API Candidate Forum: Who do I Vote For Seattle School Board on November 7?

Guest Contributor October 10, 2017 0

Cedar Park Elementary, Kindergarten Classroom. • Photo by Joe Wolf

Education is very important to our Asian Pacific Islander (API) community. In 2016, the Seattle Public Schools enrolled 8,027 (15%) API students and served 2,031 (24%) API bilingual students. The graduation rate is 77%. That means more than one student out of five is not graduating. Our API students and students of color still have opportunities gaps.

The leadership in the public schools system is very important to us. This election, three out of the seven Seattle School Board member positions are up for election. The Asian Pacific Islander Candidates Forum asked the candidates to answer questions that are important to our API community.  Be an informed voter this November 7. Read the candidates’ answers below. You can also see all candidates education, employment, and community service profiles at info.kingcounty.gov/kcelections/Vote/contests/candidates.aspx.

SAVE THE DATE: The October 12 API Candidates Forum at 5:30 p.m. will be held at the Nagomi Tea House (519 6th Avenue South in Chinatown International District) featuring the Mayoral, City Council Positions 8 and 9, and Port of Seattle Commissioners candidates. A light meal will be served.

API Candidates Forum community sponsors include: Asian Counseling & Referral Service (ACRS), Asian Pacific American Labor, Alliance (APALA), Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC), Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civil Empowerment (APACE), APACEvotes, API Coalition Advocating Together for Health Communities (APICAT), Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Foundation (ACLF), Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Seattle (CACA), Friends of Little Saigon, Helping Link, Int’l Community Health Services (ICHS), Interim Community Development Association (InterImCDA), Japanese American Citizens League, Seattle (JACL), Korean American Coalition (KAC), Organization of Chinese Americans, Greater Seattle, (OCA), Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation & Development Authority, Tasveer, Vietnamese Friendship Association WA State, and India Trade Relations Action Committee (WASITRAC) with media partners International Examiner (IE), North American Post, Northwest Asian Weekly (NWAW), and Seattle Chinese Post. Co-Chaired by Maria Batayola, Gail Gustafson, Akemi Matsumoto and Kay Nelson.



The following are questions from the API Candidates Forum and answers by: candidate Betty Patu for Board Position District VII (candidate Chelsea Byers did not participate in the questionnaire); candidates for Board Position District IV Eden Mack and Herbert J. Camet Jr.; and candidates for Board Position V Omar Vasquez and Zachary DeWolf.

BETTY PATU, Board Position District VII

1. What is your education philosophy and how does that solve the opportunities gap for our students of color?

Betty Patu: My education philosophy is that every student should be treated with the same care by receiving the same innovative curriculum and programs they need to stimulate their minds and lead them to college or whatever career path they choose. Having culturally competent teachers that care and are willing to teach and prepare our students of color for the future is of particular importance. We need to invest in all our schools, especially those that serve high poverty students. … Since my time in office, Rainier Beach High School … increased its graduation rates from 53% to 81% … Cleveland High School … from 44% in 2007 to 89 percent.

2. What is your teacher accountability philosophy? How do you hold teachers accountable for factors that are beyond their control?

Patu: The teacher must develop knowledge of the different cultures of their students in their classes and get to know them and what they bring to their classes. We have students representing over 149 nationalities in Seattle Public Schools, who speak 143 languages. Cultural competence is very important. We should … [make] sure school principals and other mentors visit their classes, check out their lessons and watch the response of students and the student-teacher interactions. When students are not engaged in class the teacher should be helped and encouraged to teach an innovative lesson. If a student misbehaves, the school administrator is responsible for helping the teacher handle the situation.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing Seattle Public Schools’ Asian Pacific American students and what are you going to do about it?

