Tim Clark and Sara Franklin are running for the District No. 5 director position on the Kent School Board to replace Maya Vengadasalam.
Clark had 52% of the vote and Franklin 30% out of three candidates in the August primary to advance to the Nov. 2 general election. Clark is a retired high school teacher who previously served on the school board and Kent City Council while Franklin works for King County.
The Kent Reporter emailed the same four questions to each candidate.
• Why should I vote for you?
Clark: I have experience with the school district, serving 14 years, most of it on staff at Kentridge High School. I later served a full term on the school board. Additionally, I served three and a half years on the Green River College Board of Trustees. Married to a school psychologist, I have some depth in special education law and practices. While serving on the school board, I approved the Paraeducators in Schools program, creating grants for schools to involve ethnic group training for parents to ensure parents are fully informed of student progress.
Keeping graduation rates up is important, and during my board service we started the I-Grad Program for credit retrieval with guidance on site. I support the twin goals of education: equity and excellence.
Franklin: When I moved to Kent six years ago I became active in the community as a volunteer and advocate working with community and educational leaders who are committed to education equity, opportunity and excellence for all students. As a single full-time working mom who raised two sons I understand the importance of feeling supported and being heard as a parent.
As a school board member I will put families and children first. The school district has grown in size and diversity and I am committed to creating a safe and healthy learning environment for every child. The pandemic has further exposed gaps in learning opportunities, but I will continue to work hard to meet the challenges of investing in our students success.
• If elected, what specific things will you look to change?
Clark: We need preparation for climate change within our aging buildings and in design of new facilities. We need to deal with the current medical challenge, and beyond that, we need more school nurses. We need updates on our building strategic plans to affirm skill and knowledge goals being met. We need remediation techniques to intervene in lost educational opportunities. Digital skill development needs to be continued for both staff and students which reflects marketplace demands for employment.
Franklin: If elected I will work to increase parent – school communication, increase hiring and retaining a diverse teaching/support staff and reducing disproportionately in school discipline.
• What key skills will you look for in hiring a new superintendent?
Clark: In looking at superintendent candidates, besides a vision for what the district could become, I am looking for a leader who can bring people together, faculty, staff and parents. That requires a good listener. It also requires a clear communicator with a clear message. We need a superintendent familiar with our state’s unique finance system, along with a knowledge of development of digital skills in a changing work environment, for both staff and students.
Building leaders must be consulted on changes promoted by central administration staff. Awareness of how to structure staff training while maintaining flexibility given time constraints is a priority. Knowledge of staff needs by creating a system where staff can feel they are being heard beyond the building level is necessary in a large school district.
Franklin: The hiring of a new superintendent must be thoughtful and deliberate. The key skills I will look for is being a good listener, demonstrate the ability to develop and maintain an authentic relationship with our diverse community, a commitment to transparency, equity, fiscal accountability and a visionary who can bring people together.
• Should the district continue to have police officers at schools? Why or why not?
Clark: I spent my 28 year career teaching at the secondary level. I worked in a building with police liaison people for much of that time. Not surprisingly, building administrators favor continuing such work. My personal experience is it is always better for public safety if students are comfortable talking with public safety officers.
Petty crime is a universal challenge which will always require a vigilant community to offset. But to make a school community safe, you have to have eyes and ears beyond school hours, particularly in secondary settings where there are so many after-hours activities. Having a trustful relationship with local public safety officers enable responses when the signs of trouble are minor, rather than erupting in incidents which will require intense follow-up by law enforcement.
Franklin: The district has the responsibility to keep our students safe. However, we cannot ignore the deep concerns expressed by community members and leaders about the presence of police officers in our schools. It will require understanding the changes in the expanded School Resource Officer program, in addition the district is required to annually collect data on this program. This important information should be shared with the community and parents to ensure accountability and transparency.