In an effort to help Northshore School District evolve beyond the pandemic and into the future, four mothers are vying for the open District 5 seat on the school board of directors.
Jasmine Fry, Angela Chapman, Amy Felt are challenging incumbent Amy Cast.
Board members represent the district at large, although they must reside in specific geographical areas. Even though District 5 covers most of Woodinville, all registered voters in the district will get a say on each open position.
The following candidates will face off in the Aug. 3 primary election. The top two will continue on to the Nov. 2 general election.
Incumbent Amy Cast: amycast4nsd.com
First elected in 2013, Incumbent Amy Cast hopes to earn a third term on the school board. With three adult sons, one of whom graduated from Woodinville High School in 2020, she said, she’s determined to continue the work being done around equity and innovation.
Cast said her priorities have not changed since she was first elected, but the work to tackle those goals is ever-changing. She wants to help Northshore evolve to prepare students for a different type of workforce as the economy becomes automated, she said.
“If Boeing is automating their assembly line, I want Northshore graduates to be the ones running the robots,” Cast said.
Instead of traditional methods of teaching by memorization, she believes schools need to teach students how to analyze available information and problem-solve in teams.
According to Cast, students have been asking for the ability to take more ownership over their learning. She said the new Innovation Lab High School is setting an example for other schools in the district, especially on how to build critical thinking skills for students.
With kids finally returning to in-person learning, she added, the district needs to provide individualized academic and emotional support for each child. Cast said partnerships with the community, as well as several local grants, have resulted in additional mental health counselors in all Northshore schools.
“Every student's experience in the pandemic was unique,” she said. “It’s not going to be a one size fits all.”
Equity is another key focus for Cast. She emphasized the importance of developing a curriculum to support and value all different types of learners. As the eighth largest district in the state, she noted, NSD is still trying to figure out a system that addresses every student’s unique educational and emotional needs.
“This school board is a huge commitment, especially during times like these with a district like ours,” she said. “Because of my own experience growing up, and because of my children's experience, I'm really passionate about helping Northshore become a world-class school district. And that doesn't happen overnight.”
Candidate Jasmine Fry: jasmine4nsd.com
When the pandemic hit, candidate Jasmine Fry realized she needed to do more than advocate for just her own kids. She’s aiming to promote and strengthen educational equity for all students, especially those who might need help pushing for better services, she said.
With two children currently attending NSD schools, she is an active volunteer with various parent-teacher associations. Fry said she has a proven track record of working with the community, teachers, administrators and students.
Fry currently owns and operates an internet advertising company. In her previous career, she was a reporter and editor at several prominent California newspapers. Although a newcomer to elected office, she said, she’s “fluent in bureaucratese” and has covered several different school districts during her 10 years in journalism.
Fry said getting students back into school buildings is just the first step in addressing the learning loss and disenfranchisement from this past year.
Once schools reopen in the fall, she said, the school board will need to make up for learning loss in younger grades and focus on children who may have fallen through the cracks. She wants to use her skillset to get input from the most marginalized in the community so that nobody is left behind, she said.
“As a person of color, I think that our families need to see representation everywhere,” she said. “My main focus is just looking at everything through the lens of equity. I think that we have a great district, but I think we can do better.”
Fry said there hasn’t been clear communication from the school board about what goes on behind the scenes. There is a perception that the board “doesn’t care” or “don’t put kids first,” she said, and it needs to work on improving that image. The board must build trust again in the community, she added.
“I think a lot of people are frustrated, and it's justified,” she said. “We need to move forward, and we need to acknowledge that there's anger and frustration, and that it's valid. We need to really focus on how to turn our anger into action.”
Candidate Angela Chapman:angelafornorthshore.com
With three young kids at Cottage Lake Elementary, candidate Angela Chapman said, she has a vested interest in the future of NSD. While homeschooling her children this last year, she noticed how powerless others kids and parents felt.
Chapman said the board was proactive and responsive at the beginning of the lockdown, but many people feel like the leadership did not continue in the same way.
She predicts the district is going to be facing a lot of “damage control” this upcoming year. She said the board has been unresponsive and otherwise unwilling to share its efforts to get ahead of these issues.
She also wants the board to welcome more input and collaboration from the community, she said. According to Chapman, there has not been a “willingness or desire” by the board to host forums or town halls to address different topics.
Chapman said she's mainly focused on three priorities: recover student academic and emotional wellbeing, respond to the mental health crisis, and remove barriers for students with diverse learning needs.
“We're going to be recovering for a while,” she said, “and in different ways depending on what students need.”
Chapman works for Youth Eastside Services, a nonprofit mental health organization serving youth and families. With all the loss and trauma from the past year, she said, the district needs to provide additional mental health resources and training for students, teachers and parents.
She said the district should implement a universal screening system for students upon their return to school in order to better understand social, emotional and mental health needs. The state Healthy Youth Survey is a good starting point for responding and addressing the mental health crisis, she said.
The pandemic has exacerbated conditions of inequity in Northshore schools, Chapman said. She has a fifth grader on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and said not enough work is being done to remove barriers for students with different learning needs.
According to Chapman, implementing a learning plan that differentiates for each child’s needs should be the top priority, especially for students receiving special education services, English-language learners, and students with disabilities.
Amy Felt: felt4nsd.com
As a mother of five kids between the ages of 6 and 17, candidate Amy Felt said, she’s experienced first-hand the impact of remote learning on all age groups. She hopes the district will address some of the issues from the last year and a half, while also making sure students remain at the center of any decision being made.
Felt said she ultimately decided to run in an effort to bring proactive leadership to the board after a year of unclear communication. There’s an overall feeling of discontent in the community, she said, as well as a loss of trust and confidence in the school board.
“A lot of people just don't feel like our voice has been valued, and it certainly hasn't been heard in the last year and a half,” she said. “I think that's been a wake-up call for a lot of parents.”
Felt said that having children who are currently enrolled in the district sets her apart from current members of the board.
“I think that's an important piece for any school board,” she said. “It's hard to understand what the last 18 months have been like if you haven't experienced it firsthand.”
Felt said NSD responded well when schools first closed down. However, she said it seemed like a “switch flipped” and the district became more reactive as opposed to proactive. Rather than pivot to meet the needs of students, she said, there were lots of excuses but never much action.
Felt is an attorney with a focus on estate planning. She believes this background and experience with negotiation will help her to look at issues from all sides, and she aims to use this skillset to mend the divide between parents, teachers, administrators and the union.
“I think there has not been that willingness to follow the science when it doesn't fit their narrative,” she said. “We've got professionals and experts across the country telling us that the harm to our children is more by continuing to not let them go back to school full-time and in-person.”
As kids return to school, she said, the board needs to acknowledge that every child will have their own unique challenges and needs. She said collaboration with teachers will be crucial in order to identify the needs of each student.