Patu: I believe the biggest issue facing Seattle Public Schools’ Asian Pacific American students is that many people assume that all Asians are academically smart, not figuring in any possible cultural or language barriers they may face. Expectations for Asian students are higher among teachers than other ethnic groups. As a Board Director, my job is to make sure that all students are treated with the same amount of respect and empathy and not according to stereotypes. Also, it is critical to understand that there are many Asian cultures and that each culture is different. Asians should not be lumped into one category. …

4. What are your thoughts on ethnic studies?

Patu: I believe ethnic studies should be taught from K-12 grades because it is very important for all our students to be respected, understood, and to learn about each other’s cultures and how each country and ethnicity contributes to our fast-growing city, our country and its economy. I know firsthand as an immigrant from Samoa whose first language was not English that our cultures shape us. To understand our students, we need to understand their heritage.

5. What do you know of student data disaggregation? Why is it an important tool to ensure that all students receive a quality education? What will you do to support implementation and use of data disaggregation?

Patu: It is very important information … to know what students from each demographic may be lacking academically or in support, and if the school curriculum, climate and culture meet those needs appropriately. … Data helps us to understand which interventions may or may not be producing desired results … I would like to see the District compile and publish the Student Data Profile … like it used to. It helped show us exactly which students need support in what areas… It is the district’s responsibility to provide all students a high quality and equitable education. It’s stated in our Board Racial Equity Policy 0030. It’s also a legal and moral duty.

6. Studies have shown that students in aircraft noise affected schools have lower stan-dardized math and reading test scores, and that the difference is mitigated when the schools are insul-ated. Airplanes fly over Beacon Hill every 3-5 minutes. Beacon Hill has a population of 80% people of color which includes 50% Asian Pacific Islander, 44% born outside the United States and 36% do not speak English very well. Recent test scores show Beacon Hill elementary students scoring lower than other parts of the school district. Beacon Hill is not eligible for FAA mitigation dollars. What would you do to address this problem?

Patu: There should be a meeting between the school district and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address how the noise from their planes is interfering with the learning of our students. I would like to have them pay for the insulation of the schools. I will bring this issue to the attention of the Superintendent and our legal department.

7. Tell us what makes you the better candidate for the Seattle School Board position.

Patu: I have served on the board for two terms, as Board President, Chair of the Operations Committee, as the City Liaison, and have served on every committee. … I am very familiar with immediate and complex issues related to capacity, growth, building, boundaries, and budget. I am the only candidate in the race with deep institutional knowledge of the district, its policies and challenges, and have built important relationships within the district and city and state government … with deep ties to the community I directly represent. … During my term … the schools in my Southeast district have risen from level 1 & 2 to levels 3, 4, & 5. …

8. What one question do you want to ask your opponent?

Patu: What have you done for the Southeast community and what communities have you reached out to?


HERBERT J CAMET JR., Board Position District IV

1. What is your education philosophy and how does that solve the opportunities gap for our students of color?

Herbert J. Camet Jr.: As an educator for 43 years in 11 countries worldwide and a personal & professional learner in all those cultures/countries too, I know that learning is life and life is learning for all humans everywhere …Education is to enable and enhance each individual’s authentic personal self-development and self-expression through organized learning activities in a communal school/classroom learning environment from Pre-K through graduate university levels. The task and mission of true educators and educational (school) organizations is to ensure there are equal and fair and effective opportunities and options for all learners (students) and that no group or subgroup of students is ever subjected to discriminatory or unequal or unfair treatment.

2. What is your teacher accountability philosophy? How do you hold teachers accountable for factors that are beyond their control?

Camet: As a School Principal in 5 countries already (USA, Cambodia, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Iraq), and as a teacher myself in 11 countries too for 43 years. … Teachers must be directly accountable and responsible to the School Principal for their classroom instructional efforts and for enabling all their learners (students) to achieve the subject area target learning.  Of course, teachers cannot legally nor administratively be held accountable for factors that are beyond their control, except for reporting or informing the School Principal or School Counselor of any relevant situation for a student for which they may have personal knowledge.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing Seattle Public Schools’ Asian Pacific American students and what are you going to do about it?

