Primary election results for the Seattle School Board offer hope. Suzanne Dale Estey, Sue Peters and Stephan Blanford emerged as the top vote getters in their respective districts. Now voters citywide should put them through their paces as we head into the fall general election.
An especially spirited race is promised between Dale Estey and Sue Peters. Less than a thousand votes separated the two candidates from District 4, which includes Queen Anne, Magnolia and part of Ballard and includes many of the district’s professional and upper-income families. The Times endorsed Dale Estey, because she has real experience working on education — not talking or blogging about it — but actually working on efforts like the Road Map Project, the highly regarded South Seattle and South King County school-improvement effort. She knows how to take an idea and develop it into a working plan, having done so as economic-development director for the city of Renton.
Dale Estey’s work for former King County Executive Ron Sims, former Gov. Gary Locke and former President Bill Clinton tells me she can navigate political waters without combusting. Her support from the man who may become Seattle’s next mayor, state Sen. Ed Murray, as well as from one of the most thoughtful lawmakers on education, state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, speak volumes about the quality of her candidacy.
Peters may give Dale Estey a run for her money. But the effort would have to begin with Peters broadening beyond the “education activist” description. Here’s why: Any parent volunteering in the classrooms, on field trips, attending school board meetings, raising money for education or in myriad other ways working to improve their local schools is an activist. So is Peters merely one of them? Or is the “activist” moniker code for membership in a small cabal of district critics who have not changed their reflexive oppositional stances since the early 1990s? Conversations leading up to the November general election should provide answers.
In District 5, Blanford is not the only candidate moving forward but he is the only one voters should concern themselves with. Voters in the district, which covers central Seattle and Capitol Hill, gave the education consultant 78 percent of the vote, a commanding lead that all but assures his victory in November. Good. As the Times noted in his endorsement, Blanford’s civic and professional resume is steeped with work on behalf of public schools. Master’s and doctorate degrees in education from the University of Washington offer needed expertise.
For a host of reasons Blanford’s candidacy is stronger than that of LaCrese Green, the candidate who came in a distant, distant, second but in our top-two primary system also moves forward. But here’s one reason we should all keep in mind. Green is the author of a letter to the late Cheryl Chow, telling the former member of the school board and city council — and a proud lesbian who came out publicly near the end of her life — that she would not be going to heaven because of her sexuality. Voters should reject anyone who does not grasp the concept of equality for everyone.
Stay fixed on the school board races. Seattle could use a few years of smart, strong board governance. A number of key issues are at stake, including important deadlines on special education as this Times front page story noted. State education officials are warning the district that it is in danger of losing special education funding in the absence of a credible program improvement plan. Other issues to tackle include wide disparities in the quality of schools, teachers and in academic results and discipline rates. Voters should put the candidates through their paces on those issues as we move toward the general.