White, Dillan face off as Edmonds School Board candidates meet in forum

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Here is part two of our summary of candidate presentations and responses to questions raised at the Monday night forum for hospital commission, school board and port commission candidates,  sponsored by the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber’s Economic Development Committee. 

Three Edmonds School Board positions will appear on the November general election ballot, but the District 5 seat currently held by Pat Shields, who is not running for re-election, is garnering the most attention so far. That’s because the two candidates who emerged from the primary election — Mark Dillan and Diana White — are both active school district volunteers, and have received endorsements from other board members and prominent citizens. The primary election results were also close, with Dillan taking 31 percent of the vote and White earning 28 percent.

The District 1 position, being vacated by Susan Paine who chose not to seek re-election, has just one candidate, Corey DeMun, who is running unopposed. And the District 5 race features an incumbent, Gary Noble, who is seeking his third term on the board and his closest opponent in the primary, Boe Lindgren, garnered just 15 percent of the vote to Noble’s 73 percent. In fact, Lindgren did not respond to a request from My Edmonds News for a primary election statement and did not appear at Monday night’s candidate forum sponsored by the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce.

Questions from forum moderator Chris Keuss often focused on how the candidates  — who would be responsible for overseeing a district with a $200 million annual budget — will address a burning question for nearly all public school systems these days:  How to maintain the quality of K-12 education in the face of ongoing state budget cuts. What follows is a summary of each candidate’s background as presented Monday night.

Edmonds School Board candidates, from left, Kory DeMun, Gary Noble, Mark Dillan and Diana White.

Kory DeMun, District 1

DeMun has lived in the Edmonds School District since 1993 and has three children who attend Edmonds schools. He has served as a member of the district’s Citizens Planning Committee and has also assisted with school levy fundraising. His work experience includes serving as chairman of a non-profit child care enter and spending the last 20 years working for a higher education finance association.

“I’ve chosen to run because these are hard times for school systems regardless of which school system you’re in, and I feel that I can offer the leadership and guidance that the school system needs at this time,” DeMun said.

He said that how to absorb potential future state budget cuts to K-12 education is “the number-one question that we’re all thinking about right now, given that the state is considering additional budget cuts. We have gone through a series of cuts…we are facing a real challenge to what we can do.” Demun said he hopes the district can “continue to hold on to what we have as well as attempting to work with the state to better finance the school system. We need to go to the state Legislature and be as active as we can to change the way that the school system is currently being financed.” DeMun added that he feels that the school administration has done “a very good job” of maintaining the quality of education despite continuing budget cuts.

Gary Noble, District 3

“I truly believe in public schools,” Noble said. “I’ve served on the school board for the past eight years, but my passion for public schools began 25 years ago when my children entered kindergarten. During the elementary years I coached Odyssey of the Mind, during middle school I tutored in math and in high school I was the parent representative on the instructional council, which is the top decision-making committee at Lynnwood High School.” Noble also served seven years on the Citizens Planning Committee and is a former committee chairperson.

“I’m proud of the board and the district’s accomplishments over the past several years,” Noble said. “Our top priority has always been student learning and we recently implemented common math and literacy curriculum across all our schools. Our state tests scores are better than average, and last year’s SAT scores greatly exceeded both state and national averages.”

Noble noted that the board has also “maintained integrity and balanced budgets despite nearly $30 million in state funding cuts in recent years.”

“I have over 30 years’ management, engineering and volunteer experience and I hope you’ll support me on the board for another four years,” he said.

Mark Dillan, District 5

“I’m running for the school board because I truly believe that the schools are part of the community,” said Dillan, who cited his experience as a business owner and an “empty nester” as important traits he will bring to the school board. “As a parent, I appreciate the needs of district parents but as an empty nester I also identify with the concerns of community members who don’t have children in the schools any more,” Dillan said. He is serving fifth year on the district’s budget advisory council, and said he is up to the task of “tackling the financial challenges that the district faces today.”

“Teacher salaries, class sizes, building renovations and new construction projects have all been affected by budget cuts,” Dillan said. “These challenging economic times call for innovative thinking.” Dillan said that  as a member of the district’s Citizens Planning Committee for the past 12 years, he was “was among the first to propose and work toward leasing the school properties to generate revenue. The former Lynnwood High School property, now leased by Costco, is the first of this concept with additional properties currently being negotiated.” Dillan added that enhancing communication among the district’s administration, teachers, parents, businesses community members and organizations is key. “No longer having children in K-12 schools today gives me an important perspective in listening to the concerns of community interests without children in the district,” he said. “My goal would be to serve as a conduit.”

Dillan said he has received the endorsements of current school board members Gary Noble and Susan Paine as well as many individual teachers.

 Diana White, District 5

White, on the other hand, stressed that she is an involved parent with three children currently in Edmonds public schools who is active in the community and also has business experience to address the complex issues facing the district.

“I’m well aware of what this position is not,” White said in her opening statement. “It’s not a popularity contest nor is it a competition to see who volunteers the most.” What’s important, she added, is “the unique perpective and broad experience that one brings to the role.” Other important factors, White said, “include can you work effectively with the rest of the board on issues requiring tough decisions, are you able to explain your vote to those most affected, are you able to analyze the financial landscape now and in the future to make the best decisions for our kids and for the district while being accountable to the public.”

“I believe I am the best candidate for this job because I am accessible. Having kids currently in the schools, I’m on the school campus every day and I’m at sporting events every week. I will contine to lead the math club at Edmonds elementary and I will be consistently available and visible to the parents, the students and community that I serve.” White also cited her “deep ties and commiments to this community,” including membership on the Hazel Miller Foundation Board, “which is an existing new financial resource  for our community.” White works as a commercial insurance underwriter and in that role, “I’ve had to analyze data and make complex assessment sand decisions and was held accountable for those decisions.”

White has been endorsed by the school director retiring from the position she is seeking, Pat Shields, former Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson, and the Edmonds Education Association.

(Note that you can also watch these a taped broadcast of this forum starting at 7 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, and each day for the next two weeks on Channels 21 and 39.)

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