Camet: Actually I cannot arrogantly presume to tell Asian Pacific students, parents, and communities here what they perceive to be their biggest “issue.” They know their needs and they can fully inform and advise me of their own felt needs and experienced situations in the Seattle public schools and guide me in my School Board plans and proposals to adequately address and resolve their issues. Of course, the Board should mandate the SPS District Administration to identify issues affecting Asian and other ethnic students and report to the Board the District’s programs and plans to meet the learning needs of all students. …

4. What are your thoughts on ethnic studies?

Camet: Ethnic-centered studies are appropriate at all K-12 grade levels, and can also be incorporated into standard curricula courses.

5. What do you know of student data disaggregation? Why is it an important tool to ensure that all students receive a quality education? What will you do to support implementation and use of data disaggregation?

Camet: Data disaggregation refers to breaking down aggregated data into subgroups based on gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, neighborhoods. … Student disaggregated data is very essential to identifying the actual achievement levels of each ethnic or gender or neighborhood student subgroup and is required for implementing adequate and appropriate school system programs and efforts to reach students who are falling below the systemwide student achievement averages. The School Board must mandate the SPS District Administration to use disaggregated data along with their aggregated student statistics and report both these data sets publicly.

6. Studies have shown that students in aircraft noise affected schools have lower stan-dardized math and reading test scores, and that the difference is mitigated when the schools are insul-ated. Airplanes fly over Beacon Hill every 3-5 minutes. Beacon Hill has a population of 80% people of color which includes 50% Asian Pacific Islander, 44% born outside the United States and 36% do not speak English very well. Recent test scores show Beacon Hill elementary students scoring lower than other parts of the school district. Beacon Hill is not eligible for FAA mitigation dollars. What would you do to address this problem?

Camet: The School Board cannot control aircraft approach patterns and areas (that is a matter for appropriate federal, state, and local government officials). If insulation in school buildings is lacking or inadequate then the School Board can direct the SPS District Administration to prepare a budget request for installing proper insulation in these buildings, after SPS Admin conducts assessments of what each school building actually needs and prepares a plan for implementing these insulation refits.

7. Tell us what makes you the better candidate for the Seattle School Board position.

Camet: My academic credentials and professional educator qualifications include: Master of Arts (M.A.) in Education Administration, Graduate Teacher Education Program Certification, Graduate Teaching Fellow in History, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History, Peace Corps Volunteer training & service, Peace Corps TESL Training Certification—California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), Passed Professional Educator Work Experience (in 11 countries worldwide for more than 40 years), K-12 School Principal (in USA, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Pakistan), K-12 & ESL Teacher, ESL/ELT Program Manager & Curriculum Specialist, K-12 Curriculum Specialist (IB & Common Core), International Education Consultant, University Instructor.

8. What one question do you want to ask your opponent?

Camet: How do you explain and justify to the voters and parents of Seattle the many thousands of dollars (you already stated you had a $30,000 campaign account with more expected, and you hired an expensive political campaign ad agency “WinPower, Inc” to run your candidacy)you have received from partisan political groups and their corporate business backers to place you on the School Board when the monthly stipend (salary) for a School Board member is only a maximum of $400 (four hundred dollars monthly for a 4 year term)?

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EDEN MACK, Board Position District IV

1. What is your education philosophy and how does that solve the opportunities gap for our students of color?

Mack: We need to meet students where they are and open the door to opportunities. Every student should receive a great education, no matter their ethnicity, where they live or what their background. Every classroom needs to have high expectations for all students while providing the appropriate supports to engage students in learning. Not every student learns in the same way. Our District needs to build on and expand access to the programs and services that are appropriately tailored to engage our diverse students in learning the skills, standards and information to help them succeed in college, career, and life.

2. What is your teacher accountability philosophy? How do you hold teachers accountable for factors that are beyond their control?

Mack: We need to hold educators accountable for those factors that are in their control, and focus on strategies that set our educators up for success. I support the educator evaluation systems that have been implemented, and we must increase professional development on topics like on cultural competency and implicit bias, as well as ensure that we retain great educators with competitive wages. Every school also needs to have ALL of the necessary materials and support staff like counselors, nurses, crossing guards, and playground supervision, so that teachers can teach and students can learn effectively.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing Seattle Public Schools’ Asian Pacific American students and what are you going to do about it?

