The Nov. 7 general election ballot features a contested race for the Kent School Board.
Bryon Madsen and Denise Daniels are facing off for the four-year term for the Director District No. 4 position. The two were the top two vote-getters in the August primary ousting incumbent Agda Burchard. Maya Vengadasalam is running unopposed for her Director District No. 5 seat.
Madsen, and his wife, Sheila, have five children, including four Kent School District graduates. Their youngest child is in middle school. Madsen’s family became part of Kent schools in 1993 after he took a job with Flow International, where he worked for 10 years – first as a corporate tax manager, then in other roles, such as controller and international vice president of finance. Since 2003, Madsen has worked in downtown Seattle with wealth management.
What would you bring to the school board, if elected? The school district ended the 2016-2017 school year with a $7 million budget deficit. What steps does the district need to take to rebuild its reserves and ensure financial stability for the future? How do you propose to increase communication between the district and its constituents (i.e. teachers, parents, students)?
Since the 2013-14 fiscal year the general fund balance has gone from $28 million to $1.2 million. During the same period, general fund expenditures increased by $74 million when total enrollment increased by 1.2 percent. To meet expenditures, the district borrowed $10 million from the capital projects fund in February and up to another $15 million in July. The district has lost fiscal accountability and the board has not demanded it. To bring the general fund to a positive balance of $1.2M from a near $7 million projected deficit, the district presented a decrease of 55 full-time equivalent positions. Questions should have been asked about the reduction in personnel, ensuring cuts are as far as possible from the classroom. We do not want teachers having to pay out-of-pocket to keep their classrooms running. We want the focus to remain on education. Someone needs to ask specific questions and demand specific answers. I am that person. There needs to be focus on the details of what caused the increase of $74 million in expenditures. It is not acceptable. I know it has been tradition where district proposals are presented and immediately thereafter a board vote is needed to meet a deadline. For the 2017-18 budget, it was presented on Aug. 23 with the state budget deadline for all districts being Aug. 31. More importantly, this leaves no time for public comment, including teachers, to be heard and addressed. How can the community feel they are welcome in the process? On the KSD website, under public testimony, it states one of the purposes is for the public to “seek clarification” as well as make presentations. It is not possible to seek clarification or be a part of the process when within minutes of public testimony, the board votes on the agenda item. I would have voted no on the budget. It is not the taxpaying community’s problem that the district chose to present the budget within days of the deadline. It is this process that leaves, parents, teachers and students out of decisions, such as the change in the bell schedule, cuts in some music programs and banning of international travel. I recognize funds come from taxpayers; therefore, it demands accountability back to the community. To gain community communication I have accepted invitations to meet with various groups, including members of the Kent Education Association (teacher’s union). All parties are important. Prior to being contacted by the Kent Reporter, I took the step to commit personal funds to rent a room at the Green River Community Campus at Kent Station, put an ad in the public notices section of the Kent Reporter, inviting anyone who would like to attend so ideas can be gathered and shared. I would continue to hold such meetings. This is not about a candidate or a board member. It is about representing the community, teachers and students to help the district make the best decisions to educate our children and prepare them for their futures.
Daniels has a bachelor’s degree in business management and human services and a master’s degree in executive leadership and counseling. She is the assistant director of equity, outreach and engagement for the Auburn School District, where she has worked for three years. Prior to working in Auburn, she worked as a para-educator, behavior interventionist and family liaison in the Renton School District.
Daniels is passionate about all children and their education and believes in the power of transformational moments. She understands the system of education, knows how to build relationships and advocates for all children.
She and her husband live in Covington and have seven children, ages 12 to 28.
What would you bring to the school board, if elected?
If I am elected to the school board, I will bring my commitment and experience as an beducator and advocate to improve outcomes for our students. There are a variety of issues affecting our district, from the boardroom to the classroom, and I have worked along that entire continuum. I also have worked to support our most disadvantaged students and families and helped to ensure they have access to resources and opportunities to help them have a successful educational experience. I have the ability to develop partnerships and support systems that increase the success of both staff and students, and I am recognized and respected as an educational leader in my district and our region. I will make a difference in the Kent School District.
The school district ended the 2016-2017 school year with a $7 million budget deficit. What steps does the district need to take to rebuild its reserves and ensure financial stability for the future?
I believe that the recent budget adopted by the district is the first of several steps that need to be made to ensure recovery from this financial crisis. As we move forward, financial transparency and accountability cannot be an option, it has to be a must. Difficult decisions will always need to be made, however, we have a responsibility to our taxpayers, families and community to be fiscally responsible while doing so. We also need to continue to look for ways to continually examine and adjust spending practices, while still maintaining an acceptable level of support for our staff and students. Some examples of how this can be done include making sure we are monitoring class size, staffing needs, program participation and district level leadership.
How do you propose to increase communication between the district and its constituents (i.e. teachers, parents, students)?
One of the first and most important steps that will need to be taken will be to rebuild the trust between the district, the staff and our community. It is not enough to solicit community support when we need to pass a levy or bond. We must keep an open line of communication and provide multiple outreach opportunities to ensure all voices are being honored. I would like to see the district develop a network of stakeholders to serve as a community advisory team and be more intentional, inclusive and committed to active and meaningful partnerships with families, community members, staff and students.