential. Our school district is the foundation of our community, not only because it educates our future generations, but it is one of the main reasons people choose to live in Anacortes. We all benefit from a quality school district, and I think our district’s focus on continual improvement and growth is something our community can take great pride in.
What is your opinion on the equity work the School District is undertaking?
I support it completely. I served on the community input sessions and heard from teachers and students who were asking for a true focus on equity, and this policy is the result of that request. I’ve seen how schools that find ways to bring all students up by embracing equity see all their students perform better. Students and parents have shared stories of bullying, being silenced or singled out because of identity or appearance, and that is something we need to create policies around so our district’s vision is clear. This policy is necessary. We must be advocates for the students who don’t have someone who can advocate for them. At its core, the policy is there so every student gets what they need, regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, family support, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, language acquisition, mental health and many other factors. This is the highest calling of public education and something I will support in every way I can.
What is your opinion on mask requirements in schools?
Ultimately, I don’t think my opinion matters, because our medical professionals, the CDC, our governor, and the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction require masks for safe in-person instruction. That is all I need to know. As a board member, I will commit to knowing my role, which is to listen to experts and not question qualified authority figures when we should be spending our time focusing on supporting our district in its role as an educational institution. Personally, I do support wearing a mask when required, or even recommended to prevent the spread of a life-threatening illness like COVID-19. Since many children are too young to get vaccinated, the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask pales in comparison to putting their lives at risk in person, or their educational needs at risk if we have to go back to virtual learning because of increased infection rates. I will continue to support mask wearing in schools as long as medical professionals and scientific data support doing so.
What do you think the district needs to do to help students catch up on education they may have missed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
As the district begins identifying language acquisition and literacy gaps earlier, implementing opt-out models of testing for identifying high-capacity learners sooner, and recognizing biases honestly, all students will benefit. If we listen to students, and provide them with mental health resources, challenging academic options, and accessible support when they need it, we can not only catch them up, but hopefully keep raising them up to collective greater success. If we aren’t afraid to talk about biases, and embrace differences, celebrating them and learning about them, then I think we’ll see our students become more resilient. I believe we do this by having faith in our students, and supporting our educators as they focus on providing culturally responsive teaching. We provide safe, inclusive spaces for all our students, and give students ample opportunities to learn how to think critically, try and fail, and practice critical reasoning in the classroom so they can graduate prepared for lifelong success. We can learn a lot from the past year if we focus on learning from it, and recognizing we all went through something together, and that makes us stronger. If we come together to support our district, our staff, and our students, identifying the needs of students from every background, our students will all benefit.