Mack: Asian Pacific American students in Seattle Public Schools face lower rates of educational attainment when compared with other Asian students in Washington. It is our responsibility to grow successful strategies that engage students and help them succeed. The district needs to increase efforts that will help close the opportunity gap, including: expanding programs/schools for immigrant students at all grade levels, like the World School; engage community partners, like SEAdD for mentorship and other services; provide quality English langauge learner servies while respecting and supporting ethnic studies and; increase access to highly capacble services for non-native English speakers.

4. What are your thoughts on ethnic studies?

Mack: Ethnic studies are essential curriculum for all students, and I supported the board resolution from this past spring. All students benefit from these studies, by understanding the richness of our community’s diversity and also the complicated nature of existing power structures. A Stanford University study found that at-risk students had higher attendance rates and significantly boosted their GPA when taking ethnic studies courses. That means ethnic studies aren’t just another class students can take, but a vital addition to school curriculum that can function as a tool for student engagement and retention.

5. What do you know of student data disaggregation? Why is it an important tool to ensure that all students receive a quality education? What will you do to support implementation and use of data disaggregation?

Mack: Student data disaggregation is an important tool for understanding the particular challenges faced by different student communities. It’s particularly useful when we are working to serve a large and highly diverse community with many different needs. For example, student data for Asians can be misleading when Asian Pacific Islander data is not disaggregated. We need to ensure that the data for Asian students is appropriately disaggregated in the District’s analyses, and I will support efforts to implement disaggregation within the District’s data management systems.

6. Studies have shown that students in aircraft noise affected schools have lower stan-dardized math and reading test scores, and that the difference is mitigated when the schools are insul-ated. Airplanes fly over Beacon Hill every 3-5 minutes. Beacon Hill has a population of 80% people of color which includes 50% Asian Pacific Islander, 44% born outside the United States and 36% do not speak English very well. Recent test scores show Beacon Hill elementary students scoring lower than other parts of the school district. Beacon Hill is not eligible for FAA mitigation dollars. What would you do to address this problem?

Mack: The next Building Excellence Levy (BEX V) is in process now and will be on the February 2019 ballot. I will push to ensure that the District implements a formal, analysis based and transparent process of “nomination” for projects for BEX V funding. Communities like Beacon Hill and Rainier Beach need to get on the list for funding, instead of continuously being bumped off by projects that have louder supporters.

7. Tell us what makes you the better candidate for the Seattle School Board position.

Mack: I have proven track record of a deep commitment to public education in Seattle. I know the district and challenges we face, and I know how to make policy decision that will provide every student in with the great education they are constitutionally guaranteed. With my Master’s in Public Administration and serving as Seattle Council PTSA legislative chair, founding President of Washington’s Paramount duty, chair of the Youth Schools and Education committee for the Seattle City Neighborhood Council and on the SPS Capacity Management Task force, I’ve been fighting for Seattle’s students and families, and will continue to do so.

8. What one question do you want to ask your opponent?

Mack: How will you listen to communities and work effectively with other board members and district staff?


ZACHARY DEWOLF, Board Position District V

1. What is your education philosophy and how does that solve the opportunities gap for our students of color?

Zachary DeWolf: We need to create schools that are palaces for our students. They need to be safe, clean, fun places where kids want to go to learn every morning and want to stay after the last bell rings. We do this with motivated, smart and caring teachers. We need to close the opportunity gap by making sure that students all start on the same playing field … We need to make sure that we look at the schools that are suffering and get them the funding and teachers they need in order to succeed.

2. What is your teacher accountability philosophy? How do you hold teachers accountable for factors that are beyond their control?

