Suzanne Dale Estey, left, and Sue Peters, right, are running for the Seattle School Board, District 4, to take Past School Board President Michael DeBell's place.
School Board candidates bring different styles, approach
Winner of District 4 could determine majority
In the Seattle School Board race, the two candidates duking it out in District 4, which outgoing Past School Board President Michael DeBell is leaving vacant, have differences in style and approach that could shift the school board majority one way or another.
That’s how District 4 School Board Candidate Sue Peter frames it.
“What we’re fighting for is the future of the school board and the district and the board majority,” Peters said. “This race is going to decide the board majority.”
Peters says she represents the parents, the teachers and the community, while she claims opponent Suzanne Dale Estey represents businesses and corporate education reform.
Estey would dispute this claim, citing that she has plenty of support from parents and regular community members, too. She also said she doesn’t necessarily reject the support she has from business interests or the multitude of public officials she has been able to line up to endorse her.
Peters and Estey have different backgrounds.
Estey is a government relations and economics consultant. She has two sons, one in second grade and the other in kindergarten. She graduated from Seattle Public Schools and even served as chair of the Inter-High Council, which represented students in an advisory role on the Seattle School Board.
Peters is a Stanford-trained journalist who writes about local and national education issues on the Seattle Education Blog. She is also a volunteer, an education activist who has served on two community task forces and a parent of two children who have been in the Seattle Public Schools system for nine years.
But on the face of things, the two candidates seem to agree on several issues.
They’re both against charter schools.
“I’m opposed to privatizing education,” Peters said. “I believe public education is a public trust, and we need to maintain public oversight over it. And we need to keep all our public funding in public control.”
Both question MAP testing.
“I do think assessments are part of (graduate high school with qualifications),” Estey said. “I just don’t think the MAP test is the right tool for both high school and youth and teacher evaluations.’
Both support early learning (“That’s obviously something worth supporting,” Peters said) and both want to encourage and attain more funding for K-12 (“This states funding of K-12 is pathetic,” Estey said).
One clear-cut difference is that Peters has the endorsement of the four school board candidates that Estey claims have caused the board to become dysfunctional: Marty McLaren, Betty Patu, Sharon Peaslee and Kay Smith-Blum.
According to the Seattle Weekly, a report shows a deep rift between the “old” and “new” guards of the school board, as well as distrust between the board and staff. Micromanaging and bickering were also cited in the report.
However, Peters contends that the school board isn’t quite as contentious as people claim it to be. Rather than the four board members who usually have the blame pinned on them, Peters says that Michael DeBell is the one who always went to the media and agitated the rumors.
“What you have is Michael DeBell going to the Seattle Weekly and badmouthing his colleagues, and I don’t buy that. This idea of a ‘board that has issues’ I think is overstated by people who are interested in misrepresenting the school board,” Peters said. “I am actually proud of the fact that I am endorsed by four of the seven of the school board.”
Nonetheless, Estey believes the report doesn’t lie. She thinks there is clearly something wrong that isn’t being addressed.
“There’s been dysfunction at the school board, and that’s been a driver for me because I got sick of reading about it … they’ve been distracted by personal politics rather than student achievement,” Estey said.
Two mailers totaling $18,500 sent out on Estey’s behalf as an independent expenditure made by “Great Seattle Schools” brought this point home by attacking Peters, painting her as “More of the Same.” To back up this statement, one of the mailers stated Peters had the endorsements of the four “dysfunctional” school board members.
Estey believes she can bring change and use her experience working with the government to bring more money to the schools. Under the McCleary decision, the court ruled that the state was failing to meet its constitutional obligation to fund K-12 edcuation.
“I think one of our challenges spin from just trying to adequately fund our schools.
The pie is not big enough. I would be a very strong advocate for increasing our commitment to increasing education funding,” Estey said.
Peters, meanwhile, is running on the platform that she will represent the people that matter.
“I’m going to represent the people. One of the main reasons I’m running is because I feel our district has been unresponsive to our communities. For the majority they’ve talked in a top-down perspective,” she said.
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