Three of five seats on the Anacortes School Board will be contested in the Nov. 5 general election.
Of the six candidates, two are incumbents seeking second terms and one is seeking election after having been appointed to the seat in March.
The candidates identified issues such as school funding and the search for a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Mark Wenzel as the top issues facing the board.
Marilyn Hanesworth is seeking re-election because of what she sees as the importance of public education, she said in response to a questionnaire sent by the Skagit Valley Herald.
“It impacts the lives of our children on a daily basis, and when done well, provides a strong foundation for their future and the future of our community,” she wrote. “As a school board director, I can help determine our district priorities and positively impact the experience that all of our children have over the long term.”
She sees mental health and social-emotional issues as the biggest facing the district.
“These issues interfere with their educational experience and have a long-term impact on the trajectory of their lives,” she wrote.
She is being challenged by Miri Levi.
Drawing from her experience in the medical, art and business spheres, Levi said she is running to bring a new perspective to the board. She said that as a parent of young children she is invested in the district.
In a new superintendent, Levi said she would look for someone who was a community-minded leader, preferably with classroom experience.
“I think (the district) could have a more open, transparent approach to problem-solving and decision-making, and I think that comes from the leadership of both the board and the superintendent,” she said.
She also identified school funding as an issue for the board.
In light of recent changes in the way the state funds public education, the Anacortes School District had to make tough financial decisions this year.
While she would like to see the board continue to work with legislators to find an equitable solution, she said she would also like to explore other financing options such as grants.
Incumbent Bill Shaw is also seeking his second term.
“From my experiences as a public school student, a scientific researcher and educator, a director on public school boards in two states, and a parent, I appreciate the power of education in shaping the futures of our children,” he said in response to the questionnaire.
He also cited funding challenges as one of the biggest issues facing the board.
To address the issue he too said he would continue working with the Legislature to restore some of the funding lost by the district, search for other funding options and work to keep the district’s budget aligned with its goals.
“We will meet this challenge with fiscal responsibility and by drawing on the strength of our community’s commitment to education,” he said.
He is challenged by longtime educator Jennie Beltramini, a former teacher in the district.
“I think that of all the candidates running in all of the positions, I’m the only one that has experience teaching in K-12 in Washington, especially as a former teacher in the district,” she said.
Beltramini also cited funding and the search for a superintendent as key issues. In a superintendent, she said, she is looking for someone committed to the district, with a wide range of educational experiences, including in the classroom.
“Someone who wants to appreciate and celebrate all of the good things that are happening in the district, but also someone who is not satisfied with that and someone who is looking at the areas where the district could improve,” she said.
The board’s newest member, Matt Cutter, is seeking to be elected to his first full term. After 20 years in the Navy he said he was interested in a seat on the school board because he was looking for ways to continue to serve his community.
“I understand what it takes to lead a large organization and that will directly relate to our selection of our next superintendent,” he said.
In a superintendent, Cutter said he is looking for a candidate with proven leadership and communication skills and an understanding of budgets and curricula.
The conversation about budget issues goes beyond just that district, he said, and could involve talking with legislators about how to restore funding to previous levels.
Under the new system, districts such as Seattle Public Schools can receive more dollars per student than Anacortes.
“I think our students should be valued the same,” he said.
He is challenged by Connie Pangrazi, who worked as a teacher and administrator in public schools before moving into faculty and administrative roles in higher education.
“I have a deep understanding of the educational system, although I’m a newcomer,” she said. “The good news and the bad news is that I don’t know the deep history (of the district.) I would work hard to understand the history, but look forward with new eyes.”
Pangrazi said she would like to see the district emphasize the entire education system, focusing on early education as well as post-secondary options.
“We need to have opportunities for all students,” she said. “I’m definitely a college proponent, and have spent many of my years in higher education, but also I believe that college is not for every student. We need to have plenty of opportunities for students who are not college-bound.”