DeWolf: We must hold our teachers to high standards and hold them accountable to maintain those standards. We must work with the teachers, administrators, families, and students to make sure that everyone is on the same page. We must make it important for our Principals to know what’s going on in each classroom. They need to take the pulse of each classroom and what’s going on, what’s being taught, and which teachers are doing well or falling behind. It is this day to day information that will keep our teachers working on the things that need work, and not worrying about things that are working correctly.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing Seattle Public Schools’ Asian Pacific American students and what are you going to do about it?

DeWolf: I believe one of the biggest issues facing API students and families in SPS is accessible education and authentic engagement. I intend to work with the district to identify, using a racial equity tool, places where we can improve. I also want to work with local groups and organizations on projects, such as El Centro’s “Proyecto Saber” which helps students succeed at the intersection of culture and academics.

4. What are your thoughts on ethnic studies?

DeWolf: I believe ethnic studies are incredibly important. I have been a long proponent of teaching ethnic studies in our public schools. When elected to the school board, I intend to advocate for implementing inclusive and rigorous coursework into the curriculum that would include ethnic and anti-racist studies. I think a diverse culture thrives when the student body is made aware of the differences that we have in our society. I will work very hard to make sure that we illuminate the incredible joy that a rich and diverse culture does to make our community stronger and brighter.

5. What do you know of student data disaggregation? Why is it an important tool to ensure that all students receive a quality education? What will you do to support implementation and use of data disaggregation?

DeWolf: It is important because without data disaggregation, we see only one population of people. For example, the API students, who have a higher average score and appears to be doing well, however, when you narrow down by ethnicity you will see differences between certain students from Korea compared to their Hmong peers. Without disaggregating, we miss these important distinctions. How does culture or tradition impact how we’re showing up and serving those students? And how do we find micro-solutions for certain ethnicities that aren’t succeeding at the level we know these students can be.

6. Studies have shown that students in aircraft noise affected schools have lower stan-dardized math and reading test scores, and that the difference is mitigated when the schools are insul-ated. Airplanes fly over Beacon Hill every 3-5 minutes. Beacon Hill has a population of 80% people of color which includes 50% Asian Pacific Islander, 44% born outside the United States and 36% do not speak English very well. Recent test scores show Beacon Hill elementary students scoring lower than other parts of the school district. Beacon Hill is not eligible for FAA mitigation dollars. What would you do to address this problem?

DeWolf: I would do what I know how to do best, connect with the people I have spent my life serving and working with at the city, county, and state level. I would make sure we find a solution that suits the needs of our students. If we can’t get FAA dollars to help fix the problem we must look for other avenues to get help. Students can’t learn with loud noises outside the classroom going on all day and this must be noticed and fixed.

7. Tell us what makes you the better candidate for the Seattle School Board position.

DeWolf: I have spent my life serving my community. I was in the Peace Corps in Belize where I built a library and taught children to read and write in braille. Since then, I have been in Seattle working tirelessly with numerous organizations as an advocate. … Currently, I am a commissioner with the Seattle housing authority and I am President of Capitol Hill Community Council … I went to public schools and believe in public schools. I want to take my experience and knowledge and use it to create a culture of learning and excitement in our precious public school system.

8. What one question do you want to ask your opponent?

DeWolf: You sit on a charter school board. You said recently at a forum we both attended, that you look forward to striking a new deal with the teachers unions next year. Given the prominent role you’ve played in the push for charter schools, the voters and the union are justifiably concerned about your views. Could you provide us with an outline of the kind of deal you are anticipating?

* * *

OMAR VASQUEZ, Board Position District V

1. What is your education philosophy and how does that solve the opportunities gap for our students of color?

Omar Vasquez: The purpose of education is to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and mindsets for them to exercise self-determination, which for many students means breaking into the middle-class. Closing the opportunity gap means (1) closing the LITERACY GAP that starts before kids enter the classroom; (2) providing SERVICES to kids suffering trauma, homelessness, poverty, or abuse; (3) NOT GIVING UP on kids no matter what; (4) operating with a sense of URGENCY; (5) having one MENTOR in every kid’s life; (5) making school RELEVANT and CHALLENGING; (6) supporting STUDENT POWER to reimagine schools; (7) DIVERSITY among educators; and much more!

