Candidates for Shoreline School Board answer questions at public forum October 16, 2023

Thursday, October 19, 2023

School board candidates
Photo by Mike Remarcke

By Mike Remarcke

The Shoreline PTA Council, representing 15 PTA’s in the Shoreline School District, hosted a candidate forum for those running for the Shoreline School Board.

The event was held at the Shoreline Center on Monday night, October 16, 2023. The moderator was from the League of Women Voters, volunteers manned the timers and approximately 40 concerned citizens attended.

Candidates running for board positions participated in the forum.
  • District No. 1 Meghan Jernigan - Unopposed incumbent
  • District No. 5 Sara Betnel - Unopposed incumbent
  • District No. 4 Sylvia Gil versus Hazim Ghanim (open seat)

Mehgan Jernigan began by introducing herself as an active board member since 2019. As a Native American mother of two in the school system, she sees firsthand some of the gaps in opportunities. She believes we need diverse voices to unlock the district’s full potential and meet the educational needs of all our students. She is running unopposed.

Sara Betnel was also sworn in to office in 2019. Her goal is to listen, learn, and work to improve student experience, engagement, and outcomes in every Shoreline school. She is also unopposed.

Hazim Ghanim lives in Shoreline and has a daughter in the second grade. He believes in the power of a diverse and inclusive school environment. He believes he can infuse a fresh perspective into the board and elevate the voices of those who are underrepresented. He is an Engineering Manager at Boeing.

Silvia Gil stated that equity is very important in the school district and must not be overshadowed by budget issues causing disparities within the community. She also has a child in the school system, is a former teacher, and now is the Director of Integrated Programs, Community Health Plans of Washington.

Candidates responded to a set of predetermined questions as well as a few spontaneous questions from the audience. 

Note: We will focus on the District No.4 race between Hazim Ghanim and Silvia Gil, as the other two candidates are running unopposed.

QUESTION: What experience do you have which prepares you to be an effective leader that values equity and social justice?
  • HG- He is involved in the DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) at the Boeing Co. which spearheads programs that promote these concepts.
  • SG – She is involved with the data gathering and analysis of programs that value the sense of belonging and equity and has roles in advocacy, strategy and leadership at CHPW.  
QUESTION: How do you see easing the issues of mental health in the school system?
  • All of the candidates agreed that this is an issue that needs to be closely monitored. It is an issue that teachers need training in spotting troubles, along with families, with ways to communicate with each other. More counselors are needed and more outside resources that can be called on. Once again, the issue of inclusion and having a healthy environment at the school level can reduce the issues of mental health. When kids feel accepted and safe, mental health issues can be held in check.
QUESTION: What is your view of the current budget challenges? Is increasing enrollment an option?
  • SG - She would like to learn and understand the budget process, learn and review the costs, understand the unintended consequences of cuts and do deep reviews at the end of each year.
  • HG – From his budgeting experience at work, he would deeply scrutinize the budget, review and fully fund the reserves, and make sure all monies from other sources, such as state and federal are received and utilized.
  • MJ and SB – They both fully understand the sources of funding and want to maximize potential and also find and maximize other sources to enhance income to the district. They both appreciate the Budget Advisory Team work on budget issues.
The question of increasing enrollment to get more state funds came up for discussion. 
  • The group agreed that there is no need to go recruiting more students, but to provide the best education and school experience for the students and that in itself will potentially draw other students into the district.
QUESTION: How would you deal with social issues such as bullying and physical/sexual violence?
  • Once again, all of the candidates were aware of and concerned with deviant behavior. All felt that teachers and staff need to be aware of the issues and trained on how to handle events, as with the counseling staff. Parents and the community in large had major roles in minimizing issues and events. Again, providing a safe environment is of utmost importance.
QUESTION: How do you intend to remain current?
  • The two incumbent board members had experience with this subject; the two vying for the position will learn this as they begin to participate on the board. 
  • There are resources in the school system itself including experts in the field. There are plenty of outside educational sources, association sources and agencies that can enhance a board member's understanding of a wide variety of subjects. (This reporter recently heard presentations by two Shoreline School District educators, one on multilingual learners, the other on literacy, at a seminar for the Power of One Volunteers. Both were excellent.)
QUESTION: How will you ensure that the board is accountable and open to the public?
  • First of all, the candidates all called for as much transparency and community involvement as possible. The four candidates discussed all the variety of communication options open to the public. 
  • There is a board website, and school websites. 
  • There is a highly regarded PTA organization at each of the schools. 
  • Board meetings are open to the public including the budget meetings and the Budget Advisory Team meetings. 
  • A weekly newsletter is open to the public by simply signing up. 
  • There are media outlets that report on school events, such as the Shoreline Area News.
QUESTIONS from the audience: Book banning? Free breakfasts? Edwin Pratt?
  • All of the candidates were totally against restriction of learning and diversity by banning books. The concept of banning learning tools is abhorrent. 
  • All the candidates would love to see free breakfasts and lunches, for they all know that good nutrition is most important for learning. The issue is funding. The school district has a couple of schools that have free lunch, but money is needed from the state and the feds.
  • Edwin Pratt Early Learning Center has been a godsend for parents over the years and all the candidates have used the after school care and gave it high marks. It looks like the operation may be turned over to an outside operation. This is an issue that is outside the realm of the schools and the school board and all they can do is support the decision of those that operate the after school center.
A video of the entire forum is posted online HERE


Anonymous,  October 19, 2023 at 6:52 PM  

SG and HG 2023!

Anonymous,  November 2, 2023 at 7:39 PM  

Thanks for posting this summary and the link to the forum. It's well worth a listen. Please vote by Tuesday, everyone!

Post a Comment

We encourage the thoughtful sharing of information and ideas. We expect comments to be civil and respectful, with no personal attacks or offensive language. We reserve the right to delete any comment.
Facebook: Shoreline Area News
Twitter: @ShorelineArea
Daily Email edition (don't forget to respond to the email)

  © Blogger template The Professional Template II by 2009

Back to TOP