Longtime Burlington-Edison School Board member Bill Wallace is facing two competitors for his seat representing the third district, essentially from Bay View east toward the city limits.
Wallace, who has been on the board for 12 years, faces competition from a longtime educator, and a practicing mental health professional and former school counselor.
Wallace said he is running again because of his passion for youths and the community.
“A paramount goal for me is for all students to have a high quality K-12 education experience and are prepared for lifelong success,” he said in a response to a questionnaire sent by the Skagit Valley Herald to all of the candidates.
The biggest challenge for the person who wins the seat is overseeing complex — and changing — finance issues especially in the wake of the 2012 McCleary decision, which has resulted in drastic changes in the way the state funds public education, he said.
This year, the district was able to avoid having to make drastic budget cuts, unlike others around the area and state, Wallace said. He credited the board’s conservative management as the reason.
He also cited the need to address classroom space issues as a top priority. The district in February asked voters to approve a $98.3 million bond issuance request that would have, among other things, allowed the district to build a middle school, but the proposal did not meet the required 60% of approval for passage.
“I will take what I have learned to work with my fellow school board members and District administration to make important policy decisions,” he said in the questionnaire.
Former Conway School District Superintendent Ken Axelson is running because he believes in the importance of education, he said in response to the questionnaire.
“Growing up, education was constantly pushed and I have lived by that standard,” Axelson said. “I pledge to be a good listener, a huge supporter of educational standards and work to gain parent and community engagement in our educational programs.”
The most important thing that happens in a district is what happens between a teacher and students, he said.
“This should be the consistent and constant belief that any school director holds,” he said. “I believe all people serving on a board should consistently examine the big picture and work together to accomplish the goals established by the entire board and (ensure) that all within the district are moving in the same direction.”
Holly Nielsen began her career in education as a reading and math specialist in Seattle, she said. In 2002, she began working at Edison Elementary School as a counselor.
“I believe I can be a positive voice and advocate for the students, teachers, parents, and the community members in our district,” she said. “I want to be part of a district that seeks high levels of excellence in all aspects of our educational programming while developing enhanced equity, support, and efficiency in our ongoing operations.”
The biggest issue facing the district is to create a long-term vision, Nielsen said.
“We must work to re-establish optimism amongst all district employees and community members,” she said. “Education takes place in the classroom, and the board’s efforts must focus on enhancing and enriching what happens there.”
The primary election will be held Aug. 6. The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
Ballots for the primary will be mailed July 17.
See the candidates’ answers on their questionnaires online at goskagit.com.