2. What is your teacher accountability philosophy? How do you hold teachers accountable for factors that are beyond their control?

Vasquez: Although teachers cannot be expected to solve all society’s problems, they can be expected to (1) determine students’ knowledge at the beginning of the year, (2) set ambitious goals for students, (3) execute good unit and lesson plans, (3) use data to inform practices, (4) reach out to families (particularly for students who are behind), (5) continually improve.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing Seattle Public Schools’ Asian Pacific American students and what are you going to do about it?

Vasquez: The API community is not a homogenous group, so I hesitate generalizing. Generally, the opportunity gap is very real for many API students, despite the “Model Minority” myth. As a director, I would address language barriers for the schools that result in fewer API families (relative to White families) expressing confidence in their ability to support their child’s learning and path to college. I would make sure schools (1) hold more in-person community meetings, (2) provide consistent interpretation services, and (3) value API identity, culture, and languages. ELL support should not come at the expense of core courses and art.

4. What are your thoughts on ethnic studies?

Vasquez: Ethnic studies are essential to affirm students’ identities and history. For too long, the social studies curriculum has omitted the history of non-hegemonic cultures. The data is overwhelming: ethnic studies improves literacy, attendance, student engagement, and even math scores. It gives students a sense of belonging, an understanding of where they came from, and a sense of civic responsibility. Everyone benefits from ethnic studies: students of color and white students alike. I’m interested in supporting and expanding API ethnic studies programs in our schools. Watch me on YouTube advocating for ethnic studies before the Seattle School Board this past June!

5. What do you know of student data disaggregation? Why is it an important tool to ensure that all students receive a quality education? What will you do to support implementation and use of data disaggregation?

Vasquez: Data disaggregation involves statistical analysis of student achievement metrics broken down (disaggregated) by subgroups, e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, teacher, neighborhoods, socio-economic status, to inform opinions about what is working, what is not, and where resources should be directed. Data analysis should inform all aspects of education, including formative assessments in the classroom, attendance rates, high school graduation rates, college acceptance rates, college graduation rates, and employment data. Strong statistical analysis and longitudinal studies disaggregated by subpopulation is a tool for holding ourselves accountable.

6. Studies have shown that students in aircraft noise affected schools have lower stan-dardized math and reading test scores, and that the difference is mitigated when the schools are insul-ated. Airplanes fly over Beacon Hill every 3-5 minutes. Beacon Hill has a population of 80% people of color which includes 50% Asian Pacific Islander, 44% born outside the United States and 36% do not speak English very well. Recent test scores show Beacon Hill elementary students scoring lower than other parts of the school district. Beacon Hill is not eligible for FAA mitigation dollars. What would you do to address this problem?

Vasquez: Wealthy communities have successfully engaged with airports and airlines so as to minimize noise over their homes—we should advocate for Beacon Hill students as well. I would look to replicate the Highline district’s approach to aircraft noise. They secured federal grants to install sound insulation in their schools. In addition to federal money, I would look to the district’s BEX and BTA levy funds to upgrade infrastructure to prevent overhead noise. Additionally, I would want to engage with the Port of Seattle to make efforts for planes to minimize noise over certain corridors.

7. Tell us what makes you the better candidate for the Seattle School Board position.

Vasquez: I am the experienced and qualified candidate. As a teacher of six years, I would be the only director with classroom experience. I served on the Mayor’s Education Advisory Council, where I proposed policy solutions the City could implement to support our schools. I have (1) governance experience overseeing public funds in education, (2) legal experience engaging with federal and state education law, and (3) finance experience, having worked on multi-million dollar transactions as a lawyer and having studied finance and accounting at Penn (Wharton.) My opponent has no significant educaiton experience, nor the legal and financial training I have.

8. What one question do you want to ask your opponent?

Vasquez: What, if any, experience do you have as a teacher, a PTA member, or a volunteer in schools?


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