For the four candidates for the Burlington-Edison School Board District 4 position, student safety is a top priority.
Incumbent Rich Wesen faces three challengers — Mark Herrgesell, Celia Ponce Sanchez and Karen Terrell.
Wesen is seeking re-election to continue the board’s work resolving security concerns and being fiscally responsible. These efforts, along with switching to a block schedule and introducing teacher technology training, are ones Wesen is particularly proud of.
A lifelong Skagit County resident, he has been involved in the district for more than 30 years and served on the board for nine.
“I have a pretty good understanding of the school district, so I have a broad approach,” Wesen said.
On his docket for maintaining school safety is increasing security personnel, installing cameras on buses and outside schools, and locking building doors.
Herrgesell said that as a person with passion, excitement and vision, he wants to foster positive leadership on the board to tackle issues such as school safety, overcrowding and ensuring equitable resources.
If elected, Herrgesell said he will start by educating himself on security systems to pinpoint areas for improvement and creating open communication with community members.
“I firmly believe the status quo of having good schools is simply not enough,” he said. “We can have great schools. While our school district has made progress over the years, there is so much more we can achieve, and we owe to the parents and students across our district to try.”
Ponce Sanchez wants to come at the issue with a prevention-minded approach, by introducing a mental health provider into the district.
"The approach normalizes access to mental health," she said. "A lot of our youths are experiencing mental health crisis at such a young age. Having an embedded mental heath provider ... (to help students) cope would be ideal."
If elected, Ponce Sanchez said she will also advocate for special needs children and bilingual education while bringing together teachers, parents and the district to make collaborative strides.
Terrell has a similar stance to Ponce Sanchez on student safety.
"The crux of all of it is students feeling that they belong," she said. "I don’t think there’s anything wrong with security cameras and things, but I think we should start with making sure students don’t feel isolated."
A lifelong teacher, Terrell decided to run for the board when she realized she wanted to continue serving youths after retiring from teaching in June.
"It’s a huge commitment, and I feel like I’m in the right time in my life to make that commitment," she said.