Appointed director challenged for BI school board

Evan Saint Clair is seeking election to the Bainbridge Island School board after his appointment in March and faces newcomer Tom Greene for director position 4 in the Nov. 7 general election, a four-year term.

Both candidates were asked what are the five biggest challenges facing Bainbridge Island and what is your stance on them?

Evan Saint Clair

Bainbridge Island has an outstanding school district supported by an amazing community, but we face difficult challenges navigating changing fiscal environments, educational methodologies, new technologies and more, all while keeping our focus on student health and achievement. Which is to say, taking kids and shaping them into healthy young adults is hard work.

We face a big challenge in creating an environment for academic excellence while prioritizing mental and physical health. One thing I hear all the time, both anecdotally and through district surveys, is that Bainbridge schools produce great students who expect a lot of themselves. But students don’t always realize their parents and teachers care most about their happiness. I want to deepen our district’s focus on student wellness and mental health.

We also continue to face decreasing enrollment and its impact on our budget. With fewer students come fewer state and federal dollars and, unfortunately, our numbers are way down from their peak 20 years ago. We need the community to come together to find solutions as we look at difficult answers.

Excitedly, the district is deep into the rollout phase of the MTSS framework, which focuses on a systematic reconfiguration of how we serve students. This new model means we need to focus deeply on student outcomes as we manage its integration. It’s our job to monitor and ask for data on student outcomes as MTSS impacts our students. With my daughters in the district, I am highly invested in implementing these tools excellently.

We’ve been working hard on school safety, implementing new door-locking systems, remote security management and cloud-based security. Through partnerships with community organizations, we are ensuring our community stays safe. Similarly, with the shift to digital educational tools, funded by our essential technology levy, our kids and youth are increasingly online doing their work. We work steadfastly to safeguard student data with state-of-the-art cyber tools and continuing professional development. It’s gritty but necessary work and one I’m focused on making sure we stay on top of.

Last, but certainly not least, we need to always keep the focus on students. We have these wonderful little people in our care every day. We must challenge them academically but we must also meet them where they are, on good days, bad days, and all the days in between. We must help students feel safe and seen, supported and encouraged. Their education does not end with math, science and history, nor does our job as educators. We must continually look for ways to educate the whole child and prepare them for their life as a whole person.

As a father of two wonderful multiracial students, a small business owner who has scrambled for pennies and found satisfaction in success, I want to see this district thrive. With a background in conflict resolution, community engagement and volunteerism, I want to help this district decide. And as a citizen standing up to do my part, I want to be a part of collaborative solutions.

Tom Greene

I would be a voice for all parents. It’s time for leadership. The faculty is overworked and stressed out. The administration is constantly running for cover….caught in the middle. Some students have lost about a year of learning due to the shutdown, especially those in families with lesser means who have suffered the most. The budget doesn’t look good. It is time for the school board that represents the people of BI to step up and address the multitude of issues facing us. We can’t afford to wait around for instructions from Olympia anymore.

The current board recently received instructions from Olympia regarding the curriculum and proceeded to gut one of the best curriculum review procedures in the state that included the key transparency provision that teachers should do their best to let parents know when potentially controversial materials will be presented to their children.

Why would you take this out? This policy took years to get in place and was fully supported by the teachers at the high school over the last 10 years and has been working really well. But no more. This board deleted it from district policy. This decision must be reversed. Parents want to know what’s going on in the classroom. This board seems to have a problem with that.

The board should invite a member of the faculty to board meetings and allow them to bring a teacher perspective. The board should encourage the press to return to board meetings. The board should call on the amazing talents we have on the island to join various task forces to focus on solutions. It’s time to find ways to elevate the discussion. The board should be made up of people of varying backgrounds and experiences…..not just those with one point of view and not limited to parents with children currently enrolled in the schools. The board needs to relax a little, chill out and return comity to the meetings.

The board needs to find ways to support our teachers…especially financially. The board needs to find ways to reduce the effects of the inevitable ups and downs. Teachers should not have to worry about getting laid off during tough times. The board needs to resist any group with an agenda to control the curriculum.

The board needs to implement a basic economics curriculum that even a sixth-grader can understand and fix US history in eighth grade, which was reduced from a full year to half a year and removed the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. Every eighth-grade parent should be asking; what remains and what was recently added?

The board needs to start thinking of students as individuals rather than stereotypes, and staff should be selected based on the caliber of their professionalism and the content of their character. The board should stop dumbing down standards to the lowest common denominator and bring back the requirement that all students take American Studies and bring balance to the curriculum.