Communication among top issues in Kent School Board race

  • Friday, July 14, 2017 2:55pm
  • News
From left, Agda Burchard, Bryon Madsen and Denise Daniels face off in the August primary election for Position No. 4 on the Kent School Board. The two candidates with the most votes advance to the November general election.

From left, Agda Burchard, Bryon Madsen and Denise Daniels face off in the August primary election for Position No. 4 on the Kent School Board. The two candidates with the most votes advance to the November general election.

Three candidates are vying for the District No. 4 director position on the Kent School Board in the Aug. 1 primary. Bryon Madsen and Denise Daniels are challenging incumbent Agda Burchard for the four-year term.

The top two vote getters move on to the Nov. 7 general election.

Agda Burchard

Burchard became active in the Kent School District when her daughter, a KSD graduate, entered kindergarten in 2002. Since 2012, Burchard has served as a school board director. She’s also served as a PTA leader, Girl Scout troop leader, Citizens for Kent Schools steering committee member and a director of an early childhood non-profit organization. Burchard has a master’s degree in human development with specializations in early childhood education and leadership in education. In 2016, she received the Outstanding Advocate of the Year Award from both Kent Area Council PTA and the Washington State PTA. Burchard is employed by the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, working with states, Tribal Nations and local programs in Alaska, Idaho and Oregon to improve early childhood education and development and to support low-income working families with child care financial assistance.

Why are you running for the school board?

As a parent of a Kent School District graduate, I understand we want the best education for our children. All students deserve safe welcoming schools, relevant coursework, academic rigor, nurturing relationships, and opportunities in the arts and sports. I am committed to Team KSD’s mission of successfully preparing all students for their futures. I want to make it possible for each and every student in the Kent School District to graduate as globally competitive learners ready for success in college, career and community life. In my five years on the school board, we have made progress. There is still much to do and I want to make it happen. KSD’s Blueprint: Learning Forward Together 2016-2021 is our road map. As a community volunteer, early childhood educator, and child advocate, I bring valuable skills, knowledge and expertise to the role of school board director. I can help Team KSD blast forward providing equitable access to high quality academic, social and applied learning so all our students thrive.

What are the top issues facing the Kent School District?

As elected officials, school board directors’ primary responsibility is to the public – their community. When making decisions, school boards should consider the perspectives of all stakeholder groups. And school board directors need to be good stewards of the public’s will and resources. With that perspective, community engagement and fiscal responsibility are two of my priorities.

KSD needs to do a better job of engaging parents, students, staff and community members in two-way communications focused on equity and excellence. To increase two-way communication with students, I initiated and coordinate an annual trip to Olympia for KSD students to meet and advocate with legislators and other elected officials. To further increase student voice in policy making, I arranged for another school board to come to Kent to share about having student reps on their board.

Fiscal responsibility is another priority of mine. Voters demonstrated their support of KSD by approving a $252 million capitol improvement and school construction bond in November 2016 with 67.2 percent of voters saying yes. KSD made promises to voters and needs to keep those promises. KSD also needs to restore the district’s fund balance to an adequate level. Progress is being made in this area, and transparency has increased.

Bryon Madsen

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.

Why are you running for the school board and what are the top issues facing the Kent School District?

Two major things have prompted me to run for a school board position.

First, in April the Kent School District reported financial planning short falls, instituting an immediate spending freeze; blaming it on no funding from the McCleary decision and lower-than-expected enrollment. Looking at it from a student/teacher perspective, this would come as a surprise and disrupt plans. Since September 2016, no funding from either of these sources would have been known. The McCleary decision occurred in 2012 and no funding has come from it since. While we all hope something positive comes from it, to count on something that has not been funded since 2012 is irresponsible. It seems the budget shortfall could have been communicated much earlier and input from teacher and the community could have been included.

Second, also in April, it was announced that bands from Kentlake High School would not be allowed to travel into Canada. This specific field trip had been done for the last 20 years. The concept of equal access was cited along with the current political environment. However, the requirements to travel into Canada and back into the United States have not changed since June 2009. I called U.S. Customs in Blaine where it was confirmed that no requirements had changed and that the port is accustomed to such field trips. If some students could not obtain the required documentation, that consequence should not be projected against all of those who did meet the requirements.

These examples leave me feeling the Kent School District has forgotten to remain connected to the needs of teachers, students and parents of those students, who should have a voice in these decisions.

Unfortunately, since my decision to run, it has been more of the same with last minute and surprising decisions to eliminate music programs in some of the schools and changes in the calendar and bell schedule.

While metrics such as graduation rates and assessment test scores can and should be discussed, success in schools begins by remembering that the actual process of education happens in a classroom, between a teacher and a student with engaged parents and taxpayers, not at the district office.

Denise Daniels

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.

Why are you running for the school board?

I have three children in the district and volunteer as well, and I see the disparities in discipline, academic performance and opportunity and graduation rates that continue to exist among our student populations. I believe that the work that I have done with districts in the past several years gives me a perspective that can help address these disparities and increase outcomes for our students. I work directly with district staff, teachers, students and families and understand many of the challenges that come with each of those groups, and feel as though I can bring that understanding to our board to find better solutions.

What are the top issues facing the Kent School District?

I believe that the top three issues that the district faces are recent budget cuts, a significant schedule change and disappointing graduation rates, but I think the most prevalent is a lack of or very late communication to families and staff. I understand that there are times when difficult decisions need to happen, but transparency and communication are critical to preserving trust with the families and community. Just looking at the KSD Facebook page comments and recent school board meeting comments shows that currently many of our families are very unhappy with the latest decisions that have been made and are calling for change.


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