Among the races to be decided in the November 2 general election is the District 2 position on the Edmonds School District Board of Directors. To help voters make an informed decision, Lynnwood Today sent out a questionnaire asking candidates about a series of issues facing the school district. We publish them as we receive them.
Melissa Stepp is a local business owner seeking the District 2 seat vacated by longtime board director Ann McMurray, who is not running for re-election. Stepp is campaigning against Keith Smith. Although each school board principal position represents a specific district (District 2 covers Mountlake Terrace and Brier), they are elected by all voters.
Q: Why are you running for the position of Director of the Edmonds School Board? What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure as a director?
I go to the school board to make sure the students and educators in the district are supported by our education system. One of the messages that stuck with me over the last two national election cycles and local elections in between is that if I want to have a tangible impact, I have to be involved at the local level. It is precisely for this reason that I chose to run for the post of principal of the Edmonds School Board. I also have a vested interest in giving back to my community and helping children get a high quality education.
I hope to be part of the fundamental changes to the way the Edmonds School District is funded locally, starting to move away from reliance on property taxes. I also want to make sure that we adopt the best curriculum for our students, especially those who encourage questioning of established systems.
I hope to advance our community’s education on how and why strong public schools are in the best interest of the community. Superintendent Dr Gustavo Balderas told me that helping the community understand that an excellent and equitable education is a priority for him and I intend to be part of that effort.
Q: What experience would you bring as a board member and how is it relevant to the position?
I know two things for sure over the past 20 years of leading teams: Listening to understand is more valuable than listening to respond and change is inevitable. I intend to bring these lessons with me to the school board.
I run MoltenWorks Glass Studio, where we are building a business with the intention of growing nationwide, developing policies and procedures from scratch, creating training and operations modules and focusing on the creative experience like no other company. Every day I confront the statement “I am not creative” and my response is to challenge the system that led this person to believe that. I will bring that same instinct to challenge systems to the school board.
Q: Distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light many inequalities in the neighborhood (access to food, internet, housing, etc.). What plans do you have to resolve these issues?
My immediate plans are to call my elected officials and let them know that I support the Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better Bill at the federal level. I encourage everyone to do so, especially the students in our K-12 system, because they are the ones who will benefit the most from this legislation.
Sadly, distance learning over the past year has highlighted that schools are essential to the health and well-being of our families and communities. Schools provide child care, meals, school supplies and Internet access. If schools are to provide all of these other services in addition to education, they must have funds and resources. Until child care is affordable for more of our families in the Edmonds School District, we should be supporting children and families who depend on the school for child care. It is the board’s responsibility to make sure the money is in place to support a student’s growth, not just a better test score.
Q: What ideas do you have for reaching out to the hundreds of homeless students in the Edmonds School District?
Having social workers or other staff who can actively help parents find affordable housing on-site and available when parents are available is a good start. I know it takes money too, so it’s important to make sure the funding is available.
I also know that I alone do not have the answer to ensure that every student in the neighborhood is housed. I have a responsibility to listen to children, parents, teachers, administrators and the communities around our schools. I will also be looking for other districts that also address the issue of homeless students.
I also believe that, regardless of their housing status, each student should be able to come to school clean, well fed and in different clothes from the ones they wore the day before. Schools can be a source for a clean change of clothes, provide space for bathing, and provide meals.
Q: The Edmonds School District plans to return to in-person learning this fall. What do you think is the best course to keep schools open and students in classrooms? If elected, how would you work to support the faculty and staff of the school during the 2021-22 school year?
If there is one thing I have heard from all my friends in education over the past year, it is that mandates from governments at all levels, including some school boards, did not reflect any understanding of realities teachers faced every day. As the principal of a school board, I am responsible for knowing how new policies and procedures, or changes to existing ones, will affect a teacher’s classroom. This means that I will listen to faculty and staff and know which administrator to talk to about concerns I hear.
In my opinion, our schools can remain open if we are a reliable and reliable source of information for our students, their parents and our community. We can provide vaccine information, be locations for vaccination sites, and continue to communicate health and safety information to our various communities. It also means that the information is available in as many languages as needed to communicate with our families. Translation services must be available.
We can also ensure that our buildings are well maintained with high quality ventilation and thorough cleaning and sanitation. After listening to the school board meeting on September 28, I know that the Edmonds School District is following local health guidelines, taking the time to understand those guidelines and their impact on students, teachers, staff and administrators of each school at all levels. .
Q: How would you work with district staff to encourage and promote equity and equality for all students in the district?
Again, let’s listen to teachers and provide them with resources to support their work in their classrooms. Now is the time to tackle some of the systemic issues and move forward towards long-term change. I don’t want to hear, “This is how it always has been.”
Q: Where can readers go to learn more about your campaign? (website and other contact details, if applicable)
Address: P.O. Box 